Skoda Yeti review, price and specs | evo

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Skoda Yeti

review, price and specs

The talented Skoda Yeti gets a mid-life update, a new Yeti Outdoor version and improved technology. Still a family car favourite?

November 2013

What is it?

The new Skoda Yeti, an updated version of our favourite small SUV on sale. That may sound like faint praise from a motoring title whose ethos rather clashes with a car that’s heavier, taller and less agile than its regular usage dictates, but in fact it’s quite the opposite. As sensible family cars go, this has been an evo favourite since it hit the UK market four years ago.

Prices for the new car range from £16,600 to £27,050.

Technical highlights?

So many ‘soft-roaders’ and crossovers have joined the market since the Yeti appeared that Skoda has seen fit to fight them head on, separating the range into two; the regular Yeti gets lots of body coloured trim, the least powerful engines and, in the UK, two-wheel drive only, while the Yeti Outdoor gets a full engine range, optional 4×4 and much more rugged trim. It’s more than just show, too, the extra addenda increasing approach and departure angles and protecting and reinforcing underbody components for rough off-roading.

That’s something the Yeti is surprisingly good at, the system beneath it being a new fifth-generation of the VW Group’s Haldex all-wheel-drive setup. It’s now lighter and can go longer without servicing, while in the Yeti it incorporates an Off Road mode, toggled via a dashboard button. This activates hill descent control and recalibration for the ABS, ESP and a plethora of other acronyms.

The Yeti will tow up to 2100kg more than before and enough for many a track car and trailer combination while the interior is MPV-like in its flexibility, with a double-sided boot floor and rear seats that slide in various directions and can be removed completely, effectively turning the Skoda into a van.

What’s it like to drive?

All of the above may impress, but it’s behind the wheel where the Yeti has always surprised. And with the updated 4×4 system the only core mechanical change, it’s business as usual dynamically. That’s to say this is a car that belies its slightly slab-sided looks with sharp reactions and some real flair; yes, the steering is the usual feel-free rack you’ll find on the bulk of modern cars, but the Yeti reacts to your inputs with minimum fuss and while there’s body roll, it’s the sort that gives you an early gauge of where the limits are and which actually serves up some fun and interaction at normal road speeds.

Quick cornering is not the confidence-sapping affair it is in many of the Skoda’s rivals, quite the opposite it grips gamely, with a neutral handling balance, a remarkably stiff frame and impressive damping. Until the mk2 Yeti arrives the model doesn’t benefit from the VW Group’s much lauded MQB chassis architecture, but that’s no major mark against it; it’s a reasonably taut car but one without the over-firm feel that can afflict some of its VAG relatives.

The vast majority of buyers will opt for the 4×4-only 138bhp 2.0 TDI it’s only natural in a car like this, and if it’s a diesel you’re after, it’s a pretty polished unit that combines 50.4mpg with a sub-10sec 0-60 time. They’ll be missing a star performer though: the range-topping petrol variant, a 158bhp 1.8 TSI 4×4 only available in posh Laurin Klement form.

It’s predicted to account for a piffling one per cent of sales in the UK, yet it mixes the mid-range punch of a typical turbodiesel with an appetite to rev to 6000rpm. Combined with the slick standard six-speed manual gearbox, there’s enough entertainment here to keep keen drivers amused, while it’s far more refined than the diesel in traffic or up at regular cruising speeds. Its 36.2mpg claimed fuel consumption and 184g/km of CO2 emissions explain why its appeal dwindles for so many beside the TDI, but it’s priced over £1000 cheaper than the diesel in equivalent spec.

At the other end of the range, the little front-drive only turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol so keen in smaller applications such as SEAT Leons and VW Polos does a commendable job of shifting the Yeti’s 1340kg bulk around, but is inevitably a little strained under acceleration, as its pretty tame 11.4sec 0-62mph time no doubt hints at. Its refinement is impressive, though, even at a 100mph-plus cruise on the derestricted autobahn section of our test route.

How does it compare?

The full list of small SUV rivals would take the next hour to read, but in short a Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai ix35, Audi Q3 or Mini Countryman won’t offer the mix of value, fun and practicality the Yeti pulls off. We ran one on our long-term test ‘Fast Fleet’ in 2010 and when it wasn’t towing Radical track cars or ferrying around families, it was being hustled around the Nurburgring. Really

Anything else I need to know?

It’s easy to bypass the Yeti’s off-roading ability, but a decently challenging forest route showed how competent the Yeti’s electronics are. For something so small and relatively low to the ground, it made its way up and down a number of scary-looking hills and through an impressive amount of water. It’s hard to avoid declaring this a pretty infallible all-rounder.

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