Skoda does a good line in half sizes. The Octavia is a bit bigger than Focus types, but not as chunky as a Mondeo. And so the new Skoda Yeti is larger than its Fiat Panda looky-likey, but not quite as big as the Nissan Qashqai-set soft-roaders it’s aimed at. It’s a handy point of distinction and the Yeti looks pleasingly trim as a result: not as bolshily bulky as some threatening SUVs yet with a whiff of go-anywhere potential in its raised ride height and Blomqvist-spec driving lights.
The Yeti is a reminder that Skoda has come of age - with its democratic pricing, competitive line-ups and inoffensively distinctive designs. Clever product planning or a stroke of luck? Whichever, the Yeti lands in a zeitgeist shying away from the excesses of SUVs and City types, serving up some 4x4 attributes in a more modest, bijou package.
So which Skoda Yeti is CAR reviewing here?
As with many compact crossovers, Skoda offers the Yeti in two- and four-wheel drive. Hardware is pilfered from the Skoda Octavia Scout, so 4wd Yetis - like ours - have the latest Haldex traction system, shuffling torque to the axle with the most traction. It works well on road and we were able to elicit only the briefest of chirrups from the tyres even on full boost. The fourth-gen Haldex system can theoretically turn the Yeti rear-drive, with 90% of drive going to the back tyres.
CAR tested the 1.8 turbo petrol, one of the punchier models in the range. Ours came in £18,910 1.8 TSI SE spec, although we suspect many buyers will plump for one of the diesels starting from £15,565 in 2wd trim. We haven’t driven the starter 1.2 yet, which we suspect may feel slightly breathless despite being turbocharged to 105bhp/129lb ft.
And what’s the new Skoda Yeti 1.8 TSI like?
Bordering on brilliant! I’ve had to pinch myself before writing that about a Skoda, but the Yeti is one of the fantastically judged cars I’ve driven all year. From the very moment I climbed in, the Yeti feels right.
For starters, it’s well built in that solid, Skoda fashion. The VW Group provides its finest parts bin ware and the whole is wrapped in tactile, quality plastics with a no-nonsense design that makes the cabin feel from several rungs higher up the range. The Yeti isn’t on stilts, but still affords a hint of the command driving position so favoured by SUV drivers.
It’s seriously roomy and the rear seats slide back and forth upon request, with enough space to make this qualify as a serious family car. The boot’s generous at 416 litres and bigger than a Focus’s or Qashqai’s loadbay. And those rear seats remove individually to turn the tallboy Yeti into a veritable removal van on the cheap (we managed to move a double mattress in it with ease).
>> Click ‘Next’ to read more of CAR’s Skoda Yeti first drive review
So what’s the Skoda Yeti like to drive?
Another pleasant surprise: the Yeti really impresses on the road. It feels more compact, less bulky than other compact crossovers (it’s smaller than a Qashqai, Kuga or Tiguan) without feeling cramped. And that raised driving position affords a great view out.
Over those first few hundred yards of our week-long test drive, it quickly becomes apparent that the Yeti has an excellent chassis set-up. It’s comfy, soaking up road craters and cats eyes with a well absorbed pliancy you only feel on cars with expertly tuned spring and damper rates. The bodyshell feels really stiff and you can just feel the tyres and suspension doing their thing.
I have to confess I’m not really into compact 4x4s and find too often their ilk suffers in driving dynamics on account of the ludicrous hardware being lugged around. Not so in the Yeti. Ours was four-wheel drive, yet steered with precision and a deftly judged weight. It’s resolutely set up for comfort over corner carving (Hurrah! No Nurburgring times mentioned!) yet can still be hustled along your favourite switchback without feeling like a roly-poly tug in a North Sea storm.
And the Yeti’s engine?
The 1.8 turbo spins freely and eagerly, dishing out ladles of torque and aural excitement with abandon. The six-speed manual and clutch are perfectly weighted, and performance is more than adequate. Who needs a compact crossover that can demolish 0-62mph in less than 8.4 seconds?
Our only gripe would be economy. While we didn’t run a full fuel test on this test car, the onboard computer too often read out a figure beginning with a ‘2’, only lapsing into 30-something mpg with a featherweight foot. Pick a diesel if you want to tame your Yeti’s thirst.
Nearly £20,000 for a small Skoda! Aren’t they getting above their station?
Yetis start at £13,725 and climb to – take a deep breath – £22,120. Yes, that’s heady for a ‘mere’ Skoda. But c’mon! The Czechs can now justify it, and the Yeti is competitively priced against its opposition.
Every Yeti comes with an alarm, roof rails, front, side and curtain airbags, electric windows and mirrors, trip computer, remote locking and air-con. Trade up to our car’s SE spec and you bag classy 17in alloys, leather wheel, parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, six-disc CD changer, privacy glass and a glut of body colour and extra trim that makes the Yeti look genuinely attractive.
You’ve probably gathered I’m quite partial to the new Skoda Yeti. It’s one of my personal road test surprises of the year. We know that many of you think professional road testers automatically default to loving just the sports models and supercars, but every now and again a regular humdrum shopping trolley arrives that really stands out for its excellence. The Yeti is one of those.
It’s brilliant family fodder that’s also fun to drive. Considering its compact dimensions, it’s truly practical, well built and a hoot to drive. The fact that it’s backed up by Skoda’s value promise, has a generous spec and is distinctive and distinct in a sea of me-too crossovers is merely the icing on the cake.
Expect to see more cars like this in the coming months, as Mini launches its crossover and Hyundai muscles in with the ix-35. The 4x4 fights back by shrinking in the wash.