When it came time to replace the then girlfriend's ageing small hatchback, the requirements were a smallish SUV, newish, safe and somewhat future-proofed should there be any additions to the family. It was just the two of us at the time. I reluctantly obliged on the SUV front and purchased the 2012 Skoda Yeti 77TSI seven-speed DSG as a demo from the dealer with about 1600km on the clock.
Now having owned the Skoda Yeti for nearly four years, it has served the now wife, two kids and I very well over that time. The Yeti now has just under 40,000km on the clock, mostly being used as a city runabout with the odd long-haul holiday drive thrown in.
When picking the car, the Yeti was chosen because of its price, punchy little motor, interior flexibility and perceived excellent reliability from the Skoda stable of cars. On this front it was not disappointing, not needing anything fixed under warranty. The Yeti did once leave us stranded due to what we were told was a blocked fuel filter, but other than that it has been faultless.
The steering wheel controls are intuitive and the stereo is basic, as is expected in the base model. The stereo is a bit slow to pair to the phone, but once connected is faultless. Streaming music via Bluetooth can be a bit of a hassle, as there is no play/pause/skip control via stereo or wheel-mounted buttons and must be controlled from the phone. Not a great option if you don’t have a passenger to play DJ.
The interior is a bit spartan compared to more modern competition, but it is well appointed for a bottom-rung model, with usual VW Group leather steering wheel, gear selector and door armrest being the most important touch points. This helps you overlook the rest of the hard-wearing plastic throughout the interior.
While most modern cars cover and clad everything in plastic, the cheap and cheerful nature of the Skoda shows with areas of the painted body going un-cladded throughout the interior, mostly around the window/doorframes. I personally don’t mind it.
The Yeti's party trick: three rear seats that fold flat, up, and can be removed from the car completely independently of each other. It is a great feature and has got us out of a bind or two before we had to install two child seats. The rear seats also recline independently of each other, which is great for fitting taller passengers in the rear seats comfortably.
The back seats' recline function can be operated from the front and rear of the seat. So, if you need that little bit more space when loading the car, you can straighten the seats to gain more boot space from the rear, without having to walk around the car to do so. Very handy.
The boot is easy to load things in to and out of with a flat floor, which hides the space-saver wheel and smaller underfloor compartments in which to store smaller items/valuables out of sight. The boot features a 12V plug and two luggage hooks. The rear hatch opens nice and high so that you don't need to duck to load/unload items, or in our case change nappies on the handy flat floor.
When heading away on holiday, the Yeti was able to accommodate two adults, one child, pram and luggage due to the flexible seating and boot space, which is about its limit. Now with two children both requiring car seats, the flexibility has mostly been lost and it is probably a bit too small for all that luggage.
The seven-speed DSG mated to the 1.2-litre turbo is fine for punting around town, and is quick to accelerate off the mark after a slight hesitation thanks to some short ratios as it snaps from first to fourth gear and above to save fuel. The DSG does take some getting used to compared to a traditional auto, but once we’d figured out its quirks, we quite enjoy driving it.
Our major gripe would be the slight hesitation when trying for a gap in a roundabout. I’ve found slipping into sport mode briefly helps get the Yeti off the mark and into a gap in traffic. However, if you are too heavy-footed it will light up the front wheels.
At higher speeds, you can feel the engine run out of puff when accelerating hard, but for day to day overtaking manoeuvres it is fine, and once on the move the gearbox is quick to respond and downshift when required. Fuel economy can vary from 6L/100km cruising down the freeway to 12L/100km in heavy stop-start traffic. Generally, around town it will sit between 7L/100km and 9L/100km.
The Yeti feels more stiffly sprung than most small cars and SUVs. It tends to crash and bash over bumps and potholes, but will sit comparatively flat through corners and tighter bends at speed. It’s no sports car, but it is engaging to drive along a winding road, with well weighted and direct steering. Some may find the ride too jarring, but I am happy to compromise more towards the sportier side. Again, push the gearbox into sport mode and it will downshift eagerly and hold gears well on a spirited drive through the hills.
Like most Skodas, the looks are polarising and are not for everyone, with an old corporate face attached to a small box on wheels. It’s very nimble around town and will pull U-turns on the narrowest of streets, and being a box it is dead easy to park even without parking sensors, which this model missed out on. I’d even argue they are not necessary for this car due to its shape and excellent visibility.
The unpainted bumpers are great for inner-city living, as they tend to hide the smaller bumps and marks that usually accumulate from such a life.
Overall, we have not been disappointed with our purchase, and will likely include a Skoda on the shortlist next time we are in the market.