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Skoda Yeti Elegance 2.0 TDI CR 4x4

Click to view picture gallery“Skodas well-packaged, friendly-
  faced, five-door, five-seater Yeti
  crossover with all-terrain capabilities
  is thoroughly at home both on and
  off the road. Fact is, it
s probably the
  most sensible crossover yet

WITH PRICES STARTING AT A VERY AFFORDABLE 13,990 and rising to 22,635 spread over 19 versions, and with 2WD and 4x4 options, a wide choice of powerplants covering both diesel (3) and petrol (2) with power outputs from 105bhp to 170bhp along with four specification levels, the latest Skoda
Top Gear's Family Car of the Year 2009 will be sure to appeal to a very wide range of customers.

The Yeti is a ruggedly attractive beast defined by its wide-stance look with a V-shaped bonnet flanked by large, high-mounted headlights. While it might not be quite as sexy as say a Nissan Qashqai or Ford Kuga, the Yeti's look is less contrived — and it's claimed to be more versatile than either of them.

The Yeti's short 'n' tall dimensions create generous interior space including impressive leg and headroom. First impressions on boarding are of the cabin having a particularly good feel. Quality is evocative of an Audi, with a pleasant mix of decent surface textures, smart white-on-black dials and admirable fit and finish throughout. All dash controls are well sited and easily identified. Deserving of special mention is the speed warning feature — it's so easy to set/reset safely while driving.

The spacious interior — there's masses of room for head and shoulders — feels even more airy thanks to the large glass areas that allow uninterrupted views out for all occupants.

The Yeti is particularly easy to get in and out of and while the driving position is not quite as elevated as in some other crossovers/SUVs, it still provides the driver with a commanding view of the road. A-pillars are slim, which further improves the view from behind the leather-wrapped wheel. The basic driving position is fine and there is a good choice of seat adjustment along with generous reach and rake steering wheel adjustability. And good under-knee support from the long seat cushion. More good news is the roomy footwell — lots of room for feet means you can easily drive a Yeti wearing heavy outdoor boots, should you feel the need to do so.

Seats, by the way, are particularly well shaped, nicely bolstered and relaxing on long journeys. But the Yeti's comfort doesn't begin and end in the front; it's just as welcoming in the back where three rear passengers will enjoy sitting high on individual seats with ample headroom, good legroom and backrests with half-a-dozen recline settings. In their 'normal' configuration, the centre rear seat's backrest can be folded down to provide a substantial armrest-cum-table.

“Inside the boot are more
neat touches:
for instance, rails on
either side fitted with
slide-adjustable hooks
for hanging
shopping bags
Skoda's 'Varioflex' rear seats can be moved forwards or backwards (to increase or decrease boot space or legroom), reclined individually, folded and rolled up or completely removed. The middle seat can be taken out and the outer two slid towards the centre to create a roomy two-seater in the rear. In all, the Varioflex seating arrangement offers over twenty different combinations.

When it comes to carrying cargo, the rear seats can be easily folded down to give 1,485 litres of load space. Take them out and you'll have a 1,665-litre load bay with a near-perfectly flat floor.

Smaller loads can be accommodated in the deep 322-litre boot, accessed via a generously-sized top-hinged tailgate. Inside the boot are more neat touches: for instance, rails on either side fitted with slide-adjustable hooks for hanging shopping bags; and a handy, easily adjustable semi-circular flexi-plastic 'wall' for securely ring-fencing bottles and the like against the inner wheel arch.

Lots of storage space can also be taken for granted; there's a comprehensive mix of large door bins, a 'secret' drawer under the front passenger seat, numerous cubbyholes, a front centre armrest and a glovebox designed for the real world. And not only is the interior practical and versatile, but it's also agreeably refined: front-to-rear conversations, usually not on the menu in most cars, are no problem thanks to excellent VW/Audi grade noise suppression and, of course, the quiet common-rail diesel unit under the Yeti's bonnet — several passengers refused point blank to believe it was a diesel!

Talking of engines, the 140bhp four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbodiesel fitted to our 4x4 test car proved to be smooth, muscular and rich in low-down torque (236lb ft between 1,750-2,500rpm), and it made light work not just of faster motorways and A-routes but was equally at home on winding country lanes and nipping around town.

While frequent gear-changing isn't essential to keep the Yeti flowing (there's decent pick-up for overtaking even when top gear cruising on the motorway), using the manual 'box is no hardship because the six-speeder has a fast and positive change action.

And if you're looking to minimise your running costs then the 140bhp unit is no extravagance — it averages 46.3mpg and has CO2 emissions of 159g/km. Urban and extra urban official consumption figures are, respectively, 37.7 and 53.3mpg. Top speed is 118mph with 0-62mph acceleration done and dusted in a crisp 9.9 seconds.

Perhaps the most
unexpected aspect of the
Yeti is not that it goes
off the beaten track, but
how far from civilisation
it will take you
More tellingly, our week's test saw an overall average of 42.2mpg; close enough to the official figures to feel confident that Skoda's posted 53.3mpg for extra urban runs is genuinely do-able.

Dynamically, the Yeti rides extremely well over the UK's broken roads — despite its 17-inch alloys — with bumps and speed humps taken in its supple stride. Given that the Yeti rides high — ground clearance is 180mm — the lack of body roll is also impressive.

On the move, the Yeti is reassuringly predictable and very driveable. But then what were you expecting, seeing that beneath the Skoda bodywork is the VW Golf's brilliant platform. Handling is assured, brakes are first rate and the sharp steering — which is good on feedback, too — adds to the Yeti's eagerness to respond. From a passenger's point of view it's a very pleasant car to ride around in thanks predominantly to its settled ride. In fact, wherever you're sitting in the Yeti, its reassuring easy-going character de-stresses just about every journey from a short school run or length-of-the-country family holiday.

To make travelling in the Yeti as satisfying as possible, Skoda has packed in a lot of kit. Standard items on the 21,820 140bhp Elegance 4x4 model include full leather upholstery, 3-stage heated front seats (both height-adjustable with lumbar adjustment), electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors with integrated boarding spots, front and rear electric windows and dual-zone air conditioning with an air-conditioned glovebox.

In addition there's also a trip computer, 'off-road' button, Varioflex rear seating system, multi-function (radio+telephone) leather-wrapped steering wheel, drive-away automatic central locking, acoustic rear parking sensors, cruise control, radio/MP3-friendly CD player with integrated six-disc CD autochanger and touchscreen controls, Sunset glass (from B-pillar back), tyre repair kit, rain-sensing wipers, auto lights and an auto-dimming rear view mirror that can, should you prefer, be switched off. Oh yes, mustn't forget the always useful parking ticket holder on the driver's side of the windscreen!

Other standard-fit items: roof rails, 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/50 tyres, Bi-Xenon headlights with cornering function and dynamic angle control plus cornering front fog lights, Isofix child seat fittings (rear two outer seats), curtain airbags, driver and passenger front airbags, driver knee airbag, Hill Hold control and a long list of electronic systems designed to stabilise the vehicle in critical handling situations (ESP with ABS, EBD, EBC, ASR, EDL, HBA, DSR and ESBS) along with a full five-star EuroNCAP safety rating.

“Off-road, basically all
the driver has to do
is steer the car
in the right direction
and the Yeti
does the rest
'4x4' states the badge on the Yeti's wraparound rump. But just how far will that take you? Actually, a very long way. Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the Yeti — in spite of that badge — is not that it goes off the beaten track, but how far from civilisation it will take you.

And all with no more effort on the driver's part than pressing a single button on the fascia; the one marked 'off-road'.

Do so, and the off-road 'wizard' instantly switches the ABS, Traction Control and Electronic Differential Lock systems to a special off-road setting and re-maps the throttle so that the accelerator responds more sensitively when pulling away on loose surfaces. Once off-road you'll quickly discover that the Yeti's compact dimensions and short overhangs are a real asset for tackling some seriously rough terrain.

The 'off-road' system helps maintain control in tough conditions, maintaining a constant speed downhill on a steep slope, maintaining traction going uphill without over-revving the engine, holding the car still on a hill-start and helping to prevent the wheels from spinning on loose surfaces. Suffice to say that the Yeti is undoubtedly all the SUV (and most likely more) that most drivers will ever need. Better still, you don't need any previous off-road experience — all the driver has to do is steer the car in the right direction and the Yeti does the rest.

The Yeti is everything that Skoda now stands for: a versatile family car that's a pleasure to drive with premium build quality. Of those taking the bull by the horns and going for a test drive, many will be impressed enough to 'cross over' to a Yeti. And those motorists who still let a badge stand between them and a first rate product? They'll most definitely be missing out. —

Skoda Yeti Elegance 2.0 TDI CR 4x4
| 21,820
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 42.2mpg
Power: 140bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 159g/km