A new look, lower pricing and increased equipment push the Yeti towards the top of the baby SUV pack.
The previous Skoda Yeti was something of a CarAdvice favourite – spacious inside for its size, powered by a range of efficient and decent engines, and it was quite a good thing to drive. But it had one fatal flaw: it was ugly.
That was then, and this is now: and thankfully the 2014 Skoda Yeti is a much nicer looking SUV, something that – if empirical evidence gathered over the years by myriad motoring journalists is correct – is quite important to a lot of buyers.
The new front-end styling of the Skoda Yeti is svelte, streamlined and much more sophisticated than the model it replaces. The revised grille, new headlights and neater bumpers make it look more like a Volkswagen product (as it should, being under the German brand’s far-reaching umbrella).
The range has also been streamlined, with the base model front-wheel-drive 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder 77TSI still kicking off the range with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox from $23,490 or with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic from $25,790 – representing a drop in entry price of $2800 despite gaining more equipment.
That pricing gives the Yeti a strong starting point against the latest batch of baby SUVs such as the Ford EcoSport, Nissan Juke and Holden Trax, despite the Yeti offering more interior space and a larger body than some of its micro rivals that is aided by its boxy design.
The standard fare on the new Active base model includes a reverse-view camera, rear parking sensors, a touchscreen media system (on model year 2015 models – some 2014 versions have arrived with the old-school radio system), 17-inch alloy wheels, smart key with push-button start and seven airbags. Read our full specifications breakdown for the 2014 Skoda Yeti here.
This model could well be the pick for buyers who like the outdoorsy image but never really find time for extra-urban adventures.
Its 1.2-litre engine is a perky little thing, with a revvy, rewarding nature that allows it to feel as though it won’t run out of puff even on steeper hills. Opt for the manual and you will need to get to know your gearshifts, but thankfully the six-speed 'box is smooth and easy to use, and the engine’s broad torque band from 1550-4100rpm means the engine is tractable in most situations.
The base model is considerably lighter than the up-spec versions – it weighs 1380 kilograms in manual guise and 1410kg with the auto, versus the 90TSI’s 1445kg and the top-end diesel’s lardy 1595kg kerb weight. As such it feels decidedly more nimble and fun to drive through twisty sections of road, but also manages city duties with light steering that requires little effort.
The lack of all-wheel-drive traction is barely noticeable, as it offers good cornering grip and stability. Unlike the previous Yeti base model that was fitted with 16-inch wheels, the 77TSI rides on 17-inch wheels that do impact on its ride comfort somewhat, though this variant was easily the most comfortable in both urban driving and on rutted, rough country roads.
Stepping up to the newly introduced front-drive 90TSI increases the engine size to a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo and includes a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. This variant, known as Ambition, is priced from $28,290 and adds items like foglights, front parking sensors, an eight-speaker stereo, auto headlights and wipers and dual-zone climate control.
The familiar 1.4-litre engine – which is also seen in the Volkswagen Golf, though it makes do without the fuel-saving stop-start system in the Skoda – is a lovely engine. It offers linear power delivery, quick response on the move, and never feels short of breath.
Where it is let down is when it comes to slow-speed take-offs, as the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic can stumble before proceeding. At speed – both during urban driving and out on the open road – there are no problems with the gearbox, which offers quick, smooth shifts whether you’re flattening the accelerator or applying little pressure.
Again, the ride isn’t perfect, feeling slightly firm over bumpy sections of road and never settled or plush – due in part to its 17-inch alloys with relatively thin 50-aspect tyres. As with the 77TSI, the 90TSI foregoes all-wheel drive for a more efficient and lighter front-drive setup, and it offers no significant downfall as a result. Obviously it won’t cope too well on rough tracks, but that’s where the next model comes in.
That variant is the range-topping 2.0-litre turbo diesel 103TDI Outdoor all-wheel-drive model, priced at $33,590. It comes standard with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, and features more rugged body styling including different bumpers front and rear, black plastic body protection and unique 17-inch wheels.
It certainly looks the part for those who intend to use their Skoda Yeti for more than just urban driving.
However, the extra mass of the diesel engine and all-wheel-drive underpinnings is noticeable, with a fiddly ride that proved quite unlikeable during our time in the car on imperfect country roads and a section of patchy, corrugated gravel. The levels of on-road grip was negligible, though it felt more sure-footed on rougher surfaces.
The diesel engine's 103kW/350Nm outputs suggest it should be punchy, but if you press it hard it is clear that the engine performs at its best between 1750-2500rpm – the higher the rev needle climbs, the less energetic it feels.
All Yeti models come with a near-identical interior, unless you choose the 90TSI or 103TDI and option the Tech Pack ($2900) that adds a 12-speaker stereo and larger 6.5-inch media screen with satellite-navigation – the latter really should be standard on the top-end model, particularly given its Outdoor nomenclature.
That means standard cloth seats (leather is optional on Ambition and Outdoor versions), a new three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped gearknob and handbrake, and the aforementioned media screen that certainly lifts the perceived quality inside the cabin. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming is standard, as is a USB input and auxiliary jack.
While it measures just 4.22 metres long, the Yeti is quite roomy inside thanks in part to its clever Varioflex rear seating system that allows all three chairs to be slid fore and aft individually, and you can also remove all three if need be. There’s the option of a roomier four-seat layout, too, if the middle chair is taken out.
Headroom for all occupants is excellent, while rear seat leg-room is fine for anyone shorter than 180 centimetres, provided the seats are slid as far back as they can go. Its boot is average at 321 litres with five seats up and 1485L with the rear chairs folded. With the back seats removed, that capacity rises to 1665L.
Skoda has not yet announced its capped price servicing campaign for the new-look Yeti, but the company is expected to carry over a similar six-year program with 12-month/15,000km intervals, as was seen on the pre-update version. It had an average cost of $509 per year for the 103TDI and $439 per year for the 77TSI.
As with all Skoda models it comes with a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, with the option of an extended five-year plan available.
For buyers concerned about potential resale values for the Yeti, Glass's Guide data suggests it will hold itself quite well. The used car value prediction after three years and 40,000km of 57 per cent for the base model auto is not far behind the Volkswagen Tiguan (58 per cent) and better than the Holden Trax (49 per cent) and Ford EcoSport (50 per cent).
In summary, the updated Skoda Yeti is a compelling proposition, and is particularly attractive in entry-level 77TSI form. The 90TSI is a nice option for buyers spending up to $30,000 on a new SUV, but the diesel brings the facelifted Yeti’s overall score down slightly, as it isn’t as composed or comfortable as it could be.