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2011-2014 Skoda Yeti used car review

2011 Skoda Yeti. Photo: Mark Bean

When Volkswagen bought a 30 per cent share in Czech car-maker Skoda in 1991, the plan was a simple one: Take the Skoda range from eastern-bloc dreariness to a modern take on passenger cars and, in the process, develop an entry-level (or lower-cost) line-up as a stepping-stone to VW ownership. It hasn’t quite worked out that way in some markets – including Australia – however, where the Skoda brand has developed its own cachet and the prices of Skoda and its equivalent Volkswagen models often overlap. Just as well, then, that the Skoda product is up there with VW levels of quality and technology as well as throwing in a bit of that old eastern-bloc wackiness.

Which brings us to 2011’s launch of the Yeti. While the previous Roomster had offered an offbeat solution to moving big loads, it was the Yeti that managed to combine some left-field thinking with the phenomenon that even then was the SUV. Based on the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Yeti maintained similar overall dimensions and footprint, but wrapped them in an unconventional looking body that incorporated five doors into a high-riding car with vaguely parcel-van design cues.

For all that it could have looked like a complete mash-up, it didn’t, and the unconventional looks appealed to those who were happy to go with the SUV flow, but didn’t want to disappear completely. Initially, the Yeti could be had with a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine and a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearbox. With that motor, however, the Yeti was limited to front-wheel-drive only.

If you wanted all-wheel-drive, you needed to opt for the turbo-diesel version which got the same manual transmission or a six-speed DSG. And if you wanted a petrol-powered Yeti with all-wheel-drive, you needed to wait until early 2012 when a 1.8-litre petrol engine and all-wheel-drive version arrived here. Skoda has constantly fiddled with the specification of its Yeti line-up, sometimes offering different engines and at others restricting all-wheel-drive to turbo-diesel variants.

So it pays to know what you’re looking at when it comes time to actually go shopping, although we’re dealing here with the first generation of cars which sold from 2011 to 2014 and offer the best value now. Fundamentally, however, the Yeti was really no worse off for being front-drive rather than all-wheel-drive mainly because it was never an off-road vehicle in the first place. The exception would be a car that is used for trips to the snowfields, but in every other case, the front-drive version will do nicely.

It’s also cheaper to buy and should be a little less costly to service and maintain. Buying a petrol-engined Yeti also neatly gets you around the controversy over Volkswagen’s infamous ‘Dieselgate’ emissions scandal. That said, Volkswagen Australia has been assuring its customers that the fix for the errant software in all of its Australian-delivered diesel cars, the Yeti included, will not hamper performance or fuel economy.

Mind you, that hasn’t stopped the planned class-action litigation that haunts the whole sorry chapter. But beyond Dieselgate, there have been other recalls that have affected the Yeti, starting with a recall for 2015 model-year cars to replace the side air-bags which could deploy incorrectly in the case of a side-impact or other type of accident. The other thing to check carefully is the condition of the transmission in any car fitted with a DSG gearbox.

In fact, the Yeti, along with many other Volkswagen Group models, was recalled to change the fluid in the DSG of some examples, as metallic particles in the fluid could build up, causing an electrical short-circuit and blowing the fuse on the computer that controls the unit. Beyond that, the VW-sourced DSG transmission has been known in some of these cars to give trouble. Make sure any DSG-equipped Yeti takes off from the lights smoothly and doesn’t jolt or jerk as you accelerate.

There should be no erratic shifting and if the car feels as though it loses drive at any point, that’s cause for concern. The turbo-diesel engine seems to be a relatively trouble-free unit, but owners of some petrol-engined cars have complained of high engine-oil consumption. Either way, a close check on the level of oil on the dipstick is recommended until you’ve lived with the car long enough to have learned its drinking habits.

Another problem to affect the Yeti’s petrol engines is the issue of a stretched timing chain or failed timing-chain tensioners. Any rattling or grinding noises from the top of the engine either on cold start-up or at a hot idle, suggest the problem exists. In some cases, the tell-tale is the check-engine light illuminating on the dashboard as the sensors detect that the crankshaft and camshafts are no longer in complete synch.

Skoda (through Volkswagen) has since upgraded the design of the chain tensioner for these engines and some owners went to the trouble of having the revised design chain and tensioners fitted. A Skoda dealer should be able to determine whether this has been done or not. Overall, Skoda might not have emerged as the entry-level brand into the VW family that it was intended to be globally, but the Yeti, in particular, offers packaging that not many others can match.

And if that’s high on your list of priorities, then a Yeti with a full service history is worth short-listing. Our rating: 3/5 Nuts and bolts

Engine/s: 1.2 turbo 4-cyl/1.8 turbo4-cyl/2.0 turbo-diesel Transmissions: 6-man/6-DSG/7-DSG Fuel economy (combined): 7.0 litres per 100km (77TSI)/8.2 litres (112TSI)

Safety rating (courtesy of[1]): 5 stars Likes:

  • Flexible interior.
  • Quality feel.
  • Perky drivelines.
  • Good equipment levels.


  • Some transmission reliability concerns.
  • Turbo-diesel version falls foul of Dieselgate scandal.
  • Odd looking to say the least.
  • Some engine woes in some examples.

Competitors: Toyota Rukus – Not offered with all-wheel-drive, but the box-on-wheels theme certainly played out.

Camry engine means no reliability worries but four-speed auto seems off the pace then and now. 3.5/5 Skoda Roomster – The Yeti’s own brother, the Roomster is even weirder to look at with a side profile that reminds us of a scaled-down hearse. Drivelines were from a generation earlier than the Yeti, but the Roomster is cheap these days. 3/5

Peugeot 3008 – Another odd looker thanks to the manufacturer placing practicality and flexibility over sexiness.

Classy feel but hampered by reliability issues, mainly electrical. 2/5

What to pay (courtesy of Glass’s Guide):

Model Year New Now
77TSI 2011 £28,590 £8300
103TDI 2011 £37,990 £13,500
77TSI 2012 £28,590 £9600
103TDI 2012 £37,990 £15,400
112TSI 2012 £35,290 £14,300
77TSI 2013 £28,590 £11,800
103TDI 2013 £37,990 £16,500
112TSI 2013 £35,290 £15,100
77TSI 2014 £28,590 £13,400
103TDI 2014 £37,990 £18,500
112TSI 2014 £35,290 £17,100


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