Skoda Yeti SUV (2013 - ) review
The Skoda Yeti is an eminently sensible family car, with loads of space, practicality and it's very safe, too.
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There’s very little here that’ll set your heart racing. However, that’s not to say that it’s not a smart-looking thing. The chunky, SUV-esque proportions are all present and correct, while the front of the car is dominated by a large grille, and the wide hexagonal headlights complete the tough look. Down the sides, the over-sized, squared-off wheelarches again highlight the Yeti’s off-road pretensions – and if you choose the Outdoor version, you also get plastic cladding on the sills and scuff plates to protect the car if you do drive off the beaten track. Alloy wheels are standard across the range, but the 16-inch items on entry-level S models can get a little lost in those huge wheelarches. At the top of the range, Monte Carlo versions come with large two-tone alloy wheels, Xenon headlights, gloss black exterior trim, LED rear lights, as well as a black grille to ensure they stand out from the rest of the line-up.
Step inside the Yeti and you’ll find a cabin that feels solid and built to last, if a little utilitarian. It may not be the most inspiring place to be – the overriding colour scheme in most models is black and/or dark grey – but the materials are tough and hard-wearing. Big buttons and switches mean the major controls are easy to use on the move, while all models, apart from the entry-level S-spec cars, get a touchscreen infotainment system, from which many of the major functions are controlled. It’s easy to find a good driving position, too, with plenty of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel, while the seats are both comfy and supportive. The high driving position and wide door apertures mean that getting in and out is no hardship, either.
As a high-riding family car, practicality is a major priority, and the Yeti doesn’t disappoint in this area. There’s loads of space inside, both for those in the front and the back, with ample head- and legroom for up to five passengers, while shoulder room is pretty impressive, too. The boot has plenty of space, offering between 405 and 510 litres – the rear seats can slide back and forth, depending on whether you need to prioritise rear legroom or bootspace. It’s a good, square shape, too, and really deep, maximising the amount you can carry. The load-lip is also impressively low, which means getting heavy loads in and out is relatively easy - something that is also helped by the flexibility of the rear seats. These can be folded flat, tipped forward, or removed entirely. Although removing them gives the Yeti a van-like capacity of 1,760 litres, they’re big and cumbersome, and require a fair bit of strength to get in and out; and, you’ll need to find somewhere to store them if you do plan on moonlighting as a removals service.
Ride and handling
When you first encounter the Yeti, one of your last thoughts is that it might be any kind of keen driver’s car, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The steering has a nice weight to it, and it’s quite direct and confidence-inspiring. There’s nowhere near as much body roll in the corners as you might expect of such a tall car, even in quick direction changes, although the higher-riding Outdoor model does suffer from this a little more than the standard model. However, it makes up for this by actually being pretty competent off-road when equipped with four-wheel drive, tackling some fairly tricky terrain with relative ease. Some buyers may find the ride just a touch firm – especially at low speeds and on models fitted with larger alloy wheels, when it feels a quite lumpy. It improves when you up the pace, though, feeling reassuringly composed at motorway speeds.
There’s a good range of petrol and diesel engines for the Yeti, most of which have much to recommend them. Of the three 2.0-litre diesel engines, the 108bhp front-wheel drive version is fairly leisurely, but the 138bhp and 168bhp 4×4 models are considerably punchier in-gear, so are more comfortable when overtaking or getting up to speed on the motorway. There’s also a 1.6-litre diesel fitted to Greenline II versions, which has a narrower power band than the larger diesels, and longer gear ratios, so there is a large flat spot in performance below 1,750rpm until the turbo kicks in. All the diesels are a bit noisy, though, especially on cold starts, and when you work them hard, you will notice plenty of noise inside the car. The 1.2-litre petrol punches well above its weight, and although it only has 104bhp, it doesn’t feel like a second-rate choice, with nippy performance and good refinement, as long as you avoid steep hills, when you will need to work it hard.
This is an area where the Yeti’s slightly older-generation engines have a rather negative impact. While the car's emissions and economy figures are still respectable, they’re not as impressive as those of key rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, especially not on the diesel models. Even the extra-efficient Greenline model only just matches the larger Mazda CX-5 for CO2 at 119g/km, and it can’t get near any comparable Qashqais. Nor does it make up much in terms of purchase price, costing a bit more to buy than the Qashqai. The Yeti’s CO2 emissions also mean that company car drivers will pay more BIK tax on it, too. However it does have very strong residual values, so you should get a large chunk of that money back when the time comes to sell it on, and there are decent discounts available if you shop around.
The Yeti uses well-proven VW Group mechanicals and it feels like a high-quality machine on the inside. Interestingly, Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index rates it as ‘poor’, but users rate it as ‘good’. We can’t, however, foresee any major issues with reliability, as there’s nothing particularly new or untried on the Yeti. Fit and finish is of a high standard inside, and there are servicing packs available from dealers at fixed rates to keep running costs down. The standard warranty is only three years or 60,000 miles, though, a lot less than you get in the equivalent Kia or Hyundai, for example.
While this latest model hasn’t yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, the previous iteration has, and the two share the same architecture. In that test, the Yeti was awarded the full five stars – achieving an amazing 92 per cent for adult occupancy. This is thanks to its crumple zones which absorb energy in a collision, while the doors are stiffened to protect in the event of a side impact. All models get seven airbags as standard, while rear side airbags are an option. Naturally, all models also get stability control and traction control as standard, too, to help you out and keep the wheels turning in tricky conditions.
The Yeti is available in six different trim levels - S, SE, SE Business, Elegance, Monte Carlo and Laurin & Klement. All of them are pretty well equipped, and even the base S models come with 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, CD player, lashing eyes in the boot and a trip computer. SE trim adds cruise control, dual-zone climate-control, rear parking sensors and a touchscreen infotainment system, with SE Business gaining such things as an Amundsen sat-nav system, as well as a premium Bluetooth and voice control system. Beyond that, Elegance versions add Bi-xenon headlights and heated front seats. Monte Carlo models also get LED rear lights, as well as a three-spoke ‘Supersport’ multi-function steering wheel, while top-spec L&K models get an even fancier ‘Columbus’ satellite-navigation system, Park Assist (which will find a space and then steer the car into that space for you) and a panoramic sunroof.
Because you want a quietly handsome family car, with all the benefits of an SUV, but none of the drawbacks. It handles nicely, is reasonably cheap to run, comes generously equipped and, specced properly, it can even do some off-roading. It’s better value than any of its VW group siblings, too.