TO today’s car-makers, success is a three-letter word. Those letters are SUV … sports utility vehicle, and the demand for them is growing year on year. At the time of writing, what the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders terms ‘dual purpose vehicles’ now make up the third biggest sales segment in the UK.
Yes, there’s an eager appetite for SUVs of all sizes, and, for those with deep pockets, it is telling that while latest figures show sales of luxury cars have risen 10 per cent in the UK, those of luxury SUVs has risen by a whopping 45 per cent. The Skoda Yeti, which has been recently updated, doesn’t fall into the latter category. But the one I drove on behalf of Flush Magazine, an Outdoor Elegance 2.0 TDI, did have the luxury of full leather upholstery and a feast of tasty kit.
Key features on all elegance models include 17inch alloys, bi-xenon headlights with cornering function and dynamic angle control, LED daytime running lights and light assistant (think coming home, leaving home, tunnels etc), boarding lights integrated into door mirrors, rain sensor, rear parking sensors, electrically adjustable folding and heated door mirrors, and sunset glass for rear and rear-side windows.
Indoors, you’ll find the likes of a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, dual zone air-con with humidity sensor and control, cruise control, heating and height adjustment for both driver’s and front passenger seats, radio/CD player (six CD changer) with MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth and a removable LED lamp in the luggage compartment.
On the safety front you’ve got lots more three-letter words, with ABS, EBV, MSR, ASR and EDS but a sample. This hi-tech kit sits alongside airbags aplenty including curtain and driver’s knee.
You can specify your Yeti in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive, the former for those who want SUV attributes including elevated driving position, but feel they don’t need the extra drivetrain. The car’s 4×4 system senses what is happening on each wheel and quickly transfers power or automatically applies brakes when needed to give more grip or drive to keep you on your chosen path.
There’s also the off-road button, which brings all manner of electronic systems into play to help the car successfully tackle the really rough stuff. It works really well, as I found a while ago on an off-road course in the hills not far from Barcelona, when the Yetis I drove tackled mud wallows, deep ruts, loose gravel and daunting inclines with ease.
This time round my driving was confined to the British highway, although, in its current pot-holed state, some stretches are beginning to resemble off-road sections.
The Yeti is a doddle to drive and handles in impeccable fashion. The DSG transmission, which can be used in full auto mode or as a selectable gearbox, makes the going easy and is well matched to the two litre, 140bhp diesel engine, which is a bit growly on start-up but soon settles to a pleasant note.
Exterior styling cues for the Outdoor model are visibly more rugged than for others in the range, its strong presence a result of its newly-designed front and rear bumpers and black body-styling.
The test car also benefited from an optional £200 ‘rough road package’, which comprises plastic covers and reinforcements for mechanical areas on the underside of the car.
The Yeti also scores on the practicality front – the U for utility of SUV – with great cabin storage and plenty of luggage space, as I found when I helped my daughter move apartments during a loan of the original Yeti. And there’s a clever seating arrangement, known as Varioflex, which allows seats to be moved forwards, backwards, reclined, rolled up individually or even removed.
The ultimate question after a week’s road test of any motor is, would you buy one? My answer for the Yeti is in the affirmative.It’s a thoroughly accomplished car and a definite front-runner in the great SUV race.
Make/model: Skoda Yeti Outdoor Elegance 2.0 TDI
Technical: 1,968cc, four-cylinder turbo-charged diesel engine with DSG transmission and four-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph, 10.2 seconds; top speed, 116mph
Fuel: 44.8mpg (combined)
Price; £24,950 OTR