What is it? Facelifted version of quirky small SUV
Key features: Two distinct models for different buyers
Our view: A number of improvements without compromising the qualities that have made the Skoda Yeti such a success
When the Skoda Yeti arrived in 2009, it certainly surprised a few buyers. This was an SUV, not previously a notable element of the Skoda DNA, and it was a rather different SUV, distinctly smaller than rivals but thanks to its quirky, boxy shape a roomy little car.
And buyers liked it – as the crossover segment has mushroomed, so have sales of the Yeti, with the model having its best year of all in 2013. So now Skoda feels it is right to apply the makeup brush.
The Yeti facelift, however, encompasses rather more than a makeover. For a start, Skoda is going further than many rivals in acknowledging the emerging two distinct types of crossover buyers, those who want off-road ability, and those who merely want off-road looks and the perceived safety that comes from driving such vehicles.
So the traditional off-road pitched Skoda Yeti, with its four-wheel-drive powertrain and aggressive styling, now becomes the Yeti Outdoor. The plain Yeti is now a softer, more road-focused model with two-wheel-drive. Mind you, just to thoroughly confuse matters, you can order a Yeti Outdoor, with all the bolder visuals, but without the all-wheel-drive.
Visually the new Yeti follows latest styling look seen on other recent Skoda releases, with such signatures as highly angular headlamps. As mentioned the two versions now boast bespoke touches, for both visual impression and ability. The front and rear bumpers are bespoke, with the Outdoor not surprisingly getting the bolder and more steeply-angled versions to help them traverse obstructions on an off-road course. Other Outdoor additions include black body side mouldings and chrome door mirrors.
Stepping inside, there is no great radical change, mainly more refinement, a bid to give the car a more upmarket feel to it, with the most obvious alteration the loss of a spoke on the steering wheel – it’s now a sporty three-spoke.
There are new fabrics too, but essentially all the good bits remain – it’s a practical driving environment, while most passengers will find adequate space. Skoda claims the best rear passenger headroom in class, despite the compact exterior dimensions compared to rivals that can result in some cosy arm-to-arm moments between passengers.
The flexibility of the movable Varioflex seating is retained, allowing the already large 416-litre boot to extend to 1,760 litres with all rear seats collapsed. Skoda’s various ‘Simply Clever’ features seen on recent models are extended to the Yeti too, such as the boot light that unclips to become a torch.
Choosing your powertrain depends on the kind of Yeti you want. The five-strong engine line-up is carried over from the previous model and for customers content with two-wheel-drive – in normal or Outdoor form – there is a 1.2-litre 105hp petrol and diesels of 1.6-litre 105hp – with a 119g/km CO2 figure marketed as the lowest-emitting Greenline version – and 2.0 110hp.
Go for four-wheel-drive, then the choice is between the 110hp diesel, 2.0-litre diesels with 140 or 170 horsepower, and a 1.8-litre petrol unit with 160hp on tap.
The best seller is expected to be the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI Outdoor 4WD, and this was among the versions tried out by The Car Expert on the launch. It’s an impressive combination, very assured on the road thanks to its all-wheel-drive and with a pleasing turn of speed.
The 4WD of course comes into its own off the road, and in the case of the launch a countryside course turned into a quagmire by heavy rain. The transmission is one of the major improvements of the new Yeti, its rear axle-mounted Haldex clutch a new fifth generation version that is much more compact and easier to maintain than its predecessor. It is also 1.2kg lighter, which of course helps with the economy and emissions, and it’s effective. The Yeti may not be a full-house black route off-roader, but it will handle any rough stuff the vast majority of owners will want to throw at it.
Back on the road the Yeti’s handling is as accomplished as it always has been. It rides well and corners with confidence, staying pleasingly upright despite its elevated stance.
Overall the facelifted Skoda Yeti boasts a number of improvements, without compromising the qualities that have made it a successful quirky alternative to the general SUV pack. How long what is basically a six-year old design can challenge the mushrooming numbers of new crossover-themed cars coming onto the market is open to question. But then we know Skoda is already working on an all-new Yeti…
Skoda Yeti – key specifications
Model Tested: Skoda Yeti 1.6 TDI 105hp 2WD,140hp 2.0 TDI Outdoor 4WD
On Sale: February 2014
Engines: Petrol 1.2, 1.8. Diesel 1.6, 2.0 x3. FWD/AWD
Power (hp): 105, 160, 105, 110/140/170.
Torque (lb/ft): 129, 184. 184, 184/236/258
0-62mph (sec): 11.4, 8.4. 12.1, 11.6/9.9/8.4*
Top speed (mph): 110, 124. 109, 110/118/125
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 46.3, 36.2. 61.4, 55.4/48.7/49.6
CO2 emissions (g/km): 142, 184. 119, 134/152/149*
Key rivals: Kia Sportage, Hyundai iX35, Nissan Qashqai
Test date: January 2014
* = where FWD/AWD versions available, FWD figure quoted