|The Yeti is the missing link between large hatchbacks and soft-roaders like the CR-V and the Captiva. That’s the huge gap Skoda hopes to plug with the ‘Yeti’ – which the company describes as a crossover with a fresh attitude combining 4x4 strengths with hatchback practicality. The fact is that the Indian market has never seen anything like the yeti so its hard to pin down to a particular segment. Look at the Yeti head-on and you could mistake it for a hatchback but move to the rear of the car and the near-vertical tailgate points to its utilitarian credentials. However what’s unmistakable is the Skoda look. The Yeti is based on a Golf platform and uses a lot of the Laura’s mechanicals but the face, with its instantly recognisable grille is more Fabia. A large pair of spotlights which overlap the headlights, a protective skid plate, beefy bumpers, high stance with large 16-inch wheels and roof rails complement the Yeti’s outdoor character and the compact size suggests that the Yeti has been designed to perform urban duties as well. It’s a mere 4.2 metres long and makes the most of its dimensions.
The high roof and high seating position make the yeti remarkably comfortable. The front seats are generous with lots of bolstering in the right places and it’s easy to find the right driving position; outside visibility is brilliant thanks to he high stance. In most cars, rear seats are rarely comfortable as the ones in front but not in the case of the Yeti. The perfectly contoured rear seats individually slide backwards and forwards, have terrific under-thigh support and an adjustable backrest recline.
Though the Yeti is not wide as other SUVs, the back seat is still good enough for three six-foot adults. The boot which holds a modest 416 litres isn’t huge by SUV standards because of the high floor and limited depth. However, there’s much more space of offer than any hatchback. Also the rear seats can be folded and tumbled individually or removed altogether. There are a lot of neat touches too like runners on the two sides of the boot to which a luggage-covering net can be hooked to tie things down. Another clever bit is the small partition which can be snap-fixed into place.
The interiors have the same robust and functional design theme that typifies Skodas and you can see lots of bits and pieces shared with the Laura. The tactile feel of the switches and buttons is terrific and the quality of plastics is simply top-class while large door pockets, a huge glove-box and plenty of cubbyholes provide ample room for loose stuff, complementing the practical character of the Yeti.
Skoda has launched the Yeti with five engine options – two petrols and three diesels – and all of them are turbocharged and transversly mounted and drive either the front or all four wheels. Transmission options include a six-speed manual and a seven-speed DSG auto box. It’s not yet clear what engine/transmission combination will make it to India but for the drive AutoCar (Aug. ’09) concentrated on the range-topping 170bhp diesel and the base 1.2-litre TSI petrol, which are strong possibilities for the Indian market.
The new diesel engine is significantly quieter and more refined and what’s truly impressive is the performance. Apart from a little bit of turbo lag at very low rpm, boost builds up rapidly and along with it a corresponding surge of power. The mid-range is particularly punchy to make overtaking effortless and highway cruising anything but strenuous.
The base 1.2 TSI develops just 103bhp but in the real world, the free-revving and silky smooth TSI motor is a delight to use in traffic and on open roads.
The best bit about the Yeti is its outstanding ride quality and the way it gobbles up almost any road. Low-speed damping feels a bit stiff but not uncomfortably so. Quite simply, this is the best riding quasi-SUV we have seen.
The Yeti also has an off-road mode switched on via a pushbutton on the dash, which softens the throttle response and adjusts the ABS and traction control for loose surfaces. The hill start assistant works incredibly well though it’s initially counter-intuitive as it requires one to move the gear lever to neutral and take your foot off the brake pedal on descents. You soon marvel at the computers that take over and automatically apply the brakes to maintain a constant speed. All you have to do is steer!
The Yeti is expected in India in early 2010 with prices estimated to start from Rs. 12 lkah for the base petrol version to round Rs. 15 lakh for the fully loaded diesel. That’s pricey no doubt but to be seen as good value, the Yeti needs to be accepted as a mini-SUV and not a hatchback on steroids. So it does look like the Skoda’s marketing team has its work cut out ends AutoCar (Aug. ’09).