Skoda's improved Yeti makes a lot of sense for those in search of a sensible, practical and well priced compact Crossover. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
With this improved second generation Yeti, Skoda has tried to provide us with a more credible family Crossover. The recently improved range focuses on the more SUV-orientated 'Outdoor' bodystyle that allows you to take up the option of the brand's much improved 4x4 system. And the line-up includes some high-value trim levels that will be tempting for showroom browsers. Though this segment's more demanding than it used to be, this Skoda's appeal has grown stronger too. You can see why so many people like it.
The Yeti, as you'll probably know, is one of those SUV-style family hatchbacks on growth hormones that 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. Will it be enough to keep this car as a sales favourite in its segment? Let's find out.
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 that 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. All Yetis have decent body control, good brakes and a reasonable ride quality, though the steering isn't the most feelsome.
Many buy a Yeti to take advantage of it's all wheel drive traction and this current model offers a 4x4 option far more affordably than most of its rivals do. The electronically controlled fifth generation Haldex all-wheel drive set-up comes with a selectable off-road function with a softened throttle response for better control on the loose. Plus there's ground clearance of 180mm and a hill descent system that maintains a constant speed on descents. As a result, the 4x4 versions are certainly 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 in black plastic. Bi-Xenon headlights featuring integrated LED daytime running lights can be specified. 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
These days, Skoda focuses the UK Yeti line-up on its slightly more SUV-orientated 'Outdoor' bodystyle. Pricing starts at around £18,000 but you can pay up to around £25,000 for a flagship model. Trim-wise, there's a choice of 'S', 'SE', 'SE Drive', 'SE L', 'SE L Drive', 'Laurent & Klement' and 'SE Technology' trim grades. Across the line-up, there's of specifying an on-demand 4WD system for a premium of around £1,700.
This Skoda needs to remain competitive in the face of competition from three market niches: supermini-based Crossovers (like the Nissan Juke and the Renault Captur); family-sized Crossovers (like the Nissan Qashqai and the SEAT Ateca); and compact SUVs that also veer to the market for small SUVs (cars like the Kia Sportage or the Hyundai Tucson). 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.
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, say, a diesel engine, all-wheel drive and a DSG gearbox, they had to pay quite a lot more than the advertised entry-level prices. That's no longer so much of an issue - and we particularly like the fact that Skoda doesn't limit its 4x4 system to top-spec trim levels that hardly anyone can afford.
All of what's always 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 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.