Recommended. Amazingly good off-road (in 4wd form), ultra-practical thanks to its boxy shape and thoroughly decent to drive.
Let us introduce you to the Skoda Yeti. Mixing the high-riding nature of an SUV with the footprint and practicality of a hatchback, this is a new venture for the Czech carmaker.
Joining the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V, the Yeti comes with either front-wheel or four-wheel-drive, although Skoda expects the majority of UK buyers to opt for two-wheel drive variants.
Four-wheel drive Yetis will come powered by three versions of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine with 108bhp, 138bhp and 168bhp, plus a 158bhp 1.8 TSI petrol unit. The 108bhp 2.0 TDI engine - Skoda's predicted best seller - is also available in two-wheel drive versions, along with a lively new 103bhp 1.2 TSI unit.
From behind the wheel, the only hint of the Yeti's SUV attributes is the slightly elevated driving position: in all other respects, it feels like a small family hatch to drive. On B-roads the Yeti feels composed, its supple ride and controlled body making it feel fun to drive, while it cruises effortlessly on the motorway.
But it's not just on road where the Yeti shines, as it is also very capable off-road. Four-wheel drive is supplied by a fourth-generation Haldex system. On tarmac, this allows 90% of the power to go to the front wheels, but if the Yeti's control unit detects a difference in speed at the front and rear axles, the system can divert up to 90% of torque to the rear. Coupled to a limited slip differential, drive can also be distributed from wheels on either side to give the Yeti better grip.
On range-topping models, the Yeti comes with a button that switches the car's ABS, traction control and EDL (electronic differential lock) to off-road settings. The accelerator response is also reduced, so there's less slip when pulling away on loose surfaces. There's also hill start assistance and a hill descent control system that applies automatic braking to maintain a constant downhill speed. The net result of all this technology is that the Yeti is astonishingly good off-road: as long as it does not run out of ground clearance it can get through almost anything
The Yeti's interior feels light, airy and spacious. There's room in the back for two adults of average height, while the seating layout is flexible: all three seats can be individually folded flat or removed completely, and they can also slide forwards and reclined for added comfort. The Yeti's boot is a very good size too, capable of holding up to 1,760 litres with the seats removed.
There are not many unexplored niches in the modern car market, but we think the Yeti has found one. It neatly splits the difference between a Fiat Panda 4x4 and a D213Land Rover Freelander in a package that is more practical than a Kuga or CR-V.
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