Cars like the Skoda Yeti and Nissan Qashqai are two of the best of a swarm of vehicles designed to look as if they can handle everything a family can throw at them – like a hatchback but somehow more rugged and raised up.
These are predictably referred to as “crossovers” or “soft-roaders” by the experts, and you can find one available in most manufacturer’s ranges.
At first glance choosing between these two may seem easy – the Nissan’s sales speak volumes – but we have looked in detail at what the critics say about the Yeti and feel that anyone faced with the decision of choosing between these two will find it trickier than they might first think.
To help you out we’ve compared the important facts and figures and pored over the spec-sheets to provide a detailed side-by-side comparison.
It’s a fair comment that a crossover of this nature is unlikely to sell itself entirely on its appearance. Families are after these cars because they provide the solid, spacious and practical child-proof interiors needed for everyday use – if the car looks good too it is likely to be treated as a bonus.
The original Qashqai didn’t really set many pulses racing in the looks department, but Nissan has clearly attempted to give the new model a bit of road presence. The subtle bulges on the bonnet and around the wheel-arches certainly give the impression that the car is capable of going anywhere, but it does this without looking completely imposing like a Range Rover or BMW X5.
The Yeti’s styling has frequently been described as a bit odd, and is perhaps one of the only elements of the car that polarises the opinion of reviewers. A refresh towards the end of 2013 saw the plastic bumpers replaced on all normal Yetis with body-coloured ones, and the plastic bumpers are now adorning the 4×4-toting Yeti Outdoor, but even this doesn’t really win over many critics.
It’s clear that practicality and functionality were the bold, red and underlined criteria during the Yeti’s design – it has a bit of a van-like look about it – and this gives it a slightly lower appeal at first glance than the refreshingly curvy-looking new Qashqai.
Interior and practicality
If the Qashqai and the Yeti were going to make or break themselves, it would be in this category. It’s clear from the Qashqai that Nissan has acknowledged the popularity of the model and have put its all into making it a particularly decent place to be, whereas the Yeti is pretty simple inside but has the typical brand of Skoda quality that doesn’t quite live up to Volkswagen’s standards but feels exceptionally well made.
Reviewers note that the new Qashqai has slightly smaller rear seat space when directly compared to rivals, but despite this, the amount of space available is still ample, and the comfort level of all occupants is high thanks to an incredibly well-built cabin. The number of cubby holes is impressive and headroom is ample – the boot has increased in size slightly over the old Qashqai to 430 litres, with a flat lip making sliding objects in easy, and this space is boosted to nearly 1,600 litres with the rear seats flipped forwards.
The experts use words like “simple” and “utilitarian” to describe the Yeti’s interior, but this isn’t a bad thing. The revised Yeti brings some new seat fabrics, and some softer-touch materials, but overall everything feels very solidly put together, and the logical layout of the dashboard pleases reviewers, even if they say it’s beginning to look a little dated.
The Yeti is particularly praised for its high driving position – it’s easy for anyone to get comfy in the driving seat – and the excellent all-round visibility provided by the big windows.
With the seats all in place, the Yeti’s boot is a little smaller than the Qashqai’s, but take the easy-to-remove seats out and you’ve got a Volvo V70-topping 1,760 litres of space. Just watch your back – the seats are fairly heavy!
It’s almost as important for a vehicle in this market to handle like a normal car than it is for them to have practical and family-proof interiors, and both the Nissan and the Skoda achieve this rather well, according to testers. The Skoda also has a surprise up its sleeve for when you want to take it further afield (literally).
All reviews say that the best aspect of the new Qashqai is the excellent ride quality, and improved cabin refinement. Not even large alloy wheels stop the car being composed and comfortable inside cabin over road imperfections thanks to a clever chassis control system.
Critics have noted that the new Qashqai has lost a little bit of its driver involvement when compared to the old one, but the loss would only be noticed by the keenest of drivers. Despite experiencing some body roll in corners, the car always feels stable and sure-footed.
The Yeti was designed for family comfort, and a superbly smooth and composed ride makes it an excellent long-distance cruiser. If you choose to take back-roads instead, you will be surprised at how little body roll it has, with excellent grip levels and very predictable handling.
On the road, the Qashqai and Yeti are both very competent, but off the road, the Yeti shines and has a clear advantage. The ground clearance prevents it from getting stuck in practically any situation a normal user will find themselves in, and the four-wheel-drive system maintains traction on even the slipperiest of surfaces – four-wheel drive models also get a hill-descent function that maintains a constant speed on steep declines.
The Qashqai is also available with four-wheel-drive but it doesn’t acquit itself as well as the Yeti when the going gets muddy.
The Qashqai has just two petrol and two diesel engines to choose from, whereas the Yeti comes with seven in total – three petrol and four diesel. In both cases, the diesels are likely to be the most popular, although those who do low mileages or just prefer the smooth sound of petrols in general may appreciate the larger turbocharged options available with both cars.
Starting with the petrol options and the Qashqai, and the smallest available unit is a 1.2-litre turbocharged engine, producing a fairly impressive (for its size) 113hp. It’s best kept around town, though, so if you regularly go on the motorway the 1.6-litre with 148hp may be a better bet.
The diesel options include a thoroughly modern 1.5-litre diesel unit, which is free to tax and capable of well over 60mpg. It isn’t amazingly quick but feels strong thanks to a decent amount of torque. The 1.6-litre diesel is the only Qashqai you’ll get with four-wheel drive, and with 128hp, is slightly punchier and is capable of achieving over 60mpg too.
The Yeti’s petrol engines begin with a 1.2-litre turbocharged unit too, this one with 105hp, and it’s a surprisingly nippy engine, although again better suited to town use. A four-wheel-drive-only 160hp 1.8-litre engine provides the sporty option, offering 35mpg and excellent in-gear acceleration, with a 1.4-litre bridging the gap.
Looking to the diesels, there’s a super-economical 1.6-litre Green Tech engine option – with only 104hp it needs working hard – but on a relaxed cruise is capable of over 60mpg and can can rival the Qashqai’s frugality. A 2.0-litre unit supplies the other engine options, available in 110, 140 or 170hp guises – four-wheel drive is standard on all but the 110hp model. The experts say this is a much improved engine and is strong and quiet, but that it can get a little noisy when you really start accelerating hard.
Value for money and running costs
Another perk of buying a crossover is that they aren’t massively more expensive than normal family hatchbacks.
The slightly more expensive model to buy at base level is the Qashqai – the starting price at just over £18,000 will net you “Visia” spec model with the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Seek out the next trim level up, “Acenta”, and the more desirable 1.5-litre diesel option and this creeps up to over £21,500, but reviewers feel this is decent value for money considering the standard equipment levels are very good.
The Yeti can actually be bought for just over £16,000 for the basic S model with a 1.2-litre petrol engine. The super-economical 1.6-litre diesel in “S” trim will give you alloy wheels and a few more useful toys and can be had for the same amount of money as the most basic Qashqai.
Skoda has priced the Yeti quite attractively – there are plenty of options for those in the sub-£20,000 market but for anyone who feels like treating themselves it’s possible to spend over £27,000 on an all-bells-and-whistles model with the punchy 170hp diesel engine. Nissan doesn’t really have a proper sporty option, or an exceptionally strong diesel, so a Qashqai bought for £27,000 may feel a little disappointing in the performance department.
The Nissan is also less likely to hold its value as well as the Yeti, especially if it continues to sell in vast numbers and becomes an easy car to find on the second-hand market.
The new Qashqai is ahead of the Yeti in the wowscore chart (that’s our average score from leading publications) which may not seem surprising until you consider some of the praise given to the Yeti.
Some reviewers give the Yeti a full five-out-of-five stars and claim it does virtually nothing wrong, whereas others are put off by the slightly dated interior and the fact that some models with a lower suspension set-up do not ride that well.
The Qashqai is not immune from criticism either – as mentioned earlier the top models are pricey for what you get, and one would expect class-leading rear seat room from what is in other respects a class-leading car.
But when faced with a choice between the two, it’s tough. Do you go with the two million or so people who have already chosen the Qashqai over other alternatives and trust they were considering other options at the time they made their choice?
Or do you choose the Yeti, which may be a rarer sight, but has had praise heaped upon it by experts?
For a super-modern interior and sleeker lines, the Qashqai is probably the best choice for you. But the wider range and greater variety of engines, capabilities both on and off the road, and the sheer number of options available at the cheaper end of the market, make the Yeti a more appealing all-round package.