It’s hard to find anyone in the motoring industry who has a bad word to say about the Yeti.
As an unpretentious looking slab of Volkswagen Group metal, it’s the closest thing to a Tonka toy made real.
Sitting in that crossover SUV market, it’s a car that might be dismissed by many from the outset as another bash by manufacturers at selling a regular car with a high driving position under the tag “lifestyle vehicle” for a few grand more profit. We’ve spent a week with a Yeti Outdoor finding out how accurate that impression is.
Chunky, rugged, simple, van-like, utilitarian, boxy – they’re all fair descriptions of the Yeti’s looks.
Take a close look and it’s about as straightforward as designs go. There’s a big square cuboid that houses people and things, with a smaller one nailed to the front to put the engine in. There are so few curves on the thing that even the front windows have corners on them.
There’s still a handful of styling details you can miss at first glance though. For instance, the wheelarches are delightfully bulbous and give off the impression of a bulldog-like stance, with the hips and shoulders puffed out.
This Yeti Outdoor model gains traditional ‘ruggedised’ road car features over the ‘normal’ Yeti, with silver skidplates front and rear. These hide re-profiled bumpers that allow for marginally greater approach angles for climbing slopes. All these offroad-looking addo-ons seem to suit the overall image of the car better than the regular model.
One design feature we don’t get on with though is the roof. With darkened A-, C- and D-pillars connecting the roof to the body, the Yeti almost pulls off that floating roof look but for the body-coloured B-pillars. In contrast to the majority ruler-straight lines of the rest of the car, these colossal slabs of metalwork curve up incongruously from the car’s sides to meet the roof. The overall effect is of a precariously perched roofline, or a novelty clothes peg. Still, order the car in a dark colour – or even black itself – and this will melt away too.
The lack of grandeur follows the Yeti to the inside. It’s traditional Skoda fare, which means a simple layout of sensibly-positioned controls, screwed together brilliantly and, while not necessarily up with the Audis of this world, made of materials that won’t irk or disappoint. The touchscreen – absent on base “S” models – gives a splash of modernity to what is otherwise a fairly restrained interior.
Our test car in flagship ‘Laurin & Klement’ specification adds piano-black dash inserts, nicer carpets and mats, brown leather and a smattering of L&K brand logos. It certainly smartens things up and if you’re planning on using your Yeti as a family car it’s worth the extra cash for the nicer environment. That said, the leather is somewhat at odds with the car’s more homely nature – and we’d be perpetually paranoid of getting mud everywhere if it were used off road (or even just from kids’ feet kicking the seats – see below!). Still, it’s a pretty civilised way of crossing a quagmire.
It’s capable of swallowing up a selection of humans of various sizes without any particular complaints and with plenty of glass about (L&K models get the panoramic roof as standard) it’s bright and airy. There’s perhaps not a lot of support to stop you sliding sideways in the seats, but this ought not be a great issue on the road. If you take the Yeti off-road and go across some slopes at a decent angle then you might notice.
Dotted around the cabin are enough cubbies and storage bins that you’ll run out of things to lose in them long before you fill them up. There’s a useful dash-top box (open in base trims, fitted with lids in higher trim levels) for keys, coins and phones.
The boot is a bit of an oddity – it’s simply not as big as you’d expect. The Yeti gives off a lot of “big car” impressions, but it’s slightly smaller than a Volkswagen Golf hatchback and there has to be a compromise. 416 litres sounds like plenty, but it’s made up more of height and width and it’s not especially deep.
It is nice and square though, so it’s easy to use all the space. There are some loose storage bins either side of the main boot area and a pair of useful load rails either side and cargo hooks, so it’s pretty versatile. You won’t struggle to load it up with the weekly shop and you can ensure the milk doesn’t fall over by using the hooks. The rear seats fold and flip easily enough to open the space out to a huge 1,760 litres – and you can even remove them entirely to turn the Yeti into a van – albeit one with a lumpy floor.
As you’d expect, the Yeti Outdoor is not the most dynamic of vehicles, but it puts up a good showing. It’s never disappointingly van-like to hustle and it doesn’t pitch or roll like a jacked up hatchback, but we’d probably stop short of calling it agile. The 4WD of most Outdoor models adds a little more capability to the drive, particularly so in the wet.
The Yeti’s one of the most unflappable cars around though. Very little upsets its calm either on the road or off it and it’ll cope with potholes, traffic calming measures, a farm track or the A43 with equal ease.
The Haldex four-wheel drive system is about as easy-to-use as these things come. Press the big “off road” button on the dash, point it at a climb or descent and even the most ham-fisted of off-road novice motoring writers will make progress. You’ll not be able to adjust ride height though – at 180mm it’s more than the stock Yeti – so it’s one for taking you down rutted tracks and over slippery surfaces more than out and out rock-crawling.
Tested here was the top of the range 2.0-litre TDI, pushing out 168hp and 258lb ft of torque. Mated to the clever Volkswagen twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox, this is capable of an 8.6-second sprint to 60mph and a combined fuel economy of 44.8mpg.
This particular combination is, it has to be said, alarmingly quick. There’s not a lot of impetus in first gear – as if engine torque is artificially limited – but once that’s out of the way, acceleration is remarkable and utterly linear. With no pauses from the DSG shifts, the Yeti seems to gather speed with alacrity, regardless of the road speed when you first press the pedal. That 122mph top speed seems rather pessimistic, but we lacked a runway long enough to find out.
This is largely the same engine as in the previous-generation Octavia vRS, so it’s not too surprising that it’s a brisk thing – and there’s a certain amount of amusement to be had accelerating hard from traffic lights. When we were able to resist temptation we saw almost exactly the fuel economy that Skoda claims – just as when we tested the Superb Outdoor earlier in the year – so there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises at the pumps, even if the lunatic under the bonnet spurs you on occasionally.
Value for Money
Though the Yeti in general doesn’t scream poor value – and the Outdoor trim is no more expensive than the base version – it has to be said that springing for the range-topping L&K trim seems a little unwise when it comes to pocket friendliness. At a shade under £28k it’s encroaching on the territory of a lot of larger cars and with options this test car was £30,040 all in.
Still, if it’s going to see use as a full-time family car, there’s a lot to be said for the environment it offers you, but we’d still be tempted to drop down a specification to Elegance. To save even more, it’s worth slipping into the lower powered 138hp version of that 2.0-litre diesel for 10% better fuel economy at the expense of a little of that right-foot daftness. Pocketing the four grand difference will bring a bigger smile anyway.
In almost all cases, cars are a compromise – capable of doing one job extremely well to the detriment of most of the others. We can’t work out what exactly it is that the Yeti Outdoor is compromising on.
It seems to take on any job that’s asked of it and perform it well. There’s hatchback practicality and road manners, it has a crossover driving position and comfort, it has decent off-road ability when going gets patchy and it throws in saloon car fuel economy, good equipment levels and it even looks good (if you don’t mind functionality). It’s easy to drive and park too, thanks to the relatively compact dimensions.
On the face of it, it’s genuinely difficult to see what the dinky Yeti is actually for. After a week of driving one, it turns out that it’s for everything.