"A practical, rugged-looking alternative to a family hatchback, the Skoda Yeti is seriously impressive, both on and off the road."
The Yeti is a well-priced crossover alternative to conventional family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus. The majority of Yetis are front-wheel drive, but the raised suspension does mean they’ll venture further off-road than most regular urban cars, while speed bumps in town hold no fear. Top-of-the-range models are available as 4x4, however. The Yeti has won praise from owners, coming top in the 2012 Driver Power survey and offering a broad range of specifications and engines that offer buyers everything from frugal to powerful for a decent price, offering a good-value alternative to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Volskwagen's Tiguan. All the engines are reasonable – with the small 1.2 TSI petrol engine not trailing the diesel options too far on economy. Even entry-level E-spec comes with air-con, although S models add alloys and a knee airbag for a few hundred pounds more.
Thanks to its upright, easily adjusted driver's seat and large glass area, the view out of the Yeti is good, and the boxy, easy-to-see dimensions make parking particularly easy. The controls are all light and easy to use, the steering is accurate and the gearshift is positive. The small 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine with 105bhp should be ample for most buyers, though it can be a little noisy. Its performance is backed up by 44mpg economy, which is good enough to ignore the larger 1.8-litre TSI petrol or the 2.0-litre TDI diesel – unless you plan on towing or covering big mileages. In every-day driving, the Yeti feels very much like a car rather than an off-road vehicle and the engines are refined allowing for comfortable cruising along motorways. There is an option of four-wheel drive on the 138bhp and 168bhp 2.0TDi diesels, and the 1.8-litre TSi petrol comes with it as standard in both 148bhp and 158bhp versions. The 4x4 system turns the Yeti into a surprisingly good off roader, able to cope with difficult terrain with ease without changing the characteristics of the car on the road. A DSG automatic gearbox is offered on the entry-level 1.2-litre TSI petrol and 140bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel for those who like automatics. It works smoothly and has negligible effect on the petrol's fuel economy.
The quiet engines are accompanied by only a slight hint of wind noise at motorway speeds and road noise is hushed, too, making the Yeti easy to live with over long distances. Overall comfort is good, with the firm seats providing plenty of support and the car-like ride dealing with road bumps well. The Yeti's dimensions allows three adults to sit abreast in the rear.
Skoda is among the top performers in satisfaction surveys thanks to its excellent dealer service and reputation for reliability. The Yeti itself came top in the Driver Power survey for 2012 and scored at the top in nearly every category, including reliability and ease of driving. In addition, many of the major components are from the Volkswagen family and are well tested so problems shouldn’t occur. The safety of the car is beyond question, too, being awarded five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests and now coming with electronic stability control as standard across the range. Six airbags round off the safety equipment. The interior fit and finish is impeccable, with quality VW Group plastics.
The Yeti can comfortably seat three adults in the rear due to its wide body and shares its Varioflex rear seating system with the Skoda Roomster people carrier. This brings individual sliding, folding and removable seats to create a hugely versatile seating and luggage area. The boot is large at 416 litres with the seats up, making it marginallybigger than the Nissan Qashqai's, and there are lots of clever touches like hooks to hang shopping bags on, plus a decent glovebox. The Yeti is capable of braked towing weights between 670kg and 750kg, and the unbraked figures compare favourably with the Kia Sportage. The Yeti has an option of a four-wheel-drive aid system that softens the throttle response and steering, adding hill descent control to the Yeti's already capable off-road abilities.
Value for money
With pricing on a par with conventional hatchbacks and the sort of versatility more usually offered in compact people carriers, the Yeti looks like a good-value proposition. The E spec level comes with the basics, including air-conditioning and electric front windows; the S adds alloy wheels, electric rear windows and a knee airbag for just a few hundred pounds more; SE models gain dual-zone air-conditioning, parking sensors and a socket for MP3 players; and Elegance adds leather, cornering lights and a Bluetooth phone connection to its extensive standard equipment. The range is topped by the Laurin and Clement model, introduced in the UK in 2013 and costing more than £4000 more than the previous range-topping Elegance model and gives little extra - unless you're looking for exclusivity in your Skoda it's best avoided. The Yeti overall represents great value compared to rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, with its all round capabilities and superb reliability.
Inexpensive to buy and own, the Skoda Yeti shouldn’t empty your wallet too quickly, especially in comparison to some of its closest rivals. No version qualifies for free road tax, but the big-selling 1.2-litre TSI and 110bhp front-wheel drive 2.0-litre TDI diesel will cost just £135 and £120, respectively, to tax. Fuel economy is decent, with over 40mpg achievable in all but the 1.8 TSI petrol model. Skoda's tend to hold their value well in the used car market, so resale values should be decent.