Yeti a gripping discovery for Skoda

Andy RussellIt's a strange name but then Skoda's new Yeti is not ordinary, says ANDY RUSSELL.If a mobile phone can be all things to all men, women and particularly technology-savvy teenagers then why not the family car.Andy Russell

It's a strange name but then Skoda's new Yeti is not ordinary, says ANDY RUSSELL.

If a mobile phone can be all things to all men, women and particularly technology-savvy teenagers then why not the family car.

I make and take calls on my mobile and send the odd text message - very odd given I'm all fingers and thumbs - but it also has a camera, radio, MP3 player, internet connection and a calendar. I suspect if I press the right buttons it will even make a hot drink!

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So in this one-size-fits-all world multi-tasking, multi-talented cars seem a sensible way forward.

That's the reasoning behind Skoda's fifth model range, the Yeti - a crossover combining sport utility vehicle capability with hatchback driveability.

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The Czech car-maker is looking to make inroads into the emerging crossover market, which is expected to grow significantly, and with the Yeti an early contender it is looking to become a major player.

It sees a big future for people who don't want big 4x4s but need something rugged - with the availability of automatic four-wheel drive, higher ground clearance and a raised driving position - that's able to get off the beaten track, in a compact family hatchback-sized package with a versatile, flexible and spacious interior.

Remind you of anything? How about Nissan's Qashqai which Skoda sees as the Yeti's biggest rival but it will also sell against similarly-sized hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra and small multi-purpose and sport utility vehicles.

Despite being an all-new venture for Skoda, the Yeti has got the family face and picks up styling cues from the Roomster. It's not as good-looking as a Qashqai, being more square and boxy but that's no bad thing if you're looking to maximise interior space. Despite being shorter than many rivals, it's width and height give it one of the biggest boots at 416 litres and the most headroom.

The cabin's roominess belies the compact exterior dimensions with the Varioflex system of three individual rear seats making the most of the generous legroom. All seats recline and the outer ones slide back and forth or, once the middle one has been removed, can be moved 80mm inwards. They also tumble upright with the backs folded flat, although the middle one catches on the lidded locker where fitted between the front seats, or can be removed individually but it's a cumbersome job as they're quite heavy. The boot is deep and square but has a high sill.

The cabin is well finished with a quality feel to the materials, the upright driving position has good adjustment and big windows give good all-round visibility. The dashboard layout is simple with sensibly-sited switchgear.

Two-wheel drive models are powered by the VW Group's new 105bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine and the 110bhp 2.0-litre common rail turbo diesel while all-wheel drive models get the 2.0-litre diesel in 110, 140 and 170bhp guises and a 160bhp 1.8-litre turbo petrol. Six-speed manual gearboxes are standard but the 1.2 petrol engine is also available with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.

The diesels are well suited to the Yeti, especially if you plan to make use of its four-wheel drive capability, with the mid-range engine the pick of the bunch. Its low-down flexibility and mid-range punch was so good that I thought it must be the 170PS unit, but it wasn't at the expense of economy with 42mpg in real-world mixed driving and 47mpg on a run.

In normal driving 96pc of torque goes to the front wheels but up to 90pc automatically transfers to the rear if the front ones struggle for grip - it can even transfer up to 85pc of torque to one of rear wheels if the other three are losing traction. Range-topping Elegance models also have an off-road button to cope with loose surfaces and the brakes are automatically gently applied to give better control down steep slopes.

That four-wheel drive also proved its worth during the wet weather and slippery roads with the level of grip inspiring confidence. The supple suspension soaks up bumps and lumps well for smooth, comfortable progress but tyre noise is more apparent than in a hatchback, but the real surprise the Yeti's fine handling and body control, especially given the height of the body.

Prices start at �13,990 with four trim levels - E, S, SE and Elegance. All come with air-conditioning, power steering, central locking and front, side and curtain airbags while S models onwards also have one for the driver's knees. S also gains alloy wheels, front fog lights and electric rear windows, SE includes rear parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone air-con, headlight washers and six-CD autochanger. Range-topping Elegance has brighter bi-xenon headlamps which turn into corners, leather upholstery and heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and Bluetooth phone connection.

The name Yeti is meant to conjure up a sense of adventure and rugged off-road ability, which this 4x4 is more than capable of, so it's a shame yeti is the ape-like, mythological abominable snowman. The name made for a Skoda advertising campaign full of fun, furry characters and footprints but this Yeti is more accomplished all-rounder than abominable.


PRICE: �21,820

ENGINE: 1,968cc, 140PS, four-cylinder, common-rail turbo diesel

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 9.9 seconds; 118mph

MPG: Urban 39.8; extra urban 53.3; combined 47.1

EMISSIONS: 157g/km



WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 4,223mm; width (including door mirrors) 1,956mm; height 1,691mm

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