What is it?
Skoda calls the Yeti a 'crossover with a fresh attitude...combining 4x4 strengths with hatch practicality.' It’s hard to nail down the Yeti from pictures, but in reality it is a finger’s width shorter than the Golf PQ35 platform on which it is based.
It is possibly best described as the missing link between the Fiat Panda 4x4 and larger soft-roaders such as the VW Tiguan and Ford Kuga. The 4.2m-long Yeti is robustly compact, with a near-vertical tailgate and a pleasantly raised (though not high) driving position.
Our test car was a pre-production validation model, powered by a mid-range 138bhp diesel driving a smooth six-speed manual box and a part-time 4x4 system.
What's it like
Although the boot space is a little restricted, the car’s interior package is highly impressive. The upright seating position releases impressive rear seat legroom (which can be varied by sliding the rear seats) and huge headroom. There’s also impressive interior storage - large door bins, a big glovebox, useful centre armrest and various cubby holes.
The cockpit is not exceptionally wide, but the seats are very well shaped and multi-adjustable and you could readily countenance long hours behind the (multi-adjustable) wheel. The fit and finish on these 'validation' prototypes was first rate. All the dash plastics are of an impressive quality.
That sense is underlined by this car’s excellent refinement. VW’s new common-rail diesel is superbly smooth and quiet - I had to be told the car was actually diesel as I wouldn’t have guessed. It’s all the more impressive as other car maker’s Euro 5 compatible engines have got noisier. Skoda also says the switch to common-rail technology also means that the engine’s particulate filter will no longer clog if the car is mainly driven in urban conditions.
The days of slow-witted part-time 4x4 transmissions are over. On the road, the cabin is impressively refined, making it easy for rear passengers to hear what’s being said in the front. Skoda wanted the Yeti to be the ‘benchmark’ for on-road ride and they might well be right.
Norway’s roads are broken and noisy, but the Yeti demonstrated an impressive serenity and suppleness. The positivity of the steering and lack of body roll (it never felt ‘tippy’) is also impressive considering the raised (180mm) ride height. All the controls are satisfyingly light and evenly matched. It’s no driver’s car, but the Yeti is a very pleasant machine to bowl along in.
The engine is smooth and punchy and can easily cope with four full-size adults in a way that suggests this car would make a fine long-distance tourer.
But the most impressive aspect of Yeti is the way it can slide off the blacktop straight into serious off-roading. Its compact dimensions and short overhangs are a great help, but the Yeti’s enthusiasm and capability in extreme situations was a revelation. Even with two wheels off the ground, it could make precise, controllable progress. However, the impressive ‘off-road’ electronic pack - which includes a very capable hill descent control set-up - is a must if you spend a lot of time in proper off-road situations.
Should I buy one?
Is this Skoda’s best car yet? It could be. Well sized, well packaged and impressive on-road and off-road, only the odd styling quirk and strongish pricing stand in its way. In truth, this is all the all-terrain vehicle 95 per cent of people need.