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Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI CR 140bhp Elegance 4x4

Click to view picture galleryThe Yeti exists. Perhaps not the
  mythical creature said to inhabit
  the snowy wastes of the Himalayas,
  but the Yeti as conceived by Skoda:
  a crossbreed with the genes of a
  medium-sized family estate, an MPV
  and an SUV. And you’re likely to spot
  one on a street near you...

THE NEW FIVE-DOOR, FIVE-SEATER YETI is Skoda's latest model range, aimed at families who have the need for versatile transport. And it comes at just the right time.

Having suffered the worst winter in the UK for three decades, many drivers are considering buying a modern, fuel-efficient 4x4. But a lightweight modern 4x4 isn't just for Winter; in reality all-wheel drive is good for all seasons, offering better grip on and off road in wet and dry conditions and it fits nicely with the 'lifestyle' image now so popular with young (and also the not so young) customers.

The Nissan Qashqai led the way with this new 'family crossover' sector but now there are lots of other models to consider, many with two- or four-wheel drive options. There's the new Peugeot 3008, the European Car of the Year for 2010 and an excellent product, and then there's the Ford Kuga and the Volkswagen Tiguan plus the premium BMW X1 and Audi Q5 models. Joining these is the new Hyundai i35 along with other rival mid-sized MPVs such as the Citroen Picasso C3/C4, Vauxhall Meriva/Zafira, Nissan Note, Renault Scenic and the new Ford C-Max.

Priced from 13,990 up to 22,635, the Skoda Yeti offers a wide range of models to suit most budgets; there are two- and four-wheel drive versions and two petrol and three diesel engine options with E, S, SE and Elegance trim and specification levels. No 2010 sales predictions yet from Skoda for the Yeti, but nearly 700 of them were sold in the last two months of 2009. Two-wheel drive versions are expected to marginally outsell 4x4 models but with the winter we have just experienced it's 'wait and see' time.

The line-up offers a 1.2-litre TSI 105bhp petrol unit (with manual or DSG automatic transmissions) in two-wheel drive form and a 1.8-litre 160bhp TSI petrol unit that comes with 4x4 traction and manual gearbox. For diesel customers, there's a 2.0-litre TDI core unit with three power outputs: a 110bhp engine with two- and four-wheel drivetrains along with 140 and 170bhp versions with 4x4 traction as standard. Not all engines are available with all levels of trim/specification.

The best bit about the
Yeti is its overall
driveability — it has all
the handling
performance and
refinement of the new
VW Golf.
As you would expect from its name, the Yeti is a bit of a visual oddball and some people will like it and some will not. Skoda, with over 100 years of car-making history behind them and being a member of the Volkswagen family, can call upon all the floorpan, suspension and drivetrain technologies used throughout the VW family of brands. Skoda designers are quite proud of the fact that they take, and then adapt, these core components to suit their needs. The Yeti is a good example of this: underneath the skin of this tall, five-door family-sized hatchback is a very fine platform (also used for the brilliant VW Golf), but for the Yeti it is clothed in a very different way.

With a silhouette resembling more of an upright, windowed van with chunky looks, Skoda say they have created a crossover vehicle with a completely fresh approach to family motoring. At the front, the chrome-framed grille and V-shaped bonnet creases clearly mark Yeti out as a member of the Skoda family, while the large, high-mounted headlights give the front-end a distinctive but friendly face.

The strong lines continue along the side where the large wheel arches, lower body protection strips and black A- and C-pillars give the car a long, flowing profile even though it is only 4,223mm in length. Because of the compact length it looks a relatively-tall vehicle and its upright stance is further enhanced by a modest width of, excluding door mirrors, 1,793mm. However, by using wide front and rear tracks the interior is roomy and the higher-than-normal seating positions provide good exterior visibility. An optional electrically-operated panoramic sunroof brings additional light and a feeling of space into the cabin.

With the three individual folding and sliding rear seats in position, the load space is 416 litres; with the rear seats folded forward this increases to 1,580 litres and with them removed (not an easy job to do) the space is a cavernous 1,760 litres. With the rear middle seat out of the vehicle, the two rear seats can be slid towards the centre creating a 'two-seater' in the rear.

There are, in fact, over 20 different seating combinations. Clever packaging — but on the downside the seats do not drop into the floor when folded to make a rear sill-level load platform which means heavy or bulky items have to be lifted in and out of the car over the rear sill.

At the rear, Yeti features a wraparound design that creates the effect of a continuous window surface from B-pillar to B-pillar. The tailgate is generously sized and, thanks to the car's high ride height, even tall drivers will be able to stand underneath it when open. Completing Yeti's design details are high-mounted rear light clusters along with a bumper that incorporates additional reflectors and underbody protection.

The official Combined
Cycle fuel economy
is 46.3mpg and my test
vehicle came close to
that in real life motoring
conditions with
Although Skoda's Marketing and PR promotional activities mainly highlight the attributes of the Yeti as being for the 'rough and tough', the vehicle also has to appeal for town and city use as well. It will be the family bus to school as well as the shopping trolley for older and younger people. Safety, of course, is good, with up to seven airbags and all but the base E version has an electronic control programme (ESP) fitted as standard.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning, electrically-operated front windows and adjustable and heated door mirrors, ABS, roof rails, a full array of front, side and curtain airbags, halogen headlights, stereo sound system, remote central locking and trip computer. S models and above have alloy wheels, front fog lights and rear electric windows. The specification increases right up to the Elegance level, at which point it becomes relatively expensive.

My test Yeti was the 2.0-litre TDI 140bhp 4x4 model with the top Elegance trim and equipment package which costs a hefty 21,820. I am not going to dwell too much on the power unit in this test vehicle; it is one of the many proven 2.0-litre, four-cylinder direct injection common rail diesel powerplants from the VW group — they are linear in performance, responsive, quiet and fuel efficient.

This particular 140bhp unit is coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox and the gears engage positively with a fast and precise action. The Skoda engineers have chosen a fairly high set of ratios to maximise on fuel economy and low CO2 figures but the 236lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm over a wide power band means constant gear changing isn't required to keep the car on the pace.

Although sixth gear is certainly high enough to reduce motorway cruising noise, it's still within the unit's power range for excellent overtaking response. Top speed is 118mph and 0-62mph takes 9.9 seconds. The official Combined Cycle fuel economy is 46.3mpg and my test vehicle came close to that in real life motoring conditions with 44.9mpg. CO2 emissions are 159g/km and this will mean road tax costs 155.

Core to this Yeti model's performance is its lightweight all-wheel drive system. In short, it has the latest generation Haldex clutch mounted in the same housing unit as the limited slip differential on the rear axle. On a normal dry road, 96% of the torque is delivered to the front wheels. Controlled by sensors and the ABS/ESP systems, immediately there is a difference in speed between the front and rear wheels, up to 90% of the torque can be delivered to the rear axle — the limited slip differential can then apportion drive between the left and right wheels. The overall system allows up to 85% of the torque to be delivered through any one wheel.

The great thing is that the driver feels none of this: the power split — front to rear and left to right — is seamless. And the system works really well, ideal for stability and traction on wet roads and off-road tracks. Deeper mud needs care but that's down to the tyre pattern more than the system. However, the vehicle has an 'off-road' button which when pushed modifies the throttle response, ABS braking, electronic stability programme and traction and limited slip differential systems for muddy work. The hill start mode also helps when descending steep slopes.

While there's much to like about the Yeti, there are a couple of minor criticisms: the removable rear seats are difficult to lift in and out and the load floor is too low below the rear hatch's sill. However, there's much more to praise including its versatility, roomy interior, high level of safety equipment and good towing capabilities.

And as impressive as the engine and drive system are (responsive engine and smooth transmission), the best bit about the Yeti is its overall driveability and core handling strengths — it has all the handling performance and refinement of the new VW Golf.

And because it has a strong core it feels solid and totally predictable and well balanced with a settled and comfortable ride. The suspension is compliant, the grip secure and the feedback more or less perfect. The suspension just irons out the now deeply potholed UK roads and, above all, it is really fun to drive — hard! — David Miles

Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI CR 140bhp Elegance 4x4
| 21,820
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 44.9mpg
Power: 140bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 159g/km | Insurance group 6E/16E