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.
Is this the Skoda Yeti to go mountaineering in?
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.
So it looks the part, but is the hardware up to the job?
The 4×4 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.
Is the Yeti starting to feel its age?
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.
What about on the road?
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.