- Max Speed
When the promo material accompanying a revised car breathlessly heralds the arrival of "a new warning-vest holder under the driver seat" and a spectacles compartment, it's a safe sign you're looking at a facelift from the ‘if it ain't broke, stop meddling' school of thought.
But why would Skoda want to meddle with the Yeti? Since its introduction in 2009, the blocky crossover has been a smash hit, shifting almost three million units and accounting for one of every 25 cars sold in the EU.
So this is more touch-up than overhaul. The Yeti gets a new face that is "more horizontally accentuated" - apparently design-speak for ‘a bit sneerier' - and for the first time can be had with keyless entry, and an optional rear-view camera and self-park system. Despite its poshing-up, the Yeti feels like a machine that in 30 years will still be bumbling around, half a million miles on the clock, every panel dented but relentlessly plodding on.
If that makes the Yeti sound a bit... Defender-esque, a bit rough around the edges, it isn't. Far from it. Drive the Yeti blindfolded and... well, you'd probably crash, immediately and horribly. But drive the Yeti blindfolded in, say, an abandoned Disneyland car park in the aftermath of a medium-sized nuclear storm, and you would be hard pushed to tell you were in a high(ish)-riding soft roader rather than a family hatch: the controls are crisp, the ride refined, the journey quiet. True, most modern soft roaders manage a passable hatchback impression, but few combine it with the sense that they could gambol up a Grampian if called upon. It's a smart trick that no little SUV nails so convincingly as the Yeti.
We drove the mid-spec 109bhp 2.0-litre diesel (there are also 138bhp and 168bhp versions of the same engine, along with a 104bhp 1.6 diesel, and 1.2 and 1.8-litre petrols). It's a smooth, frugal unit, though if you're planning on loading your Yeti with anything weightier than a consignment of organic helium, you might want to consider one of the more powerful versions. Speaking of which, the basest Yetis remain front-wheel drive, while the punchier versions get four-wheel drive - with the latest Haldex system - as standard. On this diesel, you can add it at a cost of around £1,500, which, if Britain keeps up its recent penchant for Siberia-spec winters, is probably a worthwhile investment. And, hey, it gives you something to talk about once you've exhausted your vest-holder-and-spectacles-compartment chat...
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