Skoda Yeti review
Rugged off-roader looks, a great price, impressive handling and a spacious interior: the Yeti has it all
Skoda entered the crossover class with the Yeti in 2009. It proved an instant hit, with demand outstripping supply as soon as dealers opened the order books. And the car’s appeal hasn’t waned in the following years, so Skoda has kept the latest update simple, with just a new nose and subtly revised looks.
The biggest difference is the introduction of standard and Outdoor trims. They’re priced identically, although four-wheel drive (which costs more) is only available on the latter.
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.
One thing you'll notice about the new Yeti is that it's now available to buyers with two different styling packs. The normal Yeti looks more elegant and clean than before, with bodycoloured bumpers and a stylish alloys.
The facelifted model is styled to match the latest Skoda Rapid and Skoda Octavia. One thing you'll notice about the new Yeti is that it's now available to buyers with two different styling packs. The normal Yeti looks more elegant and clean than before, with bodycoloured bumpers and a stylish alloys. Then there's the Yeti Outdoor, which comes complete with some rugged underbody protection and plastic wheelarches to make it look more like an off-roader.
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 board, bringing with it a small increase in price. There are a few pieces of kit you've never been able to get on a Yeti before, too, such as a reversing camera.
Our choice: Yeti 1.2 TSI 105 SE
A reputation for putting function over form hasn’t stopped Skoda from cutting a dash in the crossover class with the Yeti.
Rather than go for a soft, rounded look like the Qashqai, the Yeti has raided the off-roader wardrobe and adopted full-on 4x4 styling. For the update, there’s a new nose featuring a wider grille with distinctive bonnet peak. The new lights are reminiscent of the Octavia hatchback’s, but the rest of the car remains largely the same as the original Yeti.
The upright body, tall roof, chunky roof rails and vertical tailgate mean the Skoda stands taller and looks boxier than its rivals. As a result, it stands out from the crowd.
Skoda has introduced two distinct model lines with this update. The standard Yeti comes with body-coloured lower bumpers and sills, while the Outdoor version tested here gets traditional black plastic cladding and front and rear bumpers that have been optimised to give the best departure and approach angles when off-roading.
Changes are minimal inside, too, with a new steering wheel, seat fabrics and some revised trim – it’s just a shame the optional sat-nav hasn’t been updated to the latest system, although it’s still pretty easy to get along with. Elsewhere, you’re treated to high-quality materials, a robust finish and slick switchgear throughout.
The Skoda Yeti has always had an edge over its crossover rivals when it comes to driving dynamics, and as the updates are so minimal, the new car maintains this advantage. Aside from its higher driving position, the Yeti feels just like a regular family hatchback when you’re behind the wheel.
There’s excellent grip, sharp steering and far less body roll than in the Nissan Qashqai, and the Yeti’s lively nature means it’s far more fun in corners than any crossover has any right to be. The pay-off is a slightly firmer ride quality than in rivals, although you really wouldn’t call it uncomfortable, and the Skoda is just as happy cruising at motorway speeds as it is tackling the cut and thrust of urban driving.
The 1.2 TSI turbo petrol engine is a decent performer, too. It doesn’t feel out of its depth in such a large car, and good mid-range torque means there’s plenty of pulling power when you need it, while the six-speed gearbox is slick and easy to use. The engine will be a little underpowered when the Yeti is fully loaded, but most of the time it’s more than capable.
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. It's a shame, though, that the 1.6 TDI sounds a little rough under acceleration. 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.
Yeti owners are a pretty happy bunch overall, as the crossover has consistently scored well in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys. It debuted at number two back in 2011, and has been number one in our Top 100 for the past two years, with owners heaping praise on its quality, technology, ease of use and reliability.
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.
While the Yeti doesn’t have the very latest safety kit like the Nissan Qashqai, it still gets a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and comes with the usual selection of airbags and electronic aids, although rear side airbags are a £295 option.
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.
A square shape and low lip make loading easy, while there are useful touches like bag hooks on runners at either side.
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. There’s plenty of leg and headroom, plus good storage, including a big glovebox, decent cup-holders and a large lidded dash cubby. Wide-opening rear doors make getting in easy, too.
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.
A low list price means reasonable company car costs, while the excellent residual values of 48 per cent after three years’ ownership will be music to the ears of private buyers.