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Driven: New Skoda Yeti

Driven September 2014

Driven: New Skoda Yeti

India is warming up to the idea of a small SUV. In fact it has, when it comes to small SUVs that costs under 12-15 lakhs. But get past that, and things get a bit sticky. One of the reasons why the wonderful Yeti never blitzed the sales chart. Skoda claims that nearly half the number of the Yeti test drives get converted into a purchase, something very few cars can boast of. Of course, the challenge was making customers head to the dealership to take that test drive, thanks to a faltering network. The latter is another story and something Skoda India is brazenly pursuing, but in the meanwhile, it isn’t losing focus on its product range, even if it means something as low volume as the Yeti.

This here, is the mid-life refresh for the model, which in a couple of years will be replaced with an all new car. And the facelift is substantial. Apart from the pillars and silhouette, practically the entire outer skin of the car has been redesigned. Starting with the face, the new Yeti gets a bolder, flatter grille for the current family look. The headlights are the major change, with the two separate round ones giving way to an all-new unit, and the fog lamps moving to a more conventional slot on the bumper. The rear hatch now has an angular centre section, where the numberplate goes, and the taillamps get LEDs that light up to form a C. There is little that's changed in profile, except for the new alloy wheel design and a dual-colour scheme, where you can have the roof in either black, silver or white, despite the car colour you choose. Rather cool, we think.

The interior layout is largely untouched, but there are some more notable additions to the equipment list, like electrically adjustable driver seats, keyless entry (button start), a new multi-function steering wheel, a newer Multimedia Device Interface, and tyre pressure monitoring system. Auto headlamps and cruise control also are now standard features on the Yeti.

Mechanically, as expected, there are not many changes to the vehicle. Under the hood there is a 2.0-litre common-rail diesel engine in two tune levels. The base 4x2 comes with a 109bhp engine mated to a five-speed manual, while the 4x4 gets 138bhp of peak power and one extra cog in the gearbox. Despite being an SUV, the one plus side of its smaller, less intimidating body is that the Yeti is incredibly fun to the drive. The sharp clutch, quick shifts and an eager engine makes it easy to hustle around. A smart 4x4 with e-diff gives the Yeti an unimaginable speed in shifting power from wheels that are losing traction to those which have. Body roll is controlled and the steering weighs well and manages to constantly communicate with the driver. Ride is a bit on the firmer side, but it can tackle bad roads with minimum fuss.

The world over, Yeti has been quite successful. But being tech-laden, it is a costly proposition – something Indians haven’t taken too kindly, considering it’s relatively tiny proportions. But as an SUV, the Yeti is quite capable of tackling rough roads and at the same time offer a fun-to-drive car on the tarmac. The facelift does give it a more family look, and makes it look less odd-ball than before. An automatic transmission is still missing from the party, which would have given it more takers. But to bring a sense of value, the new Yeti will be available in only the top-of-the-line Elegance variant, which apart from a reversing camera and GPS has almost all the feature boxes ticked. Including those like hill descent/ascent control, making the new Yeti a more modern and complete SUV. Of course, at ₹18.63 lakh for the 4x2 variant, it isn’t cheap, but we still hope to see more of the Yeti on our roads.

The verdict
Not your conventional XL size but combines the wholesome capability of a top-notch SUV’s bad road capability with car-like on-road manners. Looks less odd-ball now too.

The numbers
LxWxH: 4222x1793x1645mm, Wheelbase: 2578mm, Ground Clearance: 180mm, Boot space: 416litres, Turning circle (dia): 10m, Fuel tank: 55-60 litres, Kerb weight: 1445-1543kg, Engine: 1968, 4cyl, turbo diesel, AWD, Power: 109bhp (4x2)/ 138bhp (4x4), Torque: 250Nm (4x2)/ 320Nm (4x4), FE: 17.67-17.72kpl (claimed), Tyres: 215/60 R16, Gearbox: 5M (4x2)/ 6M (4x4), Price: ₹18.63 lakh (4x2 Elegance), ₹20.14 lakh (4x4 Elegance) (ex-showroom, Maharashtra)

Girish Karkera

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