The Skoda Yeti has been a runaway success for the Czech company. Roomy, capable, good to drive, and reasonably cheap.
A very positive Top Gear review drove initial demand to such a level that discounts were unheard of, waiting lists soared, and residuals were firmer than an Audis suspension; whod have thought wed be saying that of a Skoda? The Yeti was, and is, the default option in its class for those who know their cars.
But the world is littered with difficult second albums. It is also littered with second-generation cars that have grown bloated and lack the originals purity of vision and execution. So the designers of the new Yeti have had to tread a careful path; the new model has to be quantifiably better than the original while retaining all of what made it so good.
I wasnt encouraged. The press release includes some guff about a horizontally accentuated front end, an even more precisely moulded C design, and, God help us, two cubist triangular elements.
But I like Germany, where the new Yeti is being launched to the worlds international press. I also like flying from Farnborough Airport. So I accepted despite a heavy heart and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Skoda had probably cocked it up.
Its still recognisably a Yeti, but a fresh-faced, tautened Yeti and the PR-piffle is, for the most part, entirely justified. The boot lid really does have cubist triangular elements and the bonnet really is horizontally accentuated. My northern roots instinctively reject southern arty-tosh, but in this case I was wrong.
The new Yeti looks terrific and seems to shimmer as the light plays over it; a gloomy German forest is never the best place to admire the interplay of light and form but the new models inherent design is strong enough to carry it off and demonstrate that there isnt a single bum note.
There are also now four different alloy wheel designs on offer alongside a new palette of colours, including a black, white, or body colour roof. Id take a Jungle Green with a black roof if you were asking.
The interior is a little bit posher and a little bit more polished than the older cars but it is still extraordinarily practical – and exactly the right size for the average family. Until the seven-seater comes along youll have to make do with just the five seats but the upright seating position and high roofline mean that there is plenty of space for everyone including their luggage.
Fit and finish is very good and while there is the odd bit of hard plastic the general ambience is excellent, an impression helped by the wide range of rather nice colours available. I was especially taken with the chocolate brown leather version exclusive to the LK trim level.
LK? Yes, the new Yeti is available in four trim levels, Active, Ambition, Elegance, and LK, or Laurin Klement, named for the two chaps who founded Skoda. The more you pay the more you get, but Im drawn to the honesty of the steel-rimmed Active Outdoor model
Simply Clever features, including a reversible boot mat, integral torch, and reflective vest holder under the drivers seat, make an appearance and only add to the Yetis usability. The rear seats slide and fold and turn the car from a five seat family wagon into a van by way of a nifty four-seat arrangement. Simply Clever, indeed.
Less Clever, is the Keyless Entry Start and Exit System (or, KESSY, believe it or not). You get the familiar VW-group key, which you blip to unlock the car before instinctively going to put the key in the ignition key, something you cant do because the afterthought stop/start switch is placed there. The whole thing looks cheap and nasty and has no place in a car as carefully considered as the Yeti. There is, after all, nothing wrong with a conventional ignition switch. It does, at least, give you somewhere to keep the key.
For the first time, the Yeti range is split into two elements: a front-wheel-drive version and the familiar four-by-four, or Outdoor, model. You can tell the hard man of the family by its black side and under body mouldings and silver door mirrors.
The old Yeti drove very well for a boxy, tall SUV and the new one drives just as well. Body roll is well contained and it drives with a verve and polish that shouldnt be possible in a car in this class.
So road manners are unchanged and are all the better for being so. But it is off-road that the Yeti really excels. We put the cars through a punishing course of mud and ruts and axle-twisting tracks that were far more severe than most owners would ever consider driving in their new pride and joy. The result was an unruffled Yeti thanks to all-weather tyres, 180mm of ground clearance, clever electronic control, and a fifth-generation Haldex clutch in the centre differential.
Manual or DSG automatic? Im a big auto fan, and the DSG box is very good, but truth be told the manual is a cracker too, so there is no reason to go for one over the other based on anything other than personal preference.
There are four diesel and three petrol engines on offer ranging from a 1.2-litre TSI with 105bhp all the way to a 2.0-litre TDI that pumps out a muscular 170bhp.
The 1.2 TSI is a fine engine but probably a bit weak in the Yeti, even though its fitment is restricted to the front-wheel-drive model. Better to fork out a bit more for the 1.4 TSI with 120bhp if you are buying a FWD Yeti or the 1.8 with 150bhp if you are plumping for the 4×4 version.
I think, if I were writing a cheque for the Czech, Id plump for a diesel. Id skip the 105bhp 1.6-litre TDI and the 110bhp 2.0-litre in favour of the 140bhp 2.0-litre. The 170bhp top-of-the-range TDI is magnificent but probably overkill.
Value for Money
The Yeti range starts at 16,600, about 800 more than the outgoing model. Given the changes, and the extra equipment, that seems like good value, especially considering the cars residual vales, which are above average.
The old Yeti was good and the new one is even better. The reaction from the cynical hacks on the launch was overwhelmingly positive – not a common occurence. Its new and improved, and shows that those elusivesecond hitalbums are indeed possible.
As a result the new Skoda Yeti retains its place at the very top of the family SUV tree, a position it is likely to hold for some time to come.
For more, check out our full Skoda Yeti Outdoor guide, with reviews, photos, videos and stats.