WERE it not for Jeremy Clarkson proclaiming it to be the greatest thing ever, Skoda’s Yeti would have remained one of the most underrated family cars around. It didn’t need much doing to it, but the latest model is styled in two distinct versions, one for the city and one for off-road. The interior trim has been upgraded and there’s now a rear view camera option.
Most cars of this type come with a choice of a petrol or a diesel engine. Two petrols and two diesels if the manufacturer really wants to demonstrate its engineering largesse. But with the latest Yeti, you get a choice of no fewer than seven engines. You also choose between front and all-wheel drive, and 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.
The standout engines are the 1.4-litre TSI petrol unit and the 1.6 TDI GreenLine diesel. The TSI engine sounds as if it doesn’t have the grunt to move the Yeti but it packs 120bhp and is the best choice if you’re looking for an urban scoot. The diesel’s better for longer distances, generating 103bhp but offering 250Nm of torque rather than the petrol engine’s 200. Many buy a Yeti to take advantage of its all-wheel drive traction, and the latest model offers a different look and feel for 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 ground clearance of 180mm, the outdoor versions are terrain-ready. The electronic differential lock also promises a smooth, comfortable start and grip on various road surfaces.
The Yeti’s styling has always been a good deal cleaner than its broken-backed Roomster sibling. The latest car 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 for the first time with Bi-Xenon headlights and integrated LED daytime running lights. The front headlights are now rectangular and are located further under the front bumpers. Moving back, you’ll now get a choice of four alloy wheel designs, a wider colour palette and a rear end that gets a completely redesigned tailgate assembly with C-design LED rear lights.
The cabin’s come in for a bit of the budget too, with revised three-spoke steering wheels in seven variations, better fabrics and bolder 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 1,027 millimetres.
The Skoda Yeti is hard 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 urban and outdoor models will reduce that effect, clueing buyers in that the urban cars 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 low running costs. This latest car adds a little kit, tidies the interior and tweaks the styling but otherwise sticks to its guns. In truth, not a lot needed changing. The Yeti remains a class act in a market full of try-hard rivals.
CAR Skoda Yeti Range
PRICE £15,500 - £27,000
PERFORMANCE Max speed 109mph; 0-62mph 12.1s
MPG (combined) 61.4
CO2 EMISSIONS 119g/km