The Skoda Yeti is one of the few cars of its kind that deserves to be called an SUV (sport-utility vehicle). It's a functional-looking thing, especially in rugged Outdoor specification. Like its rivals, such as the Nissan Qashqai and Fiat 500X, it's available with a choice of two and four-wheel drive. However, while many less capable SUVs' four-wheel-drive systems are really only of use on the road, the Yeti's good ground clearance, short overhangs and range of punchy diesel engines to make it useful off-road, too. Couple that with reasonable pricing, excellent customer satisfaction and the fact that the Yeti is based on the Volkswagen Golf and you have an impressively versatile and dependable vehicle.
Most versions of the standard Yeti are two-wheel drive, with four-wheel drive being reserved for the top-spec Monte Carlo. Four engines are offered with this standard version: one petrol (a 1.2-litre TSI that does 46.3mpg and costs £145 to tax) and three diesels, including the ultra-efficient 1.6-litre TDI Greenline (61.4mpg and £30 tax).
In contrast, the majority of Outdoor models are offered with four-wheel drive and a wider choice of engines, including a 1.8-litre petrol (the most expensive to run), but more importantly, a mid-range, 136bhp 2.0-litre TDI 4x4 that does 48.7mpg and has lively acceleration (0-62mph in 9.9 seconds). This engine would be our pick but for the 1.6-litre diesel's impressive economy and reasonable performance, at least when lightly loaded.
Despite those tough looks, the Yeti, in two and four-wheel-drive forms, is surprisingly fun to drive, thanks to accurate steering, a smooth gearbox and supple suspension. The turbocharged engines also make light work of overtaking.
The standard Yeti is available in four trim levels, ranging from S to four-wheel-drive Monte Carlo. The Outdoor version replaces Monte Carlo with Skoda's top-spec Laurin & Klement trim and adds a special SE Business edition.
The basic S trim includes alloy wheels, electric windows all-round and air-conditioning. However, the SE is the one to go for, with dual-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a generally more upmarket look and feel. In addition, Outdoor models get more rugged styling.
Given the Yeti's mild off-roading potential, if your budget is tight and your circumstances require it, you might be wiser upgrading to a lower-spec Outdoor version with four-wheel drive than a more expensive, higher-spec model without. The Yeti is a reliable and solidly built car, as demonstrated by its impressive showing in our 2012, 2013 and 2014 Driver Power surveys, where it finished at the top overall. It also scored the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
Find out what we think is the best SUV by watching our video below.