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Skoda models, news & reviews
By Ollie Kew
13 January 2014 10:00
Tough job, facelifting the Skoda Yeti. How do you solve a problem like tweaking the only crossover to seriously hold a candle to the mould-breaking Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage’s runway success?
Skoda’s opted for a fairly comprehensive redesign of the exterior, even splitting the Yeti range into two styles: ‘Outdoor’ and ‘City’. We’ve tested the rough and-tumble ‘Outdoor’ version, appropriately enough with all-wheel drive and the second-most grunty turbodiesel engine.
The new Qashqai has arrived to reclaim its kingdom – can the ageing Yeti hold its own? Read on for the CAR verdict.
Yes – though it’s still not an out-and-out mud-plugger. The ‘Outdoor’ spec comprises chopped front and rear bumpers, allowing steeper approach and departure angles: it’ll take a really tall kerb outside the school gates to immobilise this Yeti. Black plastic trim, a classic wannabe off-roader cue, is applied to these tough-looking extremities.
Our test car goes one better: it wears the £200 ‘rough road package’ which bags under-body guards and suspension arm protection. The way our potholes are going, this might not be the fatuous investment it first seems.
The 4x4 Yeti has more in its off-roading arsenal than just a part-time, Haldex-clutch all-wheel drive system and a Millets bodykit. The ‘off-road’ button, a standard feature of this £25,265 ‘Elegance DSG’ version, trims traction control and ABS settings for optimal grip, and there’s a clever hill-descent system to make light work of steep gradients too. That’s best sampled with the six-speed manual car, which can even be run down sharp drops in neutral for the proper feet-off Range Rover experience.
Our test car sported the six-speed automatic, which is no longer the sharpest self-shifter out there. Though the changes themselves are snappy and non-head-rocking in fashion, they occur a fraction too late, whether you’re cruising about town or making a dive for that gap on a sliproad. Absent paddles on the refreshed three-spoke steering wheel mean you can’t pre-empt the dim-witted software and take ratio-shifting matters into your own hands either. The six-speed manual car is a good dollop cheaper and greener too (£1100 and 12g/km less respectively), hammering the nail into the twin-clutcher’s coffin.
Yes – there’s no doubt that the cabin, still typically well-finished and adorned with parts-bin VW switchgear (an observation, not a criticism) looks dated next to the more recent VW models, and, more worryingly, the equally high-quality and more avant-garde environment in the Hyundai ix35. Plus, gripes with the clunky infotainment and long-armed driving position for six-plus-footers remain.
Mind you, so do the good points: the lightweight, wide-opening doors; the headroom afforded by the ever-cute boxy profile, and that mutt-friendly 416-litre boot. There’s also the Yeti’s utilitarian charm that offers extra likeability versus a Qashqai or Tiguan. It feels appropriate to cram that load bay with wet dog and muddy boots, which might spoil the carpet pile in another jumped-up family hatchback. That said, whatever paraphernalia you choose to haul, the Yeti offers less space than the new Nissan Qashqai, the Hyundai ix35, or the fine Mazda CX-5.
Betraying wrinkles inside it may be, but the Yeti remains an engaging drive. The steering weight – light around town and just reassuring enough as speeds increase – is copy-pasted from myriad common-or-garden VW Group products – but just because you’re sat a foot higher than in a Superb, doesn’t mean the Yeti falls over itself through turns like the hen queen exiting a 3am kebab house.
Four-wheel drive is rarely called upon – testament to the Yeti’s predictable body control (matched to an absorbent ride comfort) and determined purchase on the road surface. In fact, thanks to the raised seating position and low-rev torque of the vocal but smooth 2.0 TDI, it’s a closet overtaking weapon. As long as you pre-empt the gearbox’s cog-swapping cogitations…
The Yeti’s facelift has spoiled, well, the face. The inset foglights of the original gave its phizzog character and cheek – the new one fits into the homogenised straight-edged Skoda line-up a treat, but it’s more anonymous as a consequence. Styling tweaks are as subjective as the colour of the paintwork, but when you’re up against eye-catching rivals like the Kia Sportage and yes, that flipping talented Hyundai again, a more individual look than the safe family face option is no bad thing.
Spec-wise, go for the second-to-top-spec Elegance model tested here if you can. Its wealth of on-board goodies, including heated seats, bi-xenon lights, cruise control, top-spec infotainment, (breath) climate-control and automatic lights, are the best way of offsetting the lacklustre class-of-2007 cockpit’s Achilles’ heel.
Here’s a facelift onlookers will actually notice without parking the new Yeti alongside its predecessor! Under the skin, little has changed, save for a handful of new engine/gearbox combinations, and updated cabin trim.
While that means the Yeti’s likeable dynamics shine through the transition unharmed, it also leaves it exposed to much fresher opposition. It’s still a machine we have no qualms in recommending – albeit with the caveat that it no longer crushes all comers with the same all-conquering verve it managed at launch.
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Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI Outdoor (2014) CAR review
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