At Motoroids, the Skoda Yeti 4×4 has been one of our all time favourite machines. We have heaped praises on this extremely versatile, extremely well-engineered, if a bit unusual looking machine in the past, have taken it out for some challenging multi-day drives on and off the road and have come back stupefied. Thanks to its incredible on-road manners, especially in the 4×4 guise, we have always looked forward to putting ourselves behind the wheel of this exceptional automobile.
So the invite from Skoda to drive the latest version of the Yeti in Kashmir valley, in the lap of the Himalayas, the abode of the Abominable Snowman, which lends the contraption its interesting name, came across as a lip smacking proposition. Incessant rains in the valley, the worst in the past six decades, made the experience even more challenging, to put it mildly. Wet, broken, water logged terrain, small intermittent landslides and scarily violent, overflowing rivers in view, we piloted this machine through an atypically challenging Kashmiri weather for this time of the year. Here’s how the stocky little thing fared in a rather unusual setting in its backyard.
Design and styling
The previous Yeti exuded loads of character. It was a non conformist design with a uniquely styled fascia featuring oddly positioned, big, round fog lamps overlapping the inner end of the headlamps, lending it its exceptional, if a bit quirky personality. For its 2014 avatar, the wild Yeti seems to have somewhat been groomed to appeal more to the traditionalists. The new design also conforms to new Skoda family design, with sharper, edgier lines and a clearer, crystalline form.
To achieve this, the new Yeti gets a new headlamp with sharply styled outlines. Below the headlamps, the car now features new straight LED Daytime Running Lights. The new fog lamps have gone down and are now angular, narrow and rectangular in shape to lend a wider stance to the car. The shape of the chrome radiator grille rim is new, and it forms a trough at the top to create space for the Skoda logo, which was earlier borne by the grille itself.
The bumper is new, and now has a more angular look. The lower grille, or the central air dam, if you will, has been restyled and so have been the air intakes flanking it. The satin silver garnish surrounding the lower grille has also been given a makeover with three rectangular, narrow slits in the lower portion lending some more attitude to the SUVs. The aforementioned changes bestow the Yeti’s face with a cleaner, if slightly less funky look and make it more recognizable as a Skoda product in a fleeting glance.
In profile, the ORVMs and side moulding inserts are now finished in a satin silver shade as a differentiator over the previous model. The 4×4 and 4×2 variants are further differentiated by their 10 spoke ‘Forest’ or the 5 spoke ‘Dolomite’ alloys respectively. The wheel arches on the new model are a bit more flared than the previous version, too, and are home to practically sized 16 inch wheels.
At the rear, the new Yeti now features the characteristic Skoda C-shaped tail-lamps with LED illumination. The bumper is restyled with the reflector elements having been moved higher up for better visibility. The tail-gate gets upwards tapering twin creases surrounding the registration plate. Even the faux diffuser has been restyled.
Skoda will be offering the Yeti with a funky bi-color roof available in black/white/silver shades for the 2014 version. A contrasting roof looks fabulous on this machine in the flesh, adding bundles of character and uniqueness to its form.
The Yeti, even with this comprehensive facelift has not lost its soul though. Sure, it’s more civilized, more in tune with the family design, and more recognizable as a Skoda product, but just a glance, and you cannot mistake it for anything but a Yeti. The design team at Skoda sure deserves a pat on its back for pulling off the fine balance.
Cabin and equipment
Inside the cabin, Skoda have introduced plenty of new features, making the Yeti an even more comfortable and well-equipped place to be. While the interior appears similar to the previous version in the first look, subtle, but very useful changes have been made on the inside.
The most striking alteration is the introduction of the new three spoke, leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel. Cruise Control is a new inclusion on the Yeti and the controls can be seen integrated on the lights stalk below the steering wheel on the left.
The fabulous sounding Bolero audio system on the Yeti is now offered with Bluetooth connectivity. In addition, Skoda have also introduced the Multimedia Device Interface socket on the Yeti’s centre console. MDI allows you to easily play music from external devices (MP3 player, cell phone) in your car. The connected device is controlled via Skoda radio or navigation system. Connecting cables with the iPod, iPhone, mini USB, USB or Aux-in (3, 5mm jack) are available from the Skoda Genuine Accessories. Even with a world of connectivity options we did miss the USB socket, though the system comes equipped with an SD car reader as an alternative.
Other new inclusions on the dashboard comprise of a keyless entry and stop start system with the Stop/Start button positioned under the steering wheel, where you generally have a car’s ignition slot. Skoda have also introduced tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on the new Yeti with a dedicated reset button on the centre console.
A nice touch to the interior is the steel pedal set with rubber ribs. The driver’s seat is now powered and also features memory for three positions. Another new, but invisible feature is the light assistant feature which keeps the headlights on while approaching or leaving the vehicle for illumination and guidance.
The new Yeti now comes with power foldable external RVMs. The rear central armrest is wide, table-like and comes with twin cup-holders. The seat belt for the central (third) occupant at the rear seat winds back into the roof, with the buckle slotting neatly into a designated slot.
As before, the Yeti comes with the incredibly versatile Varioflex seat concept which allows you to either fold the seats flat in a 40:20:40 ratio or remove them completely to fit in a bunch of mountain bikes.
The list of new features on the 2014 Skoda Yeti, over and above the features available in the previous version are provided below. For the 2014 version, the Yeti will be available only in the top of the line, fully loaded Elegance variant. The Active and Ambition variants have been discontinued
- Bi-Xenon headlights
- LED daylight and retractable washers
- LED tail-lamps
- Cruise control
- Power Driver seat with memory for 3 seat
- Power folding external mirror
- Bluetooth Connectivity for audio system
- MDI connectivity with Bolero Audio system
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring
- Light assist
- Bi-color roof (black/white/silver)
- Keyless Entry and Start-Stop system
- Side door mouldings with polished Aluminium insert
- Table function on rear middle seat with cup holders
- Polished Aluminium-look pedal set with rubber inserts
- 16”Alloy wheels
In addition, the features from the previous gen Yeti continue to be available. The list is provided below
- ABS+ASR+ESC stabilty control
- Cornering front fog lights
- Sun shades and under-seat storage cases
- Power and heated door mirrors
- Auto dimming external mirrors
- Rain sensor
- Front & rear parking sensors
- Front & rear power windows
- Rear windscreen wash-wipe and defogger
- Silver roof rails
- Dual front + side + curtain airbags
- Bolero audio player w/ CD changer, 8 speakers
- Multi function steering wheel with audio controls
- Off-road Assistant with hill descent control (4×4)
- Climatronic AC with rear vents
- Leather upholstery with wood inserts
Engine, transmission and performance
Skoda haven’t changed a thing about the engine and transmission options available on the Yeti, and the vehicle continues to be available with the 2.0 liter TDI engine in two states of tune. For the less expensive 4×2 variant, the engine produces a peak power of 110PS @ 4200 rpm and peak torque rated at 250Nm between 1500-2500 rpm. The top of the line 4×4 version, on the other hand gets a more powerful version of the engine with 140PS on tap, produced at 4200 rpm, while an impressive 320Nm of peak torque is produced at 1750-2500 rpm.
While the 4×2 variant comes with a 5 speed transmission, the more powerful 4×4 variant comes equipped with a 6 speed manual transmission as before. The only mechanical change on the vehicle is the new fifth generation Haldex clutch. The new design AWD system aims at simplifying things and making integration into the drivetrain more convenient. The fifth gen system employs a new electro-hydraulic clutch actuator with a centrifugal overflow valve design to juggle power better between the front and rear axles. The new system does away with the need to for an accumulator, solenoid valve and filter, and is also 1.4 kg lighter than the previous gen version.
We drove the 4×2 variant for the media drive. At 110 PS, the power may not sound too enticing for a vehicle that weighs close to one and a half tons, but in practice, the Yeti even with the lesser of the two engines is a fun machine to drive. There is some turbo lag to be experienced, and the engine pulls with force only once the turbo has properly spooled up post the 2000 rpm mark. Below that point, you do tend to expect a bit more from the motor. Beyond the 2K mark, however, the Yeti accelerates with reassurance and during our drive to Gulmarg and Sonamarg, made light work of the winding inclines, the generous 250Nm of torque coming mighty handy.
The 140 PS engine on the Yeti 4×4, also powering the Skoda Octavia, Superb and the Audi A3 is a different monster though. The 110PS version, though suitably powered, doesn’t quite feel as engaging and enthralling to drive as its bigger cousin. While we did not drive the 4×4 variant on this specific drive, having driven the previous gen variant for thousands of kilometres on earlier occasions, the difference was easily perceptible. The 4×4 version’s AWD system also aids grip and stability on the limit and makes it an even more appealing car for the enthusiasts.
The clutch on the new Yeti is lighter as compared with the previous version. Except that, the drive feel remains more or less the same as on the earlier model – the best for any mainstream SUV. Quite honestly, there isn’t another SUV this side of Rs 20 lakh which can match the Yeti for grip, an involving steering and fantastic poise.
We would have loved to see the twin clutch DSG automatic transmission on this car, which would have made it a properly distinguished premium SUV. Not only would the auto transmission have made the Yeti a more convenient car to drive, with the quick shifting DSG, it would probably have been more enjoyable too. For now, however, we hear that the manual transmissions are something we will have to live with, as Skoda doesn’t have any DSG plans for the Yeti in the foreseeable future.
4×4 and off-road capability
The Yeti 4×4’s AWD gear isn’t a marketing gimmick like some other soft-roaders. It’s a serious kit of hardware and software which actually works very well to get you out of treacherous terrain. Here’s what you need to know about the technical aspects of the Yeti’s 4×4 gear.
Fifth generation Haldex Clutch
The 2014 Yeti features an updated fifth generation Haldex clutch. It’s quite advanced, and doesn’t need any inputs from the driver to sense trouble. On dry roads, 96% of the engine’s torque is delivered to the front wheels. However, if required, the Haldex clutch can divert up to 90% of the torque to the rear axle. The limited slip differential on the rear axle distributes drive evenly from side to side, ensuring excellent grip and stability on all surfaces.
Engine revs, throttle pedal position, wheel speed, steering wheel turn angle, brake light switch – everything is monitored to ensure that optimum traction is delivered to all four wheels. So in essence, while the Yeti remains a 4×2 on the road, it turns into a 4×4 as and when you get stuck in grime.
The off-road mode
Right at the very bottom of the centre console, you have the off-road button. Operable at a maximum speed of 30 km/h, the off-road mode adjusts electronic safety systems like ABS, ASR and EDL. It makes the acceleration pedal more sensitive, and puts a cap on maximum achievable revs for the engine. Hill descent assist is also automatically activated in this mode. Activation of the system is signalled by the yellow illumination of the button. The Off-Road mode remains on if the engine is restarted again within 30 second
Uphill start assistant
The uphill start assistant helps the driver start off without rolling back while going uphill. The driver can press the acceleration pedal to maximum because the engine revolutions at move off are limited to 2,500 rpm. The assistant further adjusts the characteristics of the acceleration pedal which facilitates move off on unpaved or slippery surface.
To improve start on soft or low-adhesion surfaces, the ASR system allows more slip of the driving wheels. This function is available for start-up or for speeds below 30 km/h.
The electronic differential lock (EDL)
EDL helps the car react faster and harder in slippery conditions, as compared to the standard mode. The system brakes the slipping wheel/s more promptly, e.g. in crossaxle situations, in order to maintain traction.
In off-road mode, the ABS system is adjusted so as to exploit the ‘wedge effect’, to block the braked wheel and push the ground before it, making a wedge. This makes the braking more efficient. To maintain the steering control of the car, this function is only available when the front wheels are aligned in straight direction and the speed does not exceed 50 km.
The downhill assistant automatically brakes the wheels while going downhill to maintain a constant speed. The ABS also prevents blocking of the wheels, as the car may overturn if the wheels are blocked while being perpendicular with the slope. With the downhill assistant, the driver can fully concentrate on steering and choose the ideal driving path.
Rough Road Package
- The rough road package includes some additions which make the Yeti an even more capable off roader. Here’s the list
- Engine cover with additional acoustic damping, thermoplastic material
- Rear axle covers (left and right) – plastic material
- Handbrake + bracket – reinforced outer cable case
- Brake line – multi – inner layer copper, the main case plate and whole covered with polymeric protective layer
Ride and handling
The new Yeti keeps the fantastic underpinnings of its predecessor, which means that the handling is quite unparalleled up to the segment the vehicle represents in the SUV class. The suspension feels stiff at slow speeds, especially from the back seat. The ride quality gets better as the speed increases, but there is still some stiffness to be experienced on rough, undulating roads.
In all honesty, the Yeti isn’t the plushest vehicle to ferry you around on broken, rough stretches we traversed in the Himalayan valley, though it feels much sorted on the kind of roads we would come across on an everyday basis – broken, but not tattered. And by saying that, we don’t at all mean that the Yeti cannot handle broken terrain – it’s a fairly accomplished off-roader with some serious AWD gear under its courteous visage. It’s just that it doesn’t wallow like a boat while negotiating the torturous terrain, so it feels perfectly on home when you pit it against the racy pretenders around a set of challenging bends.
The real beauty of this machine is about the way it drives on the tar. A flat wide stance, relatively low height, low centre of gravity, wide track and sufficient grip from those 205 section tyres makes this beast capable of generously handing facepalm moments to those supposedly ‘sporty’ sedans. Sharing its underpinnings with the erstwhile Laura, the Yeti drives fantastically well both in a straight line, and around bends. The body roll, for a segment that the Yeti represents is ludicrously minimal, the steering precision and feel, delightful! A fun to drive machine which can off-road to a reasonable extent – the Yeti is a true all rounder for its class.
It’s quite evident, even for Skoda India that the Yeti cannot be a high volume product for the Indian market. Its solid build quality, uncompromised engineering and generous list of features makes it a product which cannot match its compromised counterparts on price. The CKD route adopted for the car’s assembly in India also attracts more duty than on the models which are fully manufactured here. All of that, in our country, where giant sized tin boxes attract more buyers than a proper, well engineered automobile means that the Yeti will appeal only to a discerning few. The ones who buy it would be the erudite bunch of aficionados who would choose it for its versatility and capability, and not just for its size and looks.
Having said all of that, however, the Yeti does sorely miss a DSG automatic transmission. The top honchos at Skoda India by all means should do whatever it takes to persuade the decision makers to get the car equipped with the twin clutch auto. It would help Yeti differentiate itself more authoritatively from other SUVs equipped with agricultural torque converters or agonizingly dawdling CVTs, and present itself as a truly top-of-the line premium product.
Our detailed discussion with Mr Sudhir Rao, Chairman and MD at Skoda India also enlightened us about the extreme measures the company is taking to enhance the experience of its customers as regards spares and service. Details about the extensive steps the company is taking to make buying and living with a Skoda a better experience than ever were shared with us, in a rather convincing manner. The management’s reinvigorated focus on sprucing up its after sales service should bring reassurance to prospective customers with prejudiced opinions towards the brand.
The Yeti is a world-class product featuring uncompromised engineering and generous features. It’s not your budget compact SUV, so it’s going to cost, even if it’s assembled locally. If you don’t have a problem with that, though, you’ll cherish your choice for as long as you own and drive this wonderful, wonderful machine.