They say you're only as old as you feel, so Dave jumps into the ageing first-generation Skoda Yeti to see if it's still a worthy buy...
Have you bought a Skoda Yeti in the last 12 months or so? It's okay, not many people have. But despite slowing sales, an ageing platform, and ever-more youthful competitors, the 2017 Skoda Yeti still has some quality tricks up its sleeve.
Overseas, Skoda is commonly positioned as a step down from Volkswagen proper – even though both brands fall under the greater and ever-expanding umbrella group. But in Australia, this gap is nearer to being half a step. And, since the arrival of some of Skoda’s newest and freshest products, that half-step gap has narrowed even further.
With that mind, when you first jump into the 2017 Skoda Yeti, it can take a minute to adjust. You see, the current Skoda Yeti is still the first-generation Skoda Yeti, and is therefore far from being one of the Czech brand’s newest or freshest products.
Sporting an updated look since mid 2013, the Quartz Grey model tested here is the new-for-2017 110TSI Outdoor.
Introduced last October, the new flagship model starts at $32,990 (before on-road costs), making it up to $6000 dearer than the entry-level 81TSI Active – $24,690 (before on-road costs) in manual guise and $26,990 (before on-road costs) for the auto. That said, Skoda is currently offering $34,990 driveaway pricing on the thing, as the debut of the second-generation Yeti closes in.
Replacing the previous front-wheel-drive-only 92TSI Ambition at the top of the Yeti range, the 2017 Skoda Yeti 110TSI Outdoor exclusively teams a Haldex-based four-wheel-drive system with a six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission.
Powered by the same turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine found in the Skoda Octavia 110TSI, the top-spec 4x4 Yeti offers 110kW of power at 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque at 3500rpm. Paired to stop-start technology as standard, the engine claims 6.6 litres per 100km – a fair way down on the 9.1L/100km as-tested figure we saw at the end of our, albeit urban-heavy, week with the car.
Standard equipment includes keyless entry and a push-button start, cruise control, daytime running lights, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, automatic halogen headlights, front fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, and an eight-speaker stereo with a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming. Plus – thanks to Skoda Australia making a ‘Navi pack’ complimentary – satellite navigation, metallic or pearl-effect paint, and rear privacy glass are all also included.
With our test car additionally fitted with Skoda’s $2100 optional ‘Tech pack’, spec is further boosted by a 12-speaker premium sound system with DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, semi-automatic parking, LED daytime running lights, active-cornering bi-xenon headlights with headlight washers, and LED tail-lights.
A five-star car since 2011, safety is addressed with seven airbags (including front and rear curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag), two ISOFIX child seat-compatible out-board rear seats, and hill-hold assist. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is not offered, nor optionally available.
Doing their best to help differentiate the 110TSI Outdoor from the 81TSI Active, are hard-wearing black bumpers, front and rear underside protection, 17-inch black ‘Erebus’ alloy wheels, and silver roof rails.
Inside, the Yeti presents another reminder of the current model’s age. It’s a little old, and it feels it.
There are nice touches such as a soft-touch dash, and lashings of chrome and gloss black, but overall, it’s more basic and no-frills than you’ll find in the brand’s newer, more polished, and more upmarket products.
Plenty of hard, scratchy plastics join basic but comfortable manually-adjustable cloth seats, a small though responsive touchscreen, and simple if a little cheap-feeling climate controls.
Device charging is covered by one USB input, one AUX input, and one 12-volt outlet, while storage options include a rubber-lined shelf at the base of the centre stack, two rubber-lined cupholders, a small centre console bin, a decently-sized and conveniently air-conditioned glovebox, narrow door pockets, and a roof-mounted sunglasses holder.
Thanks to the Yeti’s boxy shape, big windows, and high roof line, it’s blessed with an open and airy cabin, stacks of headroom up front, and good vision all around.
It’s the back, though, where the jacked-up Czech’s party trick really is.
You see, a mere five-seater, the Yeti is not. More ‘discreet van’ than ‘compact SUV’, the Yeti is flexible, versatile, and clever.
Not only is there loads of head-, toe-, and legroom (despite a decent central floor hump), those in the back also score rear air vents, map pockets, door pockets, individual reading lights, and a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders.
More impressive though, the entire 40:20:40 second row is recline adjustable, the outboard seats can be moved forward and back on sliding rails, and all three seats can be locked-down flat, flipped up, or removed altogether – the latter done tool-free and easily enough thanks to some smart quick-release clips.
This means the Yeti’s already respectable 321-litre boot can be expanded to 1485L with the rear seats folded down, and a cavernous 1665L with the rear seats removed. Impressive.
A space-saver spare wheel is also tucked into the boot, along with luggage hooks, storage poles and tie-down straps, extra compartments and cubbies, a 12-volt outlet, and two lights – one of which is actually a removable LED torch.
Hit the road, and while the car does a good job of filtering out ambient outside din, road noise easily penetrates the cabin, with coarse-chip surfaces emphasising the fact.
Somewhat brittle and less resolved over sharper imperfections, nastier potholes and the like can result in some vibration and shudder through the cabin. That said, low-speed speed humps are taken with relative ease and dealt with in relative comfort, and generally, over smoother surfaces, the slightly firmer-sprung Yeti rides well.
With its tall stance and high centre of gravity, the 1449kg (tare) Skoda does roll and lean through corners, but it never feels wallowy or lacking in body control.
The brakes are nice and progressive, with a natural pedal feel attached to decent stopping power. The engine, though, is a touch unrewarding.
With its 110kW peak not coming in until 6000rpm, and maximum torque of 250Nm not available before 3500rpm, the top-spec Yeti never feels particularly punchy off the mark.
Noisy and thrashy higher up in the rev range, the 1.4-litre turbo-four can see you get from A to B with around 1500rpm on the clock, but you’ll need more like 2500-3000rpm if you really want to get anywhere briskly. And from 3500-6000rpm, the engine simply winds out in an uninspiring and linear fashion.
It’s the slow and dim-witted six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission, though, that’s most to blame for making the 110TSI Outdoor a clunky driving experience.
Not helped by a doughy and unresponsive throttle – improved slightly with the gear selector in ‘Sport’ – the frustrating gearbox is hesitant and indecisive when taking off, and often holds onto gears longer than it needs to when getting up to and holding a desired speed.
The situation is better when you drive with more purpose or aggression, but it’s still not great. And overall, the combination lacks smoothness, intelligence, and refinement.
What will please potential buyers is Skoda’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Trumping that of the Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, and Subaru XV, the warranty is paired with 12-month or 15,000km service intervals, with scheduled services for the first three years or 45,000km ranging from $280 to $648 (not including additional maintenance parts and consumable items).
The shortfalls of the 2017 Skoda Yeti 110TSI Outdoor are a real shame, because in many ways it’s no bad thing. But while it might be excellent for space and flexibility, that only appeals to a very niche audience, and it’s not quite where it needs to be in a number of more widely appreciated areas.
In a market still continuing to boom and expand, age is not the current-generation Yeti’s friend – nor though is the tiresome gearbox and lacklustre engine. Perhaps that (partly) explains why sales were down 42.8 per cent from 2015 to 2016. And why – with 489 units sold – last year, it was outsold by the Peugeot 4008 (601), Fiat 500X (599), and Suzuki Jimny (514).
Competing in a segment with the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru XV, and now the just-launched Toyota C-HR, perhaps, more and more buyers are aware there are better, newer, choices around for the money. Will the all-new second-generation Skoda Yeti turn the tables though? Almost definitely.
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