"A practical, rugged-looking alternative to a family hatchback, the Skoda Yeti is seriously impressive, both on and off the road."
The Skoda Yeti is a compact crossover that offers light off-roading ability and excellent seating flexibility for rear passengers. Even though most of the Yeti models are front-wheel drive, the higher suspension does make it easier to drive them that little bit further off-road than you can most other cars, and speed bumps pose no problem whatsoever. The top-spec Yetis are also available with four-wheel drive, though, which does give them that extra bit of rural practicality.
If you need a seal of approval, why not take a look at the 2012 and 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction surveys? The Skoda Yeti came top both years – an impressive record for any car. Its wide range of specifications and engines – ranging from frugal to powerful – all come at a decent price, too, while each one offers decent economy and performance, with even the smaller 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine not too far behind the diesel engines for fuel economy.
The Yeti comes in ten main specifications so there's plenty of choice and a Yeti for every budget. Entry-level E models come fitted with air-conditioning as standard, though S models do add alloy wheels and a knee airbag for just a few hundred quid extra. A new model Skoda Yeti is expected at the beginning of 2014.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Shock, horror – the Yeti is cheap to run! It's a Skoda, so it was always going to give its main rivals a run for their money in terms of fuel economy. The best-selling 1.2-litre TSI and 110bhp front-wheel drive 2.0-litre TDI diesel are among the cheapest to tax, thanks to CO2 emissions of 149g/km and 140g/km, but the most eco-friendly model is the 1.6-litre diesel Greenline, which emits 119g/km. Fuel economy is also reasonable, with the 1.2-litre petrol returning 44mpg, the 1.6-litre diesel getting 61.4mpg and the 2.0-litre diesel managing 52mpg. If you go for the four-wheel drive, however, both economy and efficiency do suffer, with the top-of-the-range TDI 4x4 returning 46mpg and emitting 157g/km.
Interior & comfort
Ignore those boxy dimensions – the Yeti provides lots of support from comfortable seats to give good general comfort. The ride feels more like a standard road car, absorbing most of the lumps and bumps on UK roads. Its square shape also means that three grown adults can sit comfortably across the back seat without any problems. The engines are quiet across the whole range, but you can hear some wind noise inside the car when driving on the motorway. But as road noise is barely audible, the Yeti is very comfortable for long drives.
Practicality & boot space
The boxy shape and wide dimensions already make the Yeti spacious and practical, but Skoda's Varioflex rear seating system – as seen in the Skoda Roomster MPV – makes it one of the most versatile on the market. Varioflex fits individual seats that can slide, fold or be removed entirely, to create a massively flexible luggage area – obviously depending on your needs at any given moment. The boot isn’t bad at all, with 416 litres of luggage space, which is just a little bit larger than in the Nissan Qashqai. There are also plenty of smart touches dotted about, including a good-sized glove compartment and hanging hooks for shopping bags. The Yeti can also tow braked weights between 670kg and 750kg, with the unbraked figures on par with the Kia Sportage. If you also add the optional four-wheel-drive aid system, the steering and accelerator response is softened, and hill descent control is thrown in for good measure.
Reliability & safety
Skoda is the king of reliability in the modern car market. Part of the VW Group, Skoda has performed consistently in owner satisfaction surveys because of both its top-drawer reputation but also by the exemplary service provided by its dealers. Skoda has sat atop the Driver Power customer survey for years, but did lose the top spot to Lexus in the 2013 poll, but that was down to the fact that Lexus had a banner year. The Yeti is a perfect example of Skoda's quality, managing to maintain the number one ranking in Driver Power's top 100 cars list, scoring top marks in nearly all the categories, especially ease of driving and reliability. Many of the Yeti's parts have been tried and tested across other Volkswagen Group cars, so should pose no problems. Basically, you’re unlikely to find an unreliable Yeti in the UK. And it's of the safest cars, too, securing the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, coming fitted with electronic stability control (ESP), anti-lock brakes (ABS) and six airbags as standard across the range. The interior fit and finish is also top-notch, consistent with the quality of VW Group plastics.
Engines, drive & performance
Firstly, the visibility from the excellent, high driving position is excellent, with a huge glass area making parking an absolute doddle. You get accurate steering, a positive gearbox and controls that are all very easy to use. When used as an every-day car, the Yeti does feel like a car, rather than the off-road SUV that its appearance might suggest, and the engines are smooth enough for motorway cruising to be genuinely comfortable. Four-wheel drive comes as an optional extra on the 138bhp and 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesels, and as standard on both the 148bhp and 158bhp versions of the 1.8-litre TSI petrol engines. The 4x4 system makes the Yeti a surprisingly robust off-roader, able to easily cope with most difficult terrain – and without altering the nature of the car on the road, either. On the move, the smaller 105bhp 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine offers enough performance to satisfy most buyers, even though it can get a bit loud when you push it hard. The noise is offset somewhat by its 44mpg combined fuel economy, which is good enough edge out the larger and more expensive 1.8-litre TSI petrol or the 2.0-litre TDI diesel – unless you regularly clock up long-distance miles or tow big loads. You can get a DSG automatic gearbox on the entry-level 1.2-litre TSI petrol and 140bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel, but we’d avoid it, because it doesn’t add much and slightly reduces the Yeti's efficiency.
Price, value for money & options
The Yeti will cost about the same as a mainstream family hatchback, but will give you the kind of versatility and practicality that you normally find in more expensive compact people carriers. The entry-level E spec is pretty basic, though, only coming fitted with air-conditioning and electric front windows as standard. The S model adds alloy wheels, electric rear windows and a knee airbag for a little extra; SE models come equipped with dual-zone air-conditioning, parking sensors and a socket for MP3 players, while Elegance models also add leather, cornering lights and Bluetooth connectivity. The top-of-the-range Laurin & Clement model was first introduced in 2013 and will set you back a good few grand more the Elegance model, but you don’t get that much for the extra money – we’d only consider it if you think exclusivity in a Skoda is important (hint: it's probably not). There's also the Adventure edition, which adds sat-nav and some other extra equipment as standard, and whose appeal will lie with company car buyers looking to save on tax. Overall, though, the Yeti is great value compared to its key competitors, such as the Nissan Qashqai, with its great all-round capability and class-leading reliability. Also, Skodas have strong resale values in the used car market and the Yeti's reputation is only on the up.