With the quirky Yeti crossover, Skoda proved something that many of us had come to doubt: that while the Volkswagen Group’s strategy of sharing platforms, engines, suspension systems and whatever else between the various models across its brands is clearly good for business, would any of them ever be able to produce a car with a discernible personality of its own?
Then, in 2009, the Skoda Yeti arrived, with its unusual styling and a distinct character all of its own.
The Yeti predated today’s seemingly unstoppable SUV-mania, and even now it doesn’t really sit comfortably in that category. It shared its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Golf, and although it is a little taller than a conventional hatchback, it doesn’t have so many of the unavoidable drawbacks of a high-riding SUV. In fact, its seating position and on-road manners are much more car than SUV-like, which means it can be fun to drive on the right road. That’s where the better part of its distinctive personality comes from.
What the Yeti does borrow from today’s SUVs is flexibility, practicality and, if it’s a four-wheel drive model, real off-roading ability. The VarioFlex rear seat system – which allows you to slide the bench forwards and backwards, remove it entirely or pull out only the middle chair to create more second-row space for two – gives the Yeti a level of versatility few other cars can match.
For all of those reasons, it is close to incomparable as an affordable family car a decade after its launch. The cheapest official Approved Used cars start at around £7000 and many of them have covered fewer than 50,000 miles. The 4×4 models start at £8000 and it’s worth paying that bit extra. Not only does a second driven axle make the Yeti better suited to winter driving (particularly when matched with winter tyres), but the four-wheel-drive cars also benefited from a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension architecture.
The 2.0-litre turbodiesel that you’ll find beneath the bonnet of the vast majority of these Yeti 4x4s is strong and torque-rich, whether it’s in the lower, 138bhp state of tune or the higher 168bhp specification. Upwards of 45mpg is well within reach, too. Approved Used Skodas come with a 12-month warranty and roadside assistance over the same term, although buyers have the option of upgrading to 24-month cover.
What’s most agreeable about the Yeti, though, is that Skoda’s designers and engineers were able to peer into an enormous warehouse packed to the rafters with VW Group mechanical components, all of them very well used across the business and long since over-familiar, and yet they pulled down only the right parts and wrapped them up in a funky body to create not only an original concept but also a very charming car. With the Yeti having now been replaced by the Russian-doll Karoq, we’ll probably never see its like again.
Need to know
The Yeti’s slightly odd front styling won’t be to all tastes, not least due to its somewhat gawky foglights. Skoda updated the car with a more conventional front end in 2013 and these models aren’t much more expensive today.
On top of the VarioFlex rear seat system, the front passenger seat can also be folded forward into a horizontal position. That means the Yeti can be used to transport very long objects, such as rolled-up carpets or, er, guttering.
A number of owners have reported issues with hesitating engines. This can be fixed by the fitment of a shim beneath the turbo solenoid, which is a cheap and simple repair that should have been applied to an approved car.
Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI 4×4 170: A 4×4 Yeti with the more potent diesel engine is uniquely appealing: quick, good to drive and practical. On a set of mud and snow tyres, it’ll also go much farther into the woods than you might imagine.
Skoda Yeti 1.2 TSI: Front-drive Yetis don’t have the 4×4’s low-grip traction and aren’t as fun to drive, but it’ll be more than adequate in most circumstances. The 1.2-litre petrol engine is cleaner, too.