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Week at the Wheel: Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

Week at the Wheel: Skoda Yeti
Name and looks aside, the Skoda Yeti is one of the cleverest, most sensible family cars we've lived with for a while.


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| Week at the Wheel | Skoda Yeti |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

The VW lineage of Skodas has been obvious for a couple of generations now, but the quality has also been a step or two behind that of its parent's more premium product. No more, though, because the Czech is seemingly pilfering top shelf plastics these days - certainly better than those that SEAT can convince VW to send to Spain. Tidy, durable and touchable, the Yeti's cabin is so close to, say, the VW Tiguan's that only a proper nitpicker would find fault.

Outside you might have already noticed that its overall shape is quite Fiat Panda, which is no bad thing because the square-ness means roominess inside. The headlamp treatment will divide opinion, as will its high ride height and plastic cladding, but the Yeti's form is a telling indication of its function. We like that.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Our test car came powered by the 140bhp common rail diesel engine, which isn't the quickest in the range, but is the best all-rounder in terms of its blend of punch and economy; only when you really try to open the taps will its lack of top end fizz leave you wanting. The six-speed manual it's mated too is typically slick and tight across the gate, and because the diesel has so much torque there's a decent amount of pull even in top gear, so you're not constantly changing to fourth or fifth on the motorway. That combined with the Yeti's pliant ride makes this car a lovely cruiser.

As an aside, before trekking back to Car Enthusiast HQ from the Highlands with our diesel Yeti, we sampled the 1.8-litre TSI petrol engine, which is an absolute gem. Zappy with the revs but with a good amount of low down grunt, the 160bhp unit makes the Yeti tangibly more enjoyable to drive and it feels properly quick. It's definitely worth a try before you opt for one of the default diesels.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

This pair of attributes is the Yeti's strongest: despite its high ride and genuine off-road ability, the Yeti is simultaneously a pliant, comfortable car at all speeds and a fairly sharp handler. Turn in is confident (it's got speed variable steering assistance to help with that), body-roll is minimal and vibration from the wheels is nicely shut out. It's quiet too, successfully quelling most of the wind-whistle typically associated with slab-sided cars like this. Of course, it also has the all-important 'commanding' driving position that urban dwellers feel safe with, yet it's small enough of footprint to be completely unintimidating at the Drive-Thru. We should have mentioned this before, but while it shares similar dimensions to its closest rival, the Nissan Qashqai, it pulls off the trick of both feeling smaller while actually being more spacious in the cabin and boot.

Two- and four-wheel drive options are available. Our test car was the latter, but to be honest front-wheel drive is all you'll need unless you're prone to venturing off-road - in which case you'll find the Yeti surprisingly capable. Down to a myriad of marvellously clever electronics and a Haldex clutch 4x4 system, the Yeti punches well above its weight in the countryside. Engineering wizardry accessed via an 'off-road' button essentially regulates the throttle, braking, stability systems and torque transfer between wheels, so that the driver can let the car handle negotiations with the ground while simply pointing it on the right direction. We drove it through Loch Ness (a shallow bit, mind) and up some impossibly steep hills with ease. In four-wheel drive guise, a soft-roader this isn't.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

You get the usual four equipment levels: E, S, SE and Elegance. And because there's the whole two- and four-wheel drive thing, as well as five engines (105bhp 1.2 TSI, 160bhp 1.8 TSI, 110-, 140- and 170bhp 2.0 TDIs), you're presented with a wide range of choices. A 1.2-litre petrol model with two-wheel drive in E spec costs 13,725, while at the other end of the spectrum a 4x4 TDI 170 Elegance is 22,120. Quite a spread, but as ever the Skoda represents great value whichever one you choose, and you're best off hovering around the middle of the range.

Our Elegance spec 140 TDI 4x4 test car is worth 21,320, which isn't cheap, granted, but features a whopping big chunk of VW's greatest technological hits, including the amazing (and freaky) self-parking system, reversing camera, bi-xenon headlamps, parking sensors (should you fancy parking yourself, for shame), heated leather seats, cornering lights and touch screen satnav. For re-sale and general enjoyment's sake, you're probably best off avoiding E spec - it gets steel wheels - but anything above that will be acceptable. Our recommendation is SE, which is still positively stuffed with stuff, including a multi-function wheel, 17-inch rims, more stereo speakers, dual-zone climate and tinted windows. Ok, enough equipment listing now.

Overall: star star star star star

As you can tell we're big fans of the Skoda Yeti. Making it available as a two-and four-wheel drive car isn't revelatory, but making it so good off-road is, and it happens to be superb on-road too. Subjectively you might not like the way it looks, but objectively it's very difficult to find flaw with. Comfortable, good value, great to drive, practical and high quality, the Yeti is one of the best family all-rounders on the market. The only reason it doesn't get five-stars is because it's a satisfying, intelligently packaged car rather than a truly special or memorable one.

Mark Nichol - 12 Nov 2009    - Skoda road tests
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- Yeti images

2009 Skoda Yeti specifications: (Elegance 2.0 TDI CR (140bhp) 4x4)
Price: 21,370 on-the-road
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 118mph
Combined economy: 47.1mpg
Emissions: 157g/km
Kerb weight: 1530kg

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.

2009 Skoda Yeti. Image by Mark Nichol.


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