The Skoda Yeti crossover is a member of the fastest-growing niche of vehicles, where it's chunky charms still shine in an overcrowded segment

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The Skoda Yeti, first launched in 2009, can persuasively lay claim to a place among the original members of the crossover segment. With tall, chunky styling and tidy, hatchback-sourced handling, it was certainly an early marker for how appealing the new concept could potentially be.

Treated to a facelift in 2014, the range was subsequently split in two: the standard Yeti was available as a two-wheel-drive model (now defunct), while the four-wheel drive version is now dubbed the Yeti Outdoor (although its extra heft can be had with front drive if you insist). 

The practical and flexible Yeti might just be the best Skoda yet

However, what continues to really split the car apart is its slightly unusual size. At only 4.2 metres long, its blocky proportions and silhouette are somewhere between a Fiat Panda 4x4 and a conventional C segment offering, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Nissan Qashqai and Seat Ateca. The venerable Yeti is now entering its twilight years with the Skoda ditching the chunky, blocky design for a more charismatic look which the Skoda Kodiaq wears. The new Karoq will give Skoda a new dimension in a crowded and rather intimidating segment, but until then we are focussed on its trailblazing sibling.

The Yeti's price, especially in the higher trim levels, continues to push it away from the Fiat Pandas of the world and more towards the Seat Atecas and Nissan Qashqais - especially as you move up the engine range into the higher-powered 2.0-litre diesels and climb towards the top of the specification list, or begin ticking option boxes. Now the veteran of the class, we find out whether the Yeti still can cut the mustard amongst younger rivals, or whether the Karoq can't come quickly enough.

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Skoda Yeti rear

The Yeti's compact size, pleasing mix of cheeky and chunky styling and outright longevity have made it an instantly recognisable model on UK roads. Its 2014 updates do nothing to dilute the effect; although the large driving lights which were previously seperate of the main cluster, similar to the Nissan Juke,  have been absorbed into a new headlight. 

These inevitably also include a new LED strip of daytime illumination and the fog lights below have been shuffled around, but the real differences (such as they are) are the distinguishing characteristics of the Outdoor version, which gets a slightly more rugged look courtesy of beefy black bumpers and side skirts. 

The Yeti has a pleasingly chunky and practical design

Otherwise, the Yeti ploughs down much the same road as before; the boxy, van-like rear end, for example, remains - not as easy on the eye as the sloping rear rooflines which adorn many more of its more recent rivals, but a tribute to a more traditional SUV aesthetic and great for judging parking distances.

Little has changed mechanically, either. The Yeti's 2014 update saw Skoda trim its engine lineup, with an 108bhp 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine and a 2.0-litre TDI diesel in two guises producing 108bhp and 148bhp respectively, the only options available. No three-cylinder, turbocharged, 1.0-litre unit is offered, despite the engine finding a home in quite a lot of the Skoda range.

Despite the drag on efficiency, the all-wheel-drive Yetis remain highly popular, and, from 2014, get Haldex's fifth-generation clutch system. This replaces its predecessors hydraulic resevoir with an electric pump - speeding up response times and lowering component weight slightly. 

There's also a rough road package (added underfloor protection) and an off-road button which retunes the traction control and ABS for slippery ground, something we put to the test on sojourns through the forests in Bhutan




Skoda Yeti interior

Rear passengers will find the Skoda Yeti’s interior particularly comfortable. Thanks to individually sliding (not to mention removable) seats it’s flexible enough to offer adequate leg and elbowroom for two adults, and headroom is plentiful thanks to that squared-off rear end. 

Up front is equally spacious. The driver and passenger seats suffer from a lack of lateral support, though, and some taller testers complained of difficulties in finding a comfortable driving position in relation to the steering wheel, which adjusts for rake and reach but would benefit from a broader range of movement in both respects.

The Yeti may only be available in two trims but it comes with a decent amount of standard kit

Otherwise, the Yeti’s cabin is a good place to be. The Volkswagen Group’s presence can be felt in the basic dashboard architecture and control layout, and the standard colour touchscreen on higher trim models enhances the dash’s appearance and ease of use. Even despite its age, it certainly doesn't feel dated against the Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca or Ford Kuga's dashboard, but compared to the Volkswagen Tiguan's - they feel a world apart - something the new Karoq will rectify.

The broad windows and tall windscreen, meanwhile, let in plenty of light as well as affording excellent visibility. In terms of storage, the boot’s minimum capacity is decent, and if you get the rear seats out of the way, it's very good indeed thanks, in part, to that squared-off rear end.

Cabin noise is well insulated at any speed, though with the optional roof bars included wind noise is noticeable over the usual diesel drone at a motorway cruise.

As for trim levels, Skoda has cut the choices to two core trims from the four that used to be available. They are SE Drive and SE L Drive. 

There are four trim levels to choose from - S, SE, Monte Carlo and SE-L. Opt for the entry-level model and you will get 17in alloy wheels, parking sensors, heated front seats, heated windscreen and a touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat nav, DAB radio, and Bluetooth connectivity as standard. Upgrade to the range-topping SE L Drive model and you'll find unique 17in alloy wheels, silver roof rails, textile floor mats and a full leather upholstery.


Skoda Yeti side profile

Even in its base 1.2-litre TSI form, the Yeti is a competent companion. The car is easy to drive in most conditions, and doesn't overburdened its small petrol engine. 

Beyond 2000rpm there's a reasonable amount of torque, and the six-speed manual gearbox offers up a typically decent, lightly fettled shift action and well-spaced ratios. Overtaking is more laborious than elsewhere in the range, but by and large it makes for a well-mannered urbanite. 

The Yeti's entry-level engines are not as sluggish as the figures might suggest

However, it's not the most popular Yeti. That honour befalls the top-spec 2.0-litre TDI engine mated to the part time all-wheel drive system. The Haldex setup adds no perceptible weight to the transmission or clutch, and given that it defaults to front-wheel drive, isn't noticeably different to its cheaper sibling. 

The oil burner is significantly less effort though. It offers decent performance even when fully loaded which, allied to decent economy and CO2 figures, gives it appeal for anyone looking for a longer-legged workhorse. 

At the other end of the scale, the entry-level 108bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine is the best option if frugality really matters to you.

Volkswagen's DSG 'box is available across the range, including the 1.2-litre TSI, and reduces driver work load even further at the expense of CO2 emissions - along with a smidge of driver involvment, which, as we'll see, is reasonably high for a crossover. 


Skoda Yeti cornering

You could 
be forgiven for expecting the Skoda Yeti to drive with limited agility. The reality, though, is that it will change direction quickly and predictably, and with surprisingly little body roll and none of the nose heaviness the styling might suggest. 

The van-like seating position, however, discourages you from driving it like a conventional car. But get past this and the Yeti delivers a decent balance of front and rear grip and eagerness to turn. As with the performance, it is not the Yeti’s outright ability that impresses us most, but the overall feeling of togetherness.

The Skoda Yeti drives far better than you might expect it to

The electric steering, although not tremendously feelsome, is accurate and its weighting is consistent. It makes piloting the Yeti, whether in town, across country or on the motorway, a natural and untaxing process. 

Similarly, the suspension responds with an accuracy that makes the Yeti easy to place through faster corners, and the roll rate is nicely matched to the speed of the steering. 

But has Skoda focused on agility to the detriment of comfort? The short answer is no, although with some qualification. For the most part the Yeti rides very well, and at speed it remains level and composed. Over short, sharp intrusions there is a little more firmness.

It’s not uncomfortable but there is less suspension movement than you might expect, especially given the notable amount of space between the Yeti's wheels and wheel arches. 

Its basic competency continues off road. Where fitted, an off-road function gives a softened throttle response for more control on loose surfaces, but no amount of button pushing will adjust the ride height so it's slippery surfaces for the Yeti rather than deep mud and ruts. 

However, with your ambitions kept suitably in check, the Skoda is difficult to upset. Where a loss of traction is concerned, the baseline ability of the Haldex is high and standard hill descent takes the potential bother out of troublesome declines. 


Skoda Yeti

Since launch, the Yeti has been renowned as a rather expensive option for something that wears a Skoda badge. However, compared to the rivals which have grown up around it, the car doesn't immediately appear to be particularly overpriced. 

Unlike much of the competition, the Yeti starts at around £20k, while that is more than its closest rivals, you have to remember the Yeti is coming to the end of its lifespan. Considering the model's established and favourable position in the market, that's competitive. Beyond that point, things do admittedly get a little more sticky for the Yeti's comparative values. Buy in SE-L trim and, with the big diesel lump, the Yeti edges over £25k - the sort of money which buys a newer, bigger and objectively superior all-wheel drive Nissan Qashqai or a mid-range 4Drive Seat Ateca

The running costs will be on a par with a normal hatchback

Notably, the former crossover, in lower spec, can be had in 99g/km CO2 emitting format - something which Skoda still fails to offer. Broadly speaking, that isn't shameful, but with newcomers like Seat Ateca lower on emissions, it shows well enough the pace at which the segment is progressing. 



Skoda Yeti rear quarter

The Yeti is not an insignificant achievement. Popular though the segment might be, very few crossovers are genuinely likeable upon introduction. The little Skoda is. While its rivals continue to become more car like - in shape as well as ethos - there is still something pleasingly utilitarian about the Yeti. It's rather like driving around in your favourite, weather-worn rucksack. 

The accuracy and honesty with which it goes about its business is a big part of this appeal. While Skoda may not have aimed the Yeti at the enthusiast, by giving it a credibly agile chassis it has made a car that is nonetheless good to drive. It’s easy to drive, too, with a comfortable ride for the most part.

The Yeti is easy to drive and has a comfortable ride

Nevertheless, the shortcomings - recognisable from the outset, and hardly dulled by the now considerable weight of the competition - cannot be entirely ignored. For a segment which prides itself on extra practicality, the Yeti's compactness does work against it. It's also not the most exciting, modern-looking prospect to sit in. 

Add in a big asking price for the best equipped versions, and the temptation to look elsewhere is all but unavoidable. Indeed, if your budget and space requirements are large, we'd recommend that you do. However, if you're buying in the mid spec sweet spot, only have little legs to accommodate or the occasional field to cross, the Yeti remains a compelling choice. 

As an amalgamation of established VW Group hardware, it is pieced together about as cleverly and distinctively as one could hope; as a well-engineered example of functionality and ease of use, it is potentially precisely as good as it needs to be. Is it better to own and live with that say a Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca or Volkswagen Tiguan? Probably not, but then it doesn't need to be, as the soon to arrive Karoq will be responsible for answering those questions.


Skoda Yeti 2013-2017 First drives