Skoda broke the mould with the Yeti and over the last four years this loveable crossover has attracted countless new buyers to the Czech brand. Now though its been given its first major facelift.
The current Yeti won our coveted Car of the Year back in 2010, and is a consistently high performer in our Driver Power satisfaction survey, so the pressure is on for Skoda to deliver with this reboot.
The biggest change comes in the form of a new split personality to reflect the wide range of demands made by crossover buyers. For those who want a high-riding town car, the standard Yeti now comes with body-coloured bumpers and sills designed to help it blend in to the urban environment, and is only available in front-wheel drive, equipped with the more modestly powered engines in the range.
However customers looking for something a little more rugged can opt for the Yeti Outdoor, which is priced to match the standard car, but features black plastic cladding to protect the underside of the body , a silver effect grille, rear bumper and matching wing mirrors too. All four-wheel drive versions get these rugged styling upgrades, including the potent 168bhp diesel and 158bhp 1.8-litre TSI petrol models. Whichever one you choose, the angular new headlights, square foglights and single frame grille all move the tonka-toy looks closer to the rest of the range.
These minor changes mean the Yeti looks more grown-up than before but underneath Skoda has stuck to its winning formula, and mechanical changes are limited. On the standard car the 1.4 TSI has been dropped from the range so we drove the 109bhp 2.0-litre diesel and 104bhp 1.2 TSI petrol. Despite being familiar, there’s a major contrast between these two engines on-road behaviour.
The diesel sounds coarse and gruff on start-up and when you’re accelerating, and a fairly narrow powerband means the five-speed manual gearbox needs constant attention to keep things on song. Once into its stride the 250Nm of torque available provides plenty of urge, and it feels punchier in-gear than the smaller diesels in rivals like the Peugeot 2008.
Even so, the little petrol is by far the better performer of the two. Despite boasting less power and torque it revs more eagerly, and is significantly more refined, even cruising at motorway speeds. It retains the planted, sturdy feel of the 4x4 models, but rides better and turns into corners quicker thanks to its lighter kerbweight.
The six-speed gearbox also adds an extra layer of refinement that none of the TDI versions offer. If you are looking for a crossover to drive mainly in town then this is definitely the one to go for, even if compact rivals like the Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka are both more efficient and cheaper to run thanks to lower C02 figures.
Two things ensure the Yeti keeps standing out in the now crowded crossover market. The Varioflex seats - which slide and tumble or completely removed - give it a van-like carrying capacity and excellent versatility, and the 4x4 models still offer the kind of off-roading ability that would embarrass an SUV twice this size.
For the facelift, Skoda has fitted a new Haldex V system that is now lighter and uses an electric motor to engage the clutch that drives the rear wheels. It’s lighter and cleaner than before, and means the flagship 168bhp TDI dips to 149g/km of C02 and falls one tax bracket as a result.
Combine this engine’s power with a fool-proof ‘off-road’ button and electronic differential lock and the Yeti was able to power its way through a demanding off-road course with total ease - and the extra grip the 4x4 offers on the road makes the Yeti a true family car for all seasons.
Even so, apart from a soft new leather steering wheel and some fresh seat fabrics, not much has changed inside, and niggles like the firm suspension, wind and road noise and average economy figures mean it does now feel a bit old-fashioned when compared to the newest cars on the market.
Top-spec Elegance models now benefit from smart bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights while new gadgets making their first appearance on the options list include keyless entry and start, a reversing camera for tricky parking spaces and a new automatic parking system with improved software.