Skoda Yeti 2014 – Review
By Liam Bird
‘There is nothing not to like about this car.’ That’s exactly how I concluded my review of the first generation Skoda Yeti after I got my hands on one soon after its launch approximately four years ago. I thought it was brilliant – and I wasn’t the only one. In the same way the Renault Espace became the benchmark MPV, the Volkswagen Golf became the benchmark hatch, and the BMW 3 series became the benchmark executive saloon, so too did the Yeti become the benchmark crossover.
It instantly became one of those cars that defined its genre. Yes, there may have been crossovers that offered better off-road ability, and there were crossovers that offered more car-like on-road manners; some offered more space, and some were cheaper. But none of them offered the exact, almost perfect combination of all of those qualities in the way the Yeti did. As CAR Magazine once wrote: ‘Carlsberg don’t make family cars… but Skoda does.’
It’s with that in mind that I took delivery of the new Yeti a couple of weeks ago. For 2014 Skoda’s ever popular suburban off-roader – in just four years worldwide they’ve sold 288,000 of them – gets a new look nose, headlamps and bumpers, the bonnet and grille are also new too. But the big news is there are now two different varieties of Yeti. If you’re a suburbanite with no intentions of letting your Yeti leave the tarmac then the 2 wheel–drive Yeti City should more than suit your needs.
You’ll still get all the convenience and practicality that made the Yeti so popular the first place: by which I mean big (although not class-leading) square boot with top-hinged tailgate, genuine five seat accommodation, loads of headroom and elevated (and if I’m picky, slightly long-armed) driving position. There are also the familiar boxy, but not oversized dimensions, good all round visibility meaning the Yeti is a doddle to park and has the facility to remove all the rear seats completely should you need to. Plus, there’s more lasing eyes and moveable loading hooks than you’ll ever need. And city-dwellers take note: It’s also worth remembering that the Yeti doesn’t attract the usual SUV derision and scorn – a no-cost bonus not to be sniffed at, if ever there was one.
If, however, you prefer your Yeti a little more on the rugged side and with the all-terrain sure-footedness its square-jawed looks suggest, then the appropriately named Outdoor version is the one for you. Distinguished by its more angular front and rear bumpers – they increase the approach and departure angles – and some all-important aluminium skid plates and black plastic trim, the Outdoor also gains the tried and tested Haldex clutch based 4×4 system. A little drive is always sent to the rear axle as well as the front, but should any of the wheels lose traction this electronic/hydraulic system quickly kicks in and pulls you out of trouble. The Outdoor also gets an ‘Off-Road’ button that softens the throttle response and engages a very Land-Rover-like and rather reassuring full feet-off-the-pedals hill-descent control.
“Smooth and precise”
The chances are, though, unless you really need to make your Yeti earn its living you’ll be more concerned with how it behaves on the road. It’s fair to say its far better to drive than its high-rise stance would have you believe. As a result of its Octavia derived underpinnings a Yeti feels more akin to a well-sorted-hatchback than it does to a checked-shirt-n-cider-drinking type 4×4.
The stiff chassis means you can carry speed through corners without ever feeling that you’re demanding more than it is capable. The ride is smooth and composed. Thanks to its neutral handling balance and well-weighted – albeit slightly numb – steering, something about it just feels right. The 1.8litre, 160bhp turbo petrol unit (there’s a more torque-y diesel option too) as fitted to ‘my’ top-spec Lauren and Klement Yeti provides surprisingly sprightly performance. This is despite having to work the gearbox a little more on the hilly bits. But the change remains both smooth and precise.
Interior-wise things are equally appealing. Clear black-on-white switchgear fills the cabin. If it wasn’t for the badge on the very soft multi-function steering wheel, you wouldn’t need much to convince you that you were piloting one of parent company’s VW finer saloons. A large glass area, and slim pillars, plus of course the generous kit that comes as standard on higher spec Yetis. There’s Bluetooth, sat-nav, digital radio, heated seats. They make the vastly versatile interior a very pleasing place to be.
It’s probably fair to say it’s no secret the Yeti’s recent facelift is a bid to keep it fresh. It needs to compete with its newer Far-Eastern rivals that simply weren’t around four years ago. And rumour has it there’s a newer, bigger Yeti planned for 2016. Nevertheless the Yeti is still a very well built, capable and satisfying machine. Quite simply: there is still nothing not to like about this car.
Skoda Yeti Outdoor Lauren & Klement
Engine: 1,798cc, 4Cyl, TSi direct injection petrol
Transmission: 6 speed. Four wheel drive (with Haldex Diff)
Power: 158 bhp @ 3500 – 6200 rpm
Torque: 184 lbft @1500 – 4500 rpm
0-62mph: 8.4 sec
Max Speed: 124 mph
MPG: 36.2 combined
Price: from £25,490 (as tested £27,230)