The Skoda Yeti, if you were to dine with it, would showcase impeccable table manners, insightfully select the right wine, order supple meat in a light sauce with a balanced portion of greens and tip generously. Its competition, meanwhile, would, in between burps, shout out for an extra helping of tandoori chicken, slam bottles of whisky down after frantic swigs and would have to be escorted out of the premises well past bedtime. To use automotive terminology, the Yeti is much more car-like than its competition.
Indeed, if you hop into one right after getting out of a sedan, you won’t take long to acclimatise to its mannerisms. The dimensions aren’t much of a bother, and the visibility is excellent. The Yeti is a big car that performs fairly well off the road but is still as easy to drive as a sedan.
So, what’s new about this Yeti? Here’s what. The old Yeti grabbed eyeballs because of its cheeky, borderline-oddball looks; the new one aspires to be beefy and imposing and, to an extent, it succeeds. The Yeti’s design falls in line with the rest of the Skoda family — I wish an exception had been made, given the Yeti’s exclusivity — and looking at it long enough does make it seem appealing. It certainly doesn’t have the shock value of the older car, but it does look cool and will probably age well too.
Skoda has always created exceptional interiors, and they have only gotten better. From the 3-spoke steering wheel with chrome inserts and steering controls to the two-tone dashboard, the Yeti’s interiors are special. The controls are well-finished, and so is the in-dash infotainment screen, which gels well with the cool, outdoorsy feel of the car. The dark wood trim adds to the feel of opulence, and the overall layout is pleasant if not breathtaking. You will be familiar with this layout if you own the current-gen Octavia, and that’s no bad thing. Just watch out for the carpeted beige flooring when stepping in during the monsoon — I speak from experience.
The Yeti is available only in ‘Elegance’ trim and in this spec, it gets a whole lot of features. How does an assortment of six airbags, climate control, touchscreen infotainment, leather seats, parking sensors and bi-Xenon headlamps sound to you? It’s not all perfect, though. In addition to offering USB connectivity only by means of an aftermarket adapter (why?), the Yeti doesn’t get a reversing camera — a must on a car of its dimensions, and not much to ask for given cars less than half its price offer one these days.
Moving on, I’m happy to report, the Yeti is just as much fun as the one it replaces. You can buy it with either a 109bhp, 2-litre TDI engine (with a 5-speed manual gearbox and 4×2 setup) or the 4×4 version, which employs the same engine but produces 138bhp and uses the services of a 6-speed gearbox. The only real annoyance in the old Yeti was the sharp clutch action — stalling was, usually, the only way forward — and that, thankfully, has been worked on. It still isn’t optimal, but getting used to it is far easier than on the old car.
The Yeti is immensely involving and is as zippy in the city as it is potent on the highways. Even with a load of four passengers and luggage, the Yeti doesn’t lose steam. It strikes a sweet balance between suspension firmness for enthusiastic driving and softness to pamper the occupants. It is a lovely car to take on a family holiday.
Is it a step in the right direction for Skoda, then? Yes, in a gentle way. The Yeti is a car that has not been designed in a board meeting — it reeks of fun and driving pleasure — and, as such, it deserves to be egged on by Skoda. Its makers have certainly injected fresh life into what is a deserving car, and you’ll do well to get your hands on one. It hasn’t gotten any cheaper however. Starting at Rs 19 lakhs (ex-showroom, New Delhi), the Yeti is pricey, but let’s just call it the price of cool, shall we?