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What – Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI 140 SE 4x4
Where – Ljubljana, Slovenia
Date – 17 June 2009
Price – £17,500 (est)
Available – September 2009
Key rivals – Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008
Skoda enters the SUV-crossover fray with the roomy, likeable Yeti
We like – Interior quality, punchy diesel, wide choice of versions
We don’t like – High sills at boot and doors, engine noise, pricing looks optimistic
Skoda is good at the reinvention game. Just look at the bold Roomster and the latest Superb. While the cars clearly aren't for everyone, they do make enormous sense, especially if you are one of those people who like to make a non-statement about the badge you drive behind.The Yeti is its latest curveball. Though it looks like one of the new breed of tough city cars, or perhaps instead, a small SUV, Skoda insists it is neither, but a 'crossover'. Now, the definition of crossover varies wildly from one carmaker to another but one thing is patently clear.
In the UK at least, Skoda doesn't want the Yeti lumped in with those nasty, polluting, aggressive 4x4s. Even though the Yeti is a 4x4 if you tick the right box you can, and most people apparently will, buy it in cheaper front-wheel-drive form, just like a regular family hatchback.There's another reason behind this classification diktat too. British car buyers in their thousands, have embraced theNissan Qashqai, another crossover. Skoda would very much like part of the action, even though these seem like very different vehicles. But no matter. Is the Yeti any good?
Watch our first drive video of the Skoda Yeti
Skoda has a broad range of engines on offer, all turbocharged, and we tried the majority of them. The 1.8 petrol unit is well suited, though likely to push the price boundary close to the edge. The 1.2 TSI petrol has modest performance below 3,000rpm, but push it a bit and this Yeti wings along happily too.Both of these petrol Yetis are refined and remarkably quiet. The same can't be said of the 2.0 TDI, which is noticeably gruffer. It's the quality of noise that diesel drivers are used to, for although diesels have become quieter, so too have petrol cars.
Yet many will choose a diesel Yeti for the economy and the punchy performance. This 140hp version responds almost instantly to the throttle and as a result it's an undemanding car to drive. The 0-62mpg time of 9.9 seconds disguises the fact that car seems much livelier.It's a good compromise for motorway cruising too - this is the same engine that Audi uses in the much larger A6 saloon, so it should be. Its weakness is that if you let the revs drop much below 1000rpm, the engine simply dies. Suddenly and with a viscous thump. You need to learn to drive around that issue.
Ride and handling
Four-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive, the Yeti handles much the same until the conditions get slippery. Most of the time any Yeti relies upon front-wheel-drive, but on wet, icy or muddy surfaces the rear wheels are automatically engaged on four-wheel-drive models.As an off-roader this Yeti proves able, handling difficult terrain with ease. While the ground clearance and tyres make this more a vehicle for tackling snow and wet grass than pulling a horsebox, there is a nod to serious off-roading. Standard on top Elegance models, and optional on others, is an Off-Road button.
Press this and the brakes and traction control systems get new settings and the accelerator is desensitised to avoid wheelspin. It also incorporates a brilliant downhill braking device that, even if you put the gearlever into neutral, controls the descent at very low speed by judicious application of the brakes.That tendency to stall is an issue when starting on a steep hill, even though in theory the brakes hold on for a couple of second after you release the brake pedal. But aside from that, the Yeti rides extremely well on the tarmac, comfortable and with little body roll in the bends. It's even fun.
Skoda has done a very neat job on the Yeti's interior. It exudes class, with a dashboard that would look at home in an Audi and classy instruments instead of green functional dials of old. SUV drivers love the high driving position in their cars, and the Yeti goes some way to replicate this.Space is also impressive, especially in the rear. The back seats slide to alter the balance between boot and passenger space, and the high seating position and deep footwell provide more room than you'd guess from the outside. Take out the middle seats and you can slide the two outer seats inwards to provide an even great illusion of space.
The rear seats are an area where the Yeti scores over other compact SUVs and, arguably, helps justify the crossover tag. Clever design means that the rear seats can be folded and tilted right forward, and even removed to maximise cargo space. You can recline the rear seats too.The optional panoramic sunroof is particularly impressive, opening up the whole of the roof of the Yeti to the sky. Less great are the very high sills on every door and the boot that impede access and reducing the luggage loading versatility. Maximising boot space means dong without a spare wheel.
Economy and safety
The intelligent four-wheel-drive system means that although there is extra weight to carry around over the two-wheel-drive Yeti, at least the drive is only through the front wheels most of the time, saving fuel. Figures are available only on a couple of versions at the time of writing, with this 2.0 TDI 140 claimed to average 46.3mpg.The CO2 is 159g/km, a figure that you'll undoubtedly better if you choose a more modest Yeti. There's no news on any EuroNCAP crash safety data yet, but S models get four airbags, with SE and Elegance versions fitted additionally with curtain and a driver's knee airbag.
MSN Cars Verdict
Despite, or indeed because of its slightly quirky nature, we're impressed with the soundness and quality of the Yeti. Impressive in 4x4 form, you won't be disappointed with the cheaper front-wheel-drive Yeti either while opting for the 110hp smoother diesel is a good move too.
Gallery: Skoda Yeti
Read more Skoda car reviews
Need to know
Engine - Petrol - 1.2 turbo, 1.8 turbo
Engine - Diesel - 2.0 TDI 110hp, 140hp, 170hp
Power (hp) - 105-170
Torque (lb/ft) - 129-258
0-62mph (secs) - 14.0 (est) - 8.4
Top speed (mph) - 110 (est) - 125
Economy (mpg) - 48.0 (est) - 35.2
CO2/tax (g/km/%) - 149/20 (est) - 129/25
Rating: Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI SE 4x4
Ride and handling ****
Fuel economy *****
MSN Cars verdict ****
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