Skoda Yeti review (24/05/2014)

FOR a variety of reasons Examiner Motoring, along with our colleagues in various national newspaper titles, doesn’t vote in any Car of the Year contests, but we do have our own zealously studied and dictatorially awarded annual COTY prize.

Skoda Yeti review (24/05/2014)

Some years ago the Skoda Yeti was the stand-out winner of our home-baked version. A most unusual car, the Yeti came out of left-field in the sense that Skoda had never really produced anything like it prior to its launch in 2009. Certainly they had the enigmatic Roomster, but the Yeti was a different beast.

Recently face-lifted, the Yeti continues to beguile us like few other crossovers.

Obviously a lot of them sell largely because they offer customers SUV looks and excellent practicality, but the Crossover segment — by and large — leaves me unenthused and unimpressed; however, there are a few notable exceptions and the Yeti is one of them.

You could describe as cynical the attempts of some manufacturers to pass their Crossover contenders as faux 4x4s, but in my view Skoda has never done that and, despite the fact it does have a 4x4 capability in the Yeti range — and we actually test that version this week — the company has never pretended other than that the two wheel drive versions are excellent drives in their own right and will comprise somewhere in the region of 90% of sales. Neither has it marketed the car as being anything other than a car.

The four wheel drive version is now called the Yeti Outdoor while the 2WD versions are simply Yetis — and none the worse for it either.

At the heart of the Yeti character is a sturdy solid and utilitarian machine. It does look like a van from the rear and the slab side view is not exactly aesthetically pleasing either.

That said, the Yeti has real presence, and while the designers have tweaked the exterior to add a little more polish and sophistication to the look of the car, they have not messed up a very successful formula.

The Yeti is something of an ugly duckling, but it is still very comfortable, drives really well and is endlessly practical, mainly thanks to Skoda’s VARIOFlex seating system (which comes as standard across the range) and which allows you to tailor the interior seating arrangements to your needs.

Loads of cars do this well too, but this one impressed particularly as the three independent rear seats can be folded individually or collectively and removed altogether if necessary. Depending on the configuration you choose, as much as 1,760 litres of cargo space can be liberated. The Yeti also boasts a multitude of storage spaces, cubby holes and compartments.

Room for rear seat passengers is enhanced as the seats slide back and forth, as well as their other abilities, while the front seat passenger and driver are equally well catered for with well bolstered seats, excellent visibility and a dashboard layout that is testament to Skoda’s place within the VW Group — i.e. top notch ergonomics, enhanced by the touchscreen radio/CD sound system.

The test car was fitted with the 110 bhp two litre TDI engine — again from the VW parts bin — and if there was one thing that I’d change if I was buying this car, it would be the powerplant. Sure it will do the 0-100 kph dash in 12.2 seconds, has a top speed of 174 kph and will return 5.9 l/100 km (nearly 50 mpg) and CO2 emissions of 152 g/km, but I’d really prefer something with a little bit more oomph.

The 140 bhp version of the same basic engine would be more to my liking, especially as there is better performance without any tax or fuel consumption penalty. Some people — especially those with towing needs — might even prefer the 170 bhp version of this unit which does not carry any extra burden on economy or tax.

Certainly the 110 bhp version will suit many people but its performance was a little on the weedy side for my liking.

The four wheel drive version might be a step too far for many potential owners, but — believe me — the extra peace of mind it offers in pretty much any day-to-day driving conditions makes it worthwhile. The Haldex system utilised here drives the front wheels most of the time, but when things start getting tricky it spreads the drive around to where it is needed most.

A control unit permanently computes optimum drive and spreads the power to the wheels which provide the best traction at any given time.

For such a tall vehicle, handling is secure and confidence-inspiring and it makes for a uniformly comfortable experience overall.

I like the Yeti — not only because it is a damn good car — but because it does not pretend to be something it patently is not and yet it still delivers when it comes to spaciousness, practicality and ease of use. It is a clever car, ably put together and well able for a variety of uses, as well as being a very effective family car at the bottom of it all.

Skoda Yeti

****

The Cost: From €24,490 — €30,195 as tested.

The Engine: the lesser powered 110 bhp two litre turbodiesel was a little weedy for my tastes and I would certainly go for either the 140 or 170 bhp versions.

The Specification: a lot of kit here as standard, including the side skirts and unique bumpers of the Outdoor version.

The Overall Verdict: a hard working and madly practical car which, as tested, is capable of dealing with anything thrown at it in terms of driving conditions.

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