The Yeti has an identity crisis. The compact Skoda SUV has moved out of the grainy footage and into the spotlight . Only to be revealed as a Volkswagen with smarter seats. The Czech-based outfit is meant to be the entry level to the VW Group, yet this vehicle is only $300 less than the VW Tiguan it's based on. Not so in the UK, where up to $3000 separates comparable Yeti/Tiguans.
The turbodiesel is the range-topper in the (for now) two model Yeti range and is priced at $35,690 for the six-speed manual, with a $2300 premium for the six-speed DSG auto. It is loaded with features and is priced within $1000 of the Nissan X-Trail, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Kia Sportage.
But then there's the Tiguan at only $300 more and with far more brand authority. Offsetting that is the fact the Yeti picks up 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, a better sound system and dual-zone airconditioning.
The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine produces 103kW and 320Nm and is a proven performer in the VW Group stable. Matched to the six-speed twin-clutch automated manual gearbox, it officially uses 6.7 litres/100km, dropping down to 6.2 litres if buyers opt for the six-speed manual. What makes the Yet special is the VarioFlex rear seats.
The centre pew can be removed and the outside seats moved in to give more elbow room, while they all move fore and aft and can be folded down or taken out entirely depending on cargo.
Unmistakably Skoda, the Yeti stands out from the crowd, though the massive front fog lights blight the front-end. The silver-coloured plastic "U" that surrounds the bottom of the radiator vent gives it some machismo and the boxy rear lets it swallow huge loads once the parcel shelf is removed. Rear visibility is good and, unless you've jacked the front seats right up, you don't have to climb into it.
The Yeti adds a driver's kneebag to trump the Tiguan with seven airbags to six but both are five-star cars. ABS brakes are backed by a hill-hold feature, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist. Stability control is also standard, along with an auto-dimming rear-vision mirror.
Inoffensive is the best description of the compact Skoda on the road. The suspension is firm without being spine-jolting and helps minimise body roll in the turns but the six-speed auto hesitates or requires a hefty kick to jump up or down the cogs from low speeds - it's almost as though it's asking "are you sure?" before responding.
The seven-speed DSG in the Tiguan doesn't do this, so I'm blaming the engineers' search for fuel economy as the cause, given I found myself driving around the problem by either being very light on the pedal or flooring it, depending on the situation. The four-wheel drive system could cope with a deal more than the short stretch of corrugated gravel road Carsguide tested it on.
Practicality as a load-lugger makes the Yeti hard to look past, even at a comparable price to more established brands. It is well-specced and a competent drive on or off the bitumen, so the value equation is certainly not abominable.
Skoda Yeti 103TDI
Price: $35,690 (manual) $37,990 (auto)
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited km
Service interval: 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 6.2 litres/100km diesel, 162g/km CO2 (manual); 6.7
Safety: seven airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC. Crash rating 5-stars
Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder, 103kW/320Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, six-speed auto, all-wheel drive.
Body: Five-door SUV
Dimensions: 4223 (L); 1793mm (W); 1691mm (H); 2578mm (WB)
Tyres: 215/60R16-225/50R17, full-size spare.