There's no getting away from it, SUVs, and compact SUVs in particular, are everywhere – and it’s easy to see why.
According to industry analysts, the global market for SUVs is predicted to account for 22 million cars a year by 2020, and every manufacturer (with the exception of some Italian and British supercar makers) is hell-bent on securing its slice.
Skoda’s SUV strategy has been fairly subdued so far, with the Yeti its only offering since 2009 – but that’s all about to change. Bosses are targeting an ambitious 1.5 million global sales by 2020 (around a 50 per cent increase on 2014), and more SUVs are seen as a cornerstone of the expansion plan.
So, along with a Yeti replacement (2017) and a new, flagship, seven-seater SUV (late 2015), it’s plotting a third member of the SUV family to sit below the Yeti. Our exclusive images show how it could look, while we could get our first official glimpse by the end of 2016, ahead of a 2017 launch.
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In terms of rivals, you can take your pick. Direct competitors on price and dimensions will include the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur, but with Skoda no longer the budget brand it once was it has to see off a new wave of affordable alternatives, too, such as the SsangYong Tivoli and Suzuki Vitara. There’s even a growing threat from the premium players, with Audi poised to launch the Q1 next year.
First things first: this as-yet-unnamed baby Yeti isn’t Skoda’s spin-off from VW’s 2012 Taigun concept. That car was based on a stretched version of the VW up!’s New Small Family (NSF) platform, whereas this will use a shortened version of the MQB modular architecture – with all the technical benefits and economies of scale that brings. Of course, this being the VW Group, the Skoda will have sister cars from VW and SEAT to stretch the development costs.
VW’s version – known as the Polo SUV – was previewed by the T-ROC concept at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, and is also set to launch in 2017. SEAT has recently confirmed a three-pronged SUV strategy, with a Nissan Qashqai rival next year, this Juke rival in 2017 and a third, larger SUV by 2020.
In terms of size and shape, it’s easier to think of the new Skoda as a Fabia SUV. In keeping with the brand’s practical ethos, it’ll be slightly larger than the Fabia, higher-riding and with a bigger boot and more headroom, but similar styling themes will run through both cars.
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As our images show, the Fabia’s chiselled bodywork, grille and silhouette will be replicated, but squared-off wheelarches, front and rear skid plates plus plastic cladding will elevate the styling from everyday hatch to something more rugged.
However, there’ll be no significant off-road ability to go with the looks, as the car’s expected to be offered in front-wheel drive only.
Skoda CEO Dr Winfried Vahland told us: “For a small SUV, Europe would work, China would not, Russia would not. But we’re studying the trends. We’re open. If we go in that direction, it’ll not be 4x4 but it’ll keep the genes of a Skoda – high seating and roominess. But it must be affordable.”
To keep costs down, pure-electric and hybrid versions are off the table, but the newcomer will be available with the Fabia’s more powerful engines. That means a choice of 1.2 TSI or 1.4 and 1.6 TDI units.
A GreenLine version should emit well below 100g/km of CO2, while the sporty Monte Carlo trim level that’s proven popular on the Citigo, Fabia and Yeti could be used again.
What do you think of Skoda's plans for a Fabia-sized SUV? Let us know in the comments section below...