What is it?
The Skoda Yeti. With just enough cosmetic alterations to justify a second look before the manufacturer turns its attention to a replacement.
The biggest twist is a split in the range; the straight-up Yeti (almost exactly the same as before, and now called the ‘City’) is joined by one dubbed the ‘Outdoor’, which gets a more rugged look courtesy of black, slightly rehashed bumpers and side skirts.
For devotees, the gentlest of facelifts adjusts the fog light position, moves the Skoda badge and adds an LED strip of daytime illumination to the front headlights.
Technological changes are even thinner on the ground; the engine line-up is a carry over with the 1.2-litre TSI, 1.8-litre TSI, 1.6-litre TDI (in fuel-sipping Greenline format only) and 2.0-litre TDI arriving in the UK. The latter is split into 108bhp, 138bhp and 168bhp variants, with the likely best-selling middleweight tested here, in 4×4 guise.
Despite the drag on efficiency, the all-wheel-drive Yetis remain highly popular, and are given a modest boost here with the introduction of Haldex’s fifth-generation clutch system, which replaces the hydraulic reservoir with an electric pump – speeding up response times and lowering component weight. A bit.
There’s also a rough road package (added underfloor protection) and an off-road button inside if you buy from sufficiently high up in the S, SE, Elegance, Laurin & Klement trim range. The switch retunes the traction, ABS and stability control for slippery ground.
What’s it like?
Given that nothing of any great significance has changed, to drive the Skoda Yeti is much like it was before. Which is to say rather good.
In a segment which actively seeks to promote the nimbleness and convenience of a hatchback-style dynamic, Skoda’s crossover is one of the few that actually manages to convey it convincingly. Despite its moderate high-sidedness, there’s very little discernible body roll, plenty of grip and a compact footprint to help along a bushy-tailed sense of agility.
As a result it hardly flinches at a more aggressive approach to the school run – aided better by the 2.0-litre TDI than the surprisingly breathless 1.2-litre TSI – and despite tending towards a firmer stance, is damped efficiently enough to not seem brittle. As it does elsewhere, the standard VW Group stability-first chassis tune allows caution to be thrown to the wind, and doesn’t often bother to call the Haldex into action on the road.
Off it, the Yeti cuts a decent enough dash, too. No amount of button pushing will adjust the ride height, so its capabilities are always going to be stuck in short-trousers, but the updated clutch gets on top of a loss of traction almost as soon as you’ve registered it – making muddy ruts and slippery ascents a predictable non-issue. The base line ability of the Haldex makes Skoda’s off-road button largely redundant, although the hill descent (as always) takes the potential effort out of declines.
The real pitfalls, such as they are, are not the fault of this gentle facelift; rather it’s the half-decade-old design that’s beginning to creak a bit. While the simple interior is timeless enough for example, the processor responsible for the infotainment system occasionally seems immune from the passage of time at all, so creakingly slow are its computations.
Around it, the cabin has been made to shrink by the introduction of so many bigger, broader rivals – put two men in the front and their elbows will touch; forget getting three in the rear altogether.
Should I buy one?
Unsurprisingly, Skoda’s perfunctory airbrushing of the Yeti’s less significant features has scant affect on our overall opinion of it. From the driver’s seat, there’s much to recommend, it being daintier and a mite more potent than some of the other sad sacks that have since launched in the segment.
Nevertheless, it does not command a view of the class. The car tested, the one you’d want albeit in pricey Elegance spec, is £23,850. For very similar money you could have a mid-range, much bigger, better looking and equally well equipped all-wheel-drive Kia Sportage or Hyundai ix35.
It says something of the journey of the Skoda brand that its hard-won reputation will help it hold on to customers and downscalers, but family buyers have been given no new reason not to buy Korean.
Skoda Yeti Outdoor 2.0 TDI CR 4X4 Elegance
Price £23,850; 0-62mph 9.9 sec; Top speed 118mph; Economy 50.4mpg (combined); CO2 149g/km; Engine 4-cyl, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power 138bhp at 4200rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual
What is it?