As a journalist driving new cars all the time, a good indication of the potential success of a given model is when a stranger approaches for a chat about the car. This happened on one of my first days with Skoda's Yeti 4x4 and I initially put it down to the icy weather, but over the course of the week several others sparked up a conversation, most of them asking the same two questions: what's it like in the snow; and how is it on fuel. Perhaps what they should have asked was 'how much does it cost?'
Inside & Out: 8/10
The Skoda Yeti divides opinion with its exterior styling. Some think it's ugly, while others love its chunky, distinctive appearance and unusual front lights. For the record, we fall into the latter camp and more time with the car only enhanced that. It looks particularly good on the 17-inch 'Annapurna' alloys.
Skoda fits all Yetis with its 'VarioFlex' seating system and it's hugely useful, allowing all kinds of permutations of the rear seats and boot. For passengers, there are no complaints at all. Head- and legroom are generous regardless where you sit. The boot isn't quite big enough for a family that includes two very young kids and all their stuff, but it's wide and well-shaped. The cabin itself has plenty of oddment storage, including the closed-in centre console and pockets in all doors.
In terms of quality, the interior is on a par with other VW Group cars. The switchgear is logically placed and nicely damped and the materials used are good to touch. The ambience was lifted in our test car by leather upholstery and Skoda's excellent touch-screen infotainment system.
Engine & Transmission: 7/10
In Ireland, the only engine/gearbox combination available in the Yeti 4x4 is the 2.0 TDI CR unit with 170hp, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Until I found that out I would have sworn that our car was powered by the 140hp version of this engine, but perhaps that's down to the fact that the car had only 700km on the clock when we took the keys.
Saying that, the Skoda Yeti never felt slow, with plenty of effortless torque on hand to help with overtaking, etc. For the most part it is refined and relatively quiet, though at times we were surprised with how audible the engine is.
The gearchange itself is slow and chunky, though there's no need to hurry the shifts in this car. Psychologically, the shift might be more satisfying if Skoda fitted a smaller gear knob.
In terms of four-wheel drive hardware, there's not a lot for the driver to do. There's a Haldex coupling between the front and rear axles that controls the torque split depending on the situation - and with direction from the electronic sensors. The rear wheels are employed more than you might imagine, even in everyday situations. There is an 'Off Road' button on the dashboard, but all this does is alter the strategy of the various electronic sub-systems in a bid to ease the control of the car in slippery situations. It's remarkably effective too, but more on that below.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
During our first few days with the Skoda Yeti there was a lot of snow on the ground and we pushed the four-wheel drive system to its limits. Not once did we get stuck, despite the lack of winter tyres, while others around us struggled. In fact, the Yeti was a bit of a hoot in these conditions - when there was room to spare.
Following the thaw the Yeti proved to be quite an enjoyable drive. Its steering is a little lifeless, but the confidence inspiring four-wheel drive system allows quick corner exits and fuss-free tackling of junctions - even on damp and greasy surfaces. Body control is excellent too.
Our only minor criticism would be that the ride comfort is a little firm and more bumps make their way through to the cabin than we'd like. That could be partly down to the slimmer tyre sidewalls that come with larger alloy wheels.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 7/10
To compare the value for money quotient of the Skoda Yeti 4x4 to a regular hatchback's would be to miss the point. The two-wheel drive Skoda Yeti range starts at a competitive €22,330 and can even be had in Band A friendly GreenLine format for €23,165. In comparison, the 4x4 version is either €29,545 for the Ambition or €31,480 for the top of the line Experience model (as tested).
Emissions of 155g/km put it into Band C so annual road tax is €302. However, the combined cycle consumption is 5.9 litres/100km (47.9mpg), which is impressive by most four-wheel drive cars' standards. MINI's Cooper D ALL4 is a band lower and is more efficient, but the Skoda is significantly quicker.
In terms of equipment, the Experience version is loaded to the gills and buyers of the Ambition model won't feel too short-changed either.
The Skoda Yeti is a deserving winner of the IMWA's Irish Compact Family Car of the Year award, but it probably makes more sense to more buyers further down the range. No doubt the severe winter weather will pique consumers' interest in four-wheel drive models, but the issue with the Yeti 4x4 is that it is only available with the most powerful TDI diesel engine and in the top two trim levels. On one hand it is competitive with many traditional 4x4 vehicles, but it may be too expensive for most. That's a shame, as it's an accomplished car.
Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI 4x4 Experience
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
- Maximum power: 170hp at 4,200rpm
- Maximum torque: 350Nm at 1,750- 2,500rpm
- Acceleration (0-100km/h): 8.4 seconds
- Maximum speed: 201km/h
- Fuel economy (combined cycle): 5.9 litres/100km (47.9mpg)
- CO2 emissions: 155g/km
- Motor tax band: C
- Annual road tax: €302
- Retail price: €31,480 for Experience model tested (€29,545 for Ambition)