Skoda Yeti review
Rugged off-roader looks, a great price, impressive handling and a spacious interior: the Yeti has it all
The Skoda Yeti was named Auto Express Car of the Year when it was launched in 2010, and it also finished first in our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey in 2012 and 2013. A new Skoda Yeti is due to arrive before the end of 2013, but Skoda probably won't change much about what's been a very successful formula.
Value for money and car-like handling are the key strengths of this family crossover. Entry-level models are reasonably priced, but those on a higher budget can choose well equipped four-wheel-drive versions should they need greater luxury and genuine off-road ability.
The facelifted model is styled to match the latest Skoda Rapid and Skoda Octavia, with a version for city drivers and one that has more overtly off-road styling like plastic body guards and different alloy wheels, but both styles are identically priced. The current range of efficient yet powerful petrol and diesel engines remains largely unchanged though, however a lighter new 4x4 system means all-wheel drive versions are slightly more economical than before.
There are now fewer trim levels - so the spec ranges from 'S' to the luxurious 'Laurent & Klement' version, but standard equipment has been improved across the broad, bringing with it a small increase in price.
Our choice: Yeti 1.2 TSI 105 SE
Most crossovers go for a middle-of-the-road mix of rugged SUV and smooth hatchback styling, but the tough-looking Skoda Yeti is much more distinctive than its rivals. The boxy styling, black wheelarch extensions, large foglights and roof rails leave you in no doubt that this car wants to be a full-on 4x4.
A recent facelift introduced a new front end which includes square headlights and a neater grille, while the foglights have been moved down to sit flush with the front bumper. The changes do make the Yeti look more modern than before, but they also mean it has less personality, and the 2014 car is unlikely to turn many heads.
Overall, the Yeti’s styling is unique in the crossover class, and the boxy design means it is still very spacious inside. You get a logical dash layout similar to what’s found in other Skodas, with large, easy-to-use buttons and clear labelling. The seating position is good and finding the right dirivng position is a fuss-free affair.
The facelifted car gets the same plush three-spoke steering wheel from the new Octavia, and new dash inserts, but the design does feel quite dated and ultiltarian unless you opt for the leather-clad Elegance and L&K versions.
If you want a sharp-handling crossover, the Skoda Yeti is an excellent choice. No matter which version you go for, you’ll get lots of grip and very little body roll. GreenLine II models feel even sharper thanks to their 10mm lower suspension, but the trade-off is a firm ride.
The Skoda Yeti engine range has something to suit almost any budget. It starts with the fantastic 1.2 TSI petrol, and although that seems too small for a large family crossover such as the Yeti, it's actually a great performer that's more than up to the task of hauling the car around.
Fuel economy is impressive, too, so unless you cover higher-than-average mileage, you don't need to choose one of the more expensive diesel engines. More powerful petrol options include the 1.8 TSI, which comes with four-wheel drive and gives the Yeti almost hot-hatch-like performance. The 1.6 TDI diesel engine is exclusive to the eco-friendly Skoda Yeti Greenline models, and although it can feel a little underpowered at times, it ensures excellent fuel economy returns for such a large car. The more conventional 2.0 TDI diesel is another option - offered with 109bhp, 138bhp or a hefty 168bhp in top-of-the-range models.
Opting for four-wheel-drive gives this family crossover excellent grip in mud, snow or other rough terrain, while the system also softens throttle response to minimise wheel spin and helps the car to descend steep hills in a slow and controlled fashion. An off-road button on the dash automatically controls the traction control, hill descent control and braking, and it means the Yeti is incredibly simple to drive off-road - sorting out most problems and lack of grip without you even realising there was an issue.
The only problem is that the tall and boxy design is bad for aerodynamics, so there is quite a lot of wind and road noise at motorway speeds, and the diesel engines are quite loud and rumbly - the 1.2 TSI engine is definitely the one to go for if you're looking for a quiet and refined town car.
Skoda used many tried-and-tested Volkswagen Group components in the Yeti, so good reliability is assured. This is borne out by the Yeti's consistently excellent showing in our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey: it finished second to the Skoda Superb on its first appearance in 2011, before topping the chart two years in a row in 2012 and 2013. Owners gave the car full marks in almost every individual category, and it was the top model for reliability, handling and ease of driving.
Average running costs and impressive in-car technology also counted in the Yeti's favour, while drivers love the peace of mind that comes with the car's standard safety features, which include ABS and ESP plus front, side and curtain airbags.
The new Haldex 4x4 system in the facelifted car has been seen before in the Octavia 4x4 - so it shouldn't cause any problems, but the new foglight design has moved them into the path of danger for small shunts and hitting rocks when you are driving off-road.
The boxy lines mean the Skoda has lots of cabin space, even though its wheelbase quite short. The large, flat tailgate opens to reveal a 416-litre boot. While that’s smaller than the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross, it’s still only 14 litres behind, and the tall roofline means you have 1,580 litres of space when the back seats are folded.
You don’t get a completely flat load floor, but you can easily achieve this – and free up another 180 litres of luggage space – by removing the back seats completely, which liberates 1,760 litres of capacity.The heavy seats are fiddly to release and cumbersome to move around, but they give the Yeti a clear advantage in terms of practicality over its rivals.
Another neat touch is the boot rails with shopping bag hooks on either side, allowing you to hang bags neatly off the floor. Plus, the rear passenger space is better than in the Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. At 1,793mm, the Yeti is 28mm wider than the S-Cross, so there’s more shoulder room for a start. The Skoda is more spacious than the Nissan Qashqai, too, while a tall roof line means headroom isn’t an issue.
There’s also space for a couple of rear air vents between the front seats, while the centre chair folds down to reveal armrests and cup-holders. Up front, there’s lots of room, although the front doors’ rising window line does make you feel like you’re sitting quite low in the car. There’s plenty of storage in the cabin, too, with a deep lidded cubby on top of the dash, usefully sized door pockets and a centre armrest with storage underneath.
This is another of the Yeti's strong suits. Even the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine will return 44mpg and emits a reasonable 149g/km of CO2, but for maximum efficiency you'll want a Greenline model with the 1.6-litre diesel. This emits only 119g/km of CO2 and sips fuel at a rate of 61.4mpg.
However you need to work the 1.6 TDI engine fairly hard to make progress, while the long-ratio five-speed gearbox means you also tend to hold on to each gear for longer. The Mazda CX-5 is bigger and uses a 2.2-litre diesel engine with 148bhp, but still manages the same 119g/km figure as the Yeti, proving how far behind the competiton the Skoda has fallen.
The more powerful 2.0-litre diesel is a better choice if you cover high mileage or want to use your Yeti for towing. It emits 134g/km, or 154g/km depending on if you buy one with two or four-wheel drive. Unfortunately, four-wheel-drive Yetis are not as efficient as their two-wheel-drive counterparts: Yet a new Haldex system that is lighter and uses an electric motor to connect the clutch to the rear axle means the range-topping 2.0 TDI 4x4 emits 149g/km.
All versions of the Skoda Yeti benefit from excellent resale values, as the car has become a firm favourite with family car buyers, while service costs are reasonable, too. Stop start is still only available on the Greenline II model though, and cars like the Suzuki SX4 S-cross are much cleaner and will hold a bigger appeal for company buyers keen to keep their running costs (and fuel bills) to a minimum.