While lovers of the original Skoda Yeti may bemoan the less divisive styling of the 2014 crossover model, overall it's a subtly better car and very hard to find fault with. There's something for everyone in the range too, from eco-special to surprisingly capable off-roader. We love it as much as ever.
In the Metal:
There are subtle but significant changes on the outside of the Yeti. Gone are the inset round headlamp units (a pity; they made the car look more distinctive) and in comes a more corporate, family Skoda look with the understated wing-shape grille and solid-looking rectangular fog lamps.
There are actually now two separate strands of Yeti. There's a standard car in Active, Ambition and Elegance specs and a new Outdoor version, which is supposed to look more rugged and which has some under body protective panels to make it more capable off-road. In fact, the suspension travel and ride height are identical across the range, so bash-plates aside, the Outdoor will get you no further off road than a standard Yeti.
Inside, the cabin is much as it was before, with really only a new steering wheel of which to take note. Actually, that's no bad thing as there was never anything wrong with the Yeti's cabin. It remains exceptionally well made, spacious and well equipped. The rear seats (which are just about wide enough to take three child seats side-by-side) split, fold, tumble and can even be removed entirely. Doing so expands the boot from a standard 405 litres to a whopping 1,700 litres, and there's a reversible boot floor with carpet on one side and hose-down plastic mat on the other for dealing with mucky cargo. There are some high-end options, such as a full-length glass roof, a self-parking system and a reversing camera, but even in basic spec, the cabin's a nice place to be.
The Yeti has always been a comfy, smooth thing and that hasn't changed. There's a touch of intrusive road noise at higher motorway speeds but otherwise all is calm and the Yeti rides well too, albeit with a slight sense of jiggling over multiple bumps if you spec up the wheels. The steering is particularly good - well geared and smooth if not especially full of feel. The Yeti is no sports car, but it actually handles pretty well. A series of fast, smooth hairpins showed us that it turns in neatly, resists both understeer and body roll and feels far more agile than you'd expect.
It's also rock solid steady even in driving rain at high Autobahn speeds, which, combined with that agility, handy size and gentle ride quality means it's unusually well-attuned to Irish driving conditions. You can sum up the way the Yeti feels on the road in two words: indomitable and sophisticated.
And it can off-road. Skoda let us loose on a wet, slippery, mud-strewn off-road course that included some vicious cross-axle bumps, steep descents and climbs and even a narrow, wet log bridge across a vertiginous ravine. The Yeti shrugged off the course with insouciant ease, as at home in the grime as it would be trundling to the shops of a Saturday morning. It's vastly more capable than most owners will ever need, something that might be of interest to those living outside the major cities. After all, as Sean Bean would have it; winter is coming...
What you get for your Money:
A basic, €24,490 Yeti, is well equipped, with standard air conditioning, the flexible rear seating and 16-inch alloy wheels. Our ritzy Outdoor version just tipped over the €30k barrier, but the equipment list is long and includes a panoramic glass roof and much more. Importantly, the cost of getting four-wheel drive on your Yeti has now come down significantly. The 110hp 2.0-litre diesel is now available with the new fifth-generation (lighter, faster-reacting) Haldex four-wheel drive system and at a price of €28,220 in Active spec, it's €3,400 cheaper than the previous cheapest all-paw Yeti. It can also be taxed for a reasonable €390 a year, while the carry-over 1.6 TDI 105hp Greenline model is in Band A4, with €200 annual tax.
Skoda has sold 281,000 Yetis around the world since it was launched in 2009, which is only a fraction of the number of rival Nissan Qashqais sold, but it has helped propel Skoda to a 6.7 per cent market share in Ireland and the brand has stated that it wants to grow further, to 8 per cent share.
Facelifts can be a tricky business, as it's too easy to overdo things and create a Frankenstein's monster when all you planned was a simple nip and tuck. Thankfully, the Yeti's makeover has been well-judged, amplifying its existing qualities, resisting the temptation to fix what wasn't broken and improving its value for money. It remains, frankly, a quite brilliant car - not an accolade we apply lightly.