Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI 140 Elegance review
by David Finlay (12 October 2009)
Skoda has been on the go, in one form or another, for more than a century, and although I can hardly claim to have driven its cars over anything like that amount of time (even if some people might suggest that I look as if I may have done), I've certainly experienced ones going back to before the company's arrival in the Volkswagen Group. And that is enough for me to be able to suggest that the Yeti is the finest Skoda of the modern era.
Skoda expects that the Yeti's core audience will be young families, but its range of abilities is such that I can see it having a wider appeal. While not exactly elegant, it looks distinctive - a bit like the smaller Roomster, though without some of the sillier aspects of the Roomster's design - and that probably stands in its favour.
More importantly, however, it is very practical, with plenty of room for four six-foot adults (and another less bulky person sitting between the two in the outer rear seats), and in that configuration there is a more than reasonable 416 litres' worth of luggage space.
The figure rises to 1760 litres if you fold down the rear seats. This doesn't increase the area of flat floor, which is any case not the Yeti's most impressive feature, but if you need to you can do that by tipping them forward, which takes hardly any effort at all.
As a people- and load-carrier the Yeti therefore qualifies as something like a compact MPV, but there is also a compact SUVness to it, since it sits very high (just look at the gap between the wheels and the arches) and has lots of ground clearance. Several versions, including the one tested here, also have four-wheel drive, and while that doesn't mean you can start planning a drive across the Rubicon Trail it does mean that a reasonable amount of off-roading is possible.
But the Yeti hardly feels like an SUV when you're driving it on tarmac. You're always aware of the usefully high seating position, and the amount of weight far from ground level does make itself apparent on corners, though not to any great extent.
Despite that, though, the ride quality is remarkably good, and the body control and handling sufficiently secure that you can, if you want to, drive far more exuberantly than the workhorse-like shape suggests.
There is no doubt whatever that Skoda's chassis engineers have done a superb job of setting up the suspension, and they deserve a lot of credit. They're not the only ones, though. It's not that long since any discussion about the quality of a Skoda had to include some reference to the fact that it was inexpensive to buy. Not with the Yeti. For a start, it isn't cheap - several models in the range cost significantly more than £20,000.
But it feels worth it. The only part that feels low-rent is the cover for the storage box on top of the dashboard; apart from that, everything seems solid, made from good materials, and well put-together. Within the Volkswagen Group, the gap between Skoda and Audi has never felt closer (and in one respect it's not so much a gap as an overlap - Skoda has remembered, though Audi appears to have forgotten, how to position a footrest properly).
The cost of the test car is partly due to the fact that it was in Elegance trim, with the highest level of equipment in the range. Prices start at under £14,000, and although I haven't driven a base model yet I can't believe that the quality will be greatly inferior. Another reason for the expense is that this car used the VW Group's excellent two-litre TDI turbo diesel engine in 138bhp form.
You can also have the 168bhp version for an extra £800, but the 138bhp car has enough power to be able to deal with overtaking manoeuvres quickly and efficiently, and there is a very good balance of straightline performance and cornering ability.
My main issue with the Yeti is that all the pillars are very large and compromise visibility, but by modern standards it's not too bad in this respect, and certainly far better than the Roomster, whose form-over-function blocking of the front door windows to create a pleasing but unhelpful effect has been carried over to the Yeti in a much reduced and less silly form. I would prefer it to have been abandoned altogether, but that doesn't stop me thinking of the Yeti as Skoda's most accomplished car ever.