First DriveNew Skoda Yeti Drive trim adds appeal to what's undeniably now an old car. It's still decent to drive, but there are swisher rivals
First DriveSkoda's VisionS concept gives us an early indication as to what its upcoming Kodiaq SUV will be like. We take it for a short drive
What is it?
No bigger than the Golf on which it is based, the Yeti is perhaps the most sensible 'off-roader' yet. Short and tall with impressive interior space, the Yeti possess serious off-road ability, especially when fitted with the optional electronic off-road chassis aids.
What’s it like?
This car may look a lot smaller (and it is certainly a much less bulky car in the flesh) than the typical Honda CR-V or Ford Kuga, but it doesn’t give much away on interior space.
The combination of the high roof and upright seating position means it offers remarkable leg and headroom. It’s not widest cabin, but it is a very restful place to sit.
It benefits from fine front seats and the dashboard fit and finish is first rate. Components such as the steering wheel and switchgear are of admirable quality.
The boot isn’t huge (it suffers from a high floor when the essentially full-size spare is fitted and its not that deep because the Yeti isn’t that long) but you can tumble fold the rear seats or take them out altogether. And when you do, the floor is nearly completely flat.
Other neat touches include runners on each side of the boot, equipped with hooks, from which you can hang shopping bags.
So, while the functional Yeti is not as sexy as a typical 'on-roader' it is probably much more space efficient and much more useful a genuine load carrier. And because the Yeti does not sit unnecessarily high on its wheels, it is easier to get and out of and easier to load.
VW Group’s excellent 158bhp 1.8 TSi petrol engine, which combines direct injection and a turbocharger, is well suited to the Yeti. The unit is smooth, very quiet and has the serious low-down muscle to rival the best diesels. The six-speed manual is slick and positive, but strangely, there’s no DSG twin-clutch version on the horizon.
TheSkoda rode extremely well on the poor roads we tried it on – indeed Skoda says one of its aims was to have best ride in class. The Yeti is also very refined, even allowing front-to-rear conversations in the cabin, something many, more luxurious, cars can’t manage.
Obviously, this is not a car for charging around in, but then it encourages the driver to take it relatively easy and surfing along on the engine’s torque curve.
The biggest surprise is the Yeti’s ability to leave the asphalt and run straight into some quite tough off-road conditions. The new-generation Haldex 4 drivetrain is now so quick to react, it’s hard to tell apart from a permanent Quattro-style 4x4 system.
One surprise is that the Yeti was slightly better served off road by the 1.8-litre petrol engine that it was by the 2.0-litre common-rail diesel. The 1.8 engine was smooth and had significant pull from low down (the top of the torque curve arrives at just 1500rpm).
The Yeti has real off-road ability, especially with optional electronics kit, that includes very useful hill descent control. It takes rutted tracks at a stride, but is also capable of tackling some serious rough stuff.
Should I buy one?
Skoda is only predicting 2000 sales in the UK in 2010, 65 per cent of which are expected to be entry-level front-drive versions. Now, it may not have the school gate sex appeal of the Kuga or Nissan Qashqai, but this car is more practical than either and, in many ways, both better to drive and better off-road.
If you live in upland areas or frequent beaten tracks, the Yeti should be very high on your list. There aren’t many cars in this price bracket which can venture properly off-road and then switch to swallowing 550 motorway miles in day.
This is first-rate machine. Individual, refined, cleverly and carefully thought out. It’s possibly the Czech company’s best effort yet.