Don’t like it? Blame Nissan. Stung into action by the remarkable success of the Qashqai (which last year recorded a 7% increase in UK sales when the whole market was down 12%), Skoda clearly feel that making the fifth model in their line-up a crossover will give them a slice of just about the only action around at the moment. So let’s hope that stable doors and bolting horses stay out of the equation for a while yet.
Happily, with the Roomster format already offering levels of seating flexibility to put rival MPVs to shame, the only added ingredients needed were the ‘command driving position’ so essential to school-run mums these days, a whiff of 4×4 capability and a daft name. The advertising campaign should be a guinea a minute. Probably won’t be in these days of the bland Euro-ad, mind. But it should be…
So, is the Skoda Yeti just a tall Roomster, then?
That’s pretty much the impression, until you hop from the 1.2-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel front-wheel drive versions – which will account for at least 85% of sales – into the realms of all-wheel drive. At which point a choice of a 1.8-litre petrol engine and three strengths of 2.0-litre diesel become mated to the usual Haldex clutch trickery and, on posh versions, a trick Off Road button which re-maps throttle and ABS-associated braking and traction control systems for added Edmund Hilary.
Interestingly, far from being a mere gimmick, that button has a couple of unique tricks up its sleeve which I don’t recall coming across before. Firstly, it allows you to creep down hair-raising slopes with feet off all pedals and the car in neutral. That’s right, neutral (even first gear can prove too fast) yet still have control of the throttle. And secondly, because the stability control systems are powered directly by the battery, you can stall halfway down and the car won’t take a blind bit of notice. It works swimmingly, thus opening England’s disused quarries to a whole new clumsy ox generation.
But what’s in it for the 98% of us never destined to be taxed by wet gymkhana grass?
Well, that’ll be the tall Roomster with the, er, ‘command driving position’, front-wheel drive and daft name, then; the best-selling version destined to be the 2.0-litre, 110bhp turbodiesel I drove.
And if you can ignore the extent to which the Skoda corporate chrome ‘n’ badge hooter has destroyed the looks of a car which only its mother was ever going to love anyway, it’s not a bad effort. A VAG parts bin interior offers classy instrumentation, respectable build quality and fine ergonomics. The seats flop, slide and leap about with all the alacrity of a horse with a wasp under its tail, though, as with the Roomster, the middle rear seat’s too narrow to be taken seriously as anything but a centre armrest. And the loadspace is full of the hooks and nooks essential to the ‘active lifestyle’ of the Tesco shopper.
And the drive?
Fine. Nothing to write home about, nothing to gripe about. Ride and handling are exactly akin to a gently tall Skoda, giving little cause for complaint. Giving a clear indication of just how quickly the Yeti has been rushed to the launch pad, no performance, consumption or emissions figures are yet available for the 110bhp turbodiesel. Suffice to say, it probably would pull a greased stick out of a pig’s arse, but might struggle to tug a new-age traveller off your sister.
It’s somewhat ironic that the best clever new trick stuff is reserved for those few who opt for top-of-the-range four-wheel drive models. However, on the basis that there’s really nothing wrong with a Roomster with added nose bleed, those who don’t won’t be disappointed.