► Skoda plans new SUV above Yeti
► R&D chief tells CAR of 4x4 plan
► Latest Skoda news from Geneva
SUVs: Aston Martin and Bentley are at it, Maserati and Alfa Romeo too, and for Porsche, 4x4s are the profitable backbone of what was once a sports car company. And after the success of the Yeti, Skoda is about to double its range of soft-roaders with a new seven-seat SUV.
Will Skoda’s new SUV sit above or below the Yeti?
Above. Speaking at the 2015 Geneva motor show – where Skoda unveiled its third-generation Superb – R&D boss Dr Frank Welsch admitted that while the Czech manufacturer now has plenty of saloons, estates and hatchbacks, there were other avenues into which it could expand.
‘In the field of SUVs, the Yeti is doing very well,’ said Dr Welsch. ‘We think there is room for more, another model bigger than the Yeti. We are thinking about what we could and should do, but it would be fitting for Skoda, offering practicality and space, along with our “Simply Clever” solutions and expressive design.’
Another bonus that comes with building an SUV is that it will help Skoda escape its traditional customer base and attract new buyers. And not just conquest sales from other brands within an existing and familiar price point (as has been the case with the successful Skoda Yeti) but rather at a more upmarket level. The VW Touareg is the obvious case study for Skoda, a premium SUV built by a company best known for the Polo, Golf and Passat.
Speaking of the Touareg then, will this Skoda just be a re-badged VW SUV?
Although each Skoda model offers more interior space than its rivals, it doesn’t mean an SUV above the Yeti will stretch to the length of VW’s largest off-roader: Dr Welsch declares the Touareg ‘too big’ to be a Skoda. ‘The Yeti is around 4.3m long, and there is a new segment every 30cm or so. In my opinion I could foresee a vehicle around 4.6 to 4.7m in length, with enough space to be a seven-seater.’ By comparison, the Touareg is 4801mm long…
… And Seat’s new 20V20 SUV concept is 4659mm long. Coincidence? Not a chance. The 20V20 concept car will morph into Seat’s first SUV and be unveiled at the 2016 Geneva sotor show, and thanks to VW Group synergies, its Skoda sister shouldn’t be far behind.
Styling-wise, will this new Skoda SUV look like a pumped-up Yeti?
Yes, but not like the current Yeti. Dr Welsch admits that the Mk1 Yeti’s looks are polarising – hence the reason the facelifted version toned down the quirky headlights. So rather than a love-it-or-hate-it successor, the Mk2 Yeti won’t be as boxy or as radical, meaning that although some potential customers might not love it quite so much, fewer will loathe it too, and the safer styling approach should lead to more sales.
Expect the larger SUV to mirror that approach, but at the same time feature the more expressive detailing present on the third-gen Superb. Skoda has long been a rational brand, but the new Superb, with its intricate headlight and tail lamp clusters, clamshell bonnet and creased bodywork, along with a plethora of safety and infotainment tech pinched of the latest VW Passat, is designed to appeal emotionally to potential customers.
An SUV is a far as the Skoda brand will stretch for now though – Dr Welsch ruled out any coupes or sports cars.