Skoda Yeti review

Skoda's Yeti makes a lot of sense for those in search of a more practical compact Crossover. Jonathan Crouch drives it.

Ten Second Review

With this much improved Yeti, Skoda has tried to provide us with a more credible family Crossover. It's smarter and more capable than before and also comes with an off road-orientated Outdoor bodystyle that allows you to take up the option of the brand's much improved 4x4 system. Though this segment's more demanding than it used to be, this Skoda's tougher too. You can see why so many people like it.

Background

The Yeti, as you'll probably know, is one of those SUV-style family hatchbacks on growth hormones the industry refers to as 'Crossovers'. These days, these come in two sizes, with the smaller ones derived from superminis and the bigger Qashqai-class models based on Focus-sized family hatchbacks. The Yeti is sized to be able to tempt buyers shopping in either category, which probably accounts for the phenomenal success of the original version we first saw in 2009. Well over a quarter of a million Yetis were pounding global roads by the time this current model was launched early in 2014, setting the brand well on its way to its target of achieving 1.5 million annual sales worldwide by 2018. This improved version though, has a much tougher sales task on its hands than its predecessor. In the last few years, the Crossover class has exploded and almost every mainstream maker now either offers such a car or is developing one. The result is a tightly-fought sector in which all of this Yeti's most direct rivals are either completely new or substantially revised - hence the Skoda response we're going to look at here: the smarter looks, the extra equipment, the more efficient optional 4x4 drivetrain and the division of the range into either standard or more SUV-orientated 'Outdoor' models. Will it be enough to keep this car as a sales favourite in its segment? Let's find out.

Driving Experience

With this Yeti, you get a decent choice beneath the bonnet and also choose between front and all-wheel drive, plus manual or automatic dual clutch transmissions. Yes, this car is built on a lifestyle remit, but don't for a moment think the Yeti is a bit of lightweight marketing fluff. It's anything but. Petrol people get a 1.2-litre TSI unit and comes only with 2WD, while diesel drivers are given a 2.0-litre TDI powerplant with either 110 or 150PS and either front or 4WD options. The TSI engine sounds as if it doesn't have the grunt to move the Yeti but it packs 110PS and is the best choice of you're looking for an urban scoot. The diesel's better for longer distances, in 110PS form offering 250Nm of torque rather than the petrol engine's 175. Many buy a Yeti to take advantage of it's all wheel drive traction and this current model changes tack a little, offering a different look and feel for most of the all-wheel drive models versus the front-wheel drive cars. All Yetis have decent body control, good brakes and a reasonable ride quality. The steering isn't the most feelsome but look for the off-road function with a softened throttle response for better control on the loose as well as a hill descent mode that maintains a constant speed on descents. With electronically controlled fifth generation Haldex all-wheel drive and a ground clearance of 180mm, the outdoor versions are terrain-ready. The electronic differential lock also promises a smooth and comfortable start and grip on various road surfaces.

Design and Build

The Yeti features stylised front and rear elements such as beefy bumpers, an under-ride guard, side mouldings and door sills that are either in the body colour or, as with the Yeti Outdoor version, remain in black plastic. The fronts of both variants are horizontally more accentuated and feature a distinctive grille and redesigned headlights, available as an option with Bi-Xenon headlights featuring integrated LED daytime running lights. The front headlights are rectangular and located low under the front bumpers. Buyers get a big choice of alloy wheel designs, a wide colour palette and a rear end that gets a smart tailgate assembly with C-design LED rear lights. The cabin looks classy too, with a smart 3-spoke steering wheel, quality fabrics and bold patterns for the seat trims as well as decorative inlays on the dashboard. The driving position is reasonably high and gives a good view of the road ahead, with a smart colour touch-screen dominating the central dash. The broad windows and tall windscreen aid visibility and quality dashboard materials and sensible ergonomics top off a very accomplished cabin. Out back, there's a 405-litre boot which can be extended to as much as 1,760-litres if you remove the rear seats. In no other compact utility vehicle do the rear passengers have as much headroom as in the Yeti - some 1027 millimetres.

Market and Model

There's a choice of two Yeti model lines these days. The road-orientated normal one and what are called the 'Yeti Outdoor' models, cars that offer a slightly more rugged look. In 2WD form, these cost the same as their standard counterparts but there is the option in Outdoor guise of specifying an on-demand 4WD system for a premium of around £1,700. Both model lines offer a choice of S, SE, SE L and Laurent & Klement trim grades, while standard model customers also get a high value Monte Carlo spec. Pricing starts at around £17,000 but you can pay over £27,000 for a flagship model. This Skoda needs to remain competitive in the face of competition not just from more conventional SUVs (like the Kia Sportage or the Mazda CX-5) and Crossovers (like the Nissan Qashqai and Subaru XV), but also from rugged-ised cars of other genres such as the Renault Scenic XMOD, an SUV-styled People Carrier. In short, the Yeti has to cover a lot of bases. It's succeeded recently because of - and not despite - its badge. The Skoda nameplate seems to be becoming what Saab once was, a brand beloved by those of independent opinion. This current Yeti gets a host of hi-tech equipment, perhaps the most interesting being the Optical Parking Assistant, an optional rear-view camera. Active safety is increased through ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) with Brake Assist. The front fog lights can also be optionally equipped with Corner Function. The Yeti boasts up to nine airbags. Isofix points securely fasten child seats. Three-point seat belts in the front with belt tensioners and height adjustment and height-adjustable headrests complete the safety package.

Cost of Ownership

The usual image of utility vehicles being somewhat profligate when it comes to fuel economy doesn't really apply to the Skoda Yeti. The 2.0 TDI 100PS 2WD diesel model is the poster child here, with a 62.8mpg combined economy figure and emissions of just 118g/km. Even the 2.0 TDI 150PS version with 4WD manages 55.4mpg and 134g/km. The 1.2 TSI 110PS petrol version delivers 51.4mpg and 128g/km of CO2. All of this means that the Yeti is going to appeal to private and business buyers in equal measure. Residual values for the Yeti have proven excellent and the evolutionary styling of the current car isn't going to significantly damage the resale values of existing owners.

Summary

The Skoda Yeti is a hard car to criticise. It does a lot of things extremely well. In the past, it was sometimes the case that buyers looked at this model and then realised that in order to get the desired combination of a diesel engine, all-wheel drive and a DSG gearbox, they had to pay quite a lot more than the advertised entry-level prices. The split in the Yeti range between standard and Outdoor models will reduce that 'sticker shock' effect, clueing buyers in that the ordinary variants don't have extended off-road abilities. All of what made the Yeti so appealing remains. It's spacious, safe, drives well, has a cool but understated image and extremely low running costs. This current car adds a little equipment, tidies the interior and tweaks the styling but otherwise sticks to a tried and tested recipe. In truth, not a lot needed changing. The Yeti remains a class act in a market full of try-hard rivals.