Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI SE

Chunky choice blends SUV styling with great value for money

Bosses at Skoda are enjoying a purple patch at the moment. Like a striker who can’t miss the net, the firm has the happy knack of hitting the new car sweet spot. The Superb has been a revelation in the large family class, and the Yeti beat the Qashqai on its road test debut last year. But does the front-wheel-drive diesel hold sway over its revised Nissan adversary? Or will one of our other newcomers dent its superiority?

The Yeti stands alone in this company as the only model that could pass as a genuine off-roader. While the Peugeot, Hyundai and Nissan all merge tall bodies with swoopy car-like styling, the upright Skoda makes a virtue of its tough 4x4 proportions. It has the robust look of a full-sized Tonka toy.

Inside it’s much more sober, but no less appealing. The Yeti borrows switchgear from the rest of the Skoda line-up, and with the highest-quality materials on show, the cabin feels a class apart here. In SE trim it’s well equipped, too, so despite having the smallest price tag in our line-up, the Skoda comes with luxuries such as cruise control, rear parking sensors and dual-zone air-con as standard. However, electronic stability control is still a £390 option.

In the back, this is the only car on test to feature independent and sliding seats. They tumble forwards to liberate space or can be removed altogether. Doing this extends the 416-litre boot to an impressive 1,760 litres – so the Skoda stands out as the sole model that’s really capable of doubling up as a family estate.

The load area does have a high lip to negotiate, and the rails on either side can get in the way of bulky objects, but the Yeti provides an element of flexibility that’s missing from its rivals.

You’ll find plenty of capacity under the bonnet, too, courtesy of the VW Group’s 2.0-litre common-rail diesel engine. Tuned to produce 110bhp in the two-wheel-drive Yeti, it provides smooth and refined power. The Skoda is alone in having a five-speed box in this test, though, and that compromises its in-gear performance.

At motorway speeds, the engine registers only 2,100rpm – the lowest of our quartet – and the intermediate ratios are longer than its rivals’, which blunts responses. The Yeti still feels lively enough, but you have to work the unit hard to make the most of its performance. And as our readings show, the Skoda has the noisiest cabin at 70mph.

While the Yeti looks the most like an off-roader, it drives more like a conventional car than any of its opponents in this test. With firm suspension, sharp steering and tight body control, it has by far the sportiest set-up and is genuinely engaging to drive.

There’s plenty of grip on offer, so the Skoda corners and stops impressively – although the amount of dive under heavy braking is somewhat at odds with its controlled handling.

This sporty nature, along with a willing engine, encourages a spirited approach, so the Skoda’s fuel return of 40.7mpg is a fine effort. Emissions of 140g/km combine with the low list price to make the Yeti the most affordable choice for company and private buyers alike.

Uneven roads reveal the car’s main weakness, because it doesn’t smooth out bumps and ruts as well as the Nissan or Hyundai. But that’s a small price to pay for the precision of its controls.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Rugged-looking Yeti beat the Qashqai on its road test debut last year, and we’ve been impressed by the 1.2-litre petrol turbo version. Here we try the 2.0-litre diesel.

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