Sunday, 16 December 2018

March of the indomitable Yetis

THE good news from last week’s Frankfurt Motor Show — one of the world’s biggest car shows — was that

THE good news from last week’s Frankfurt Motor Show — one of the world’s biggest car shows — was that among the preening new models on show one established favourite will have a new look in 2014.

The Skoda Yeti, although saddled with an odd name, has proved to be an exceptional car and its facelift, announced at Frankfurt, will be welcomed by those who have enjoyed the original model but are now looking to upgrade.

Skoda also announced an entirely new model at Frankfurt, the Rapid Spaceback, which I hope to bring you more details about — and my thoughts on a first drive of the car — at a later date.

Both the new model and the upgraded Yeti are spearheading Skoda’s ongoing expansion plan — what the Czech carmaker calls its Growth Strategy — that aims to increase the brand’s annual sales to at least 1.5 million cars by 2018.

All these lofty ambitions are good for the industry and of course for Skoda which has come on as a carmaker in leaps and bounds under the careful main ownership of Volkswagen.

The Rapid Spaceback and revised Yeti are the latest additions to a game plan that sees the biggest product expansion list in Skoda’s 118-year history. To achieve this, Skoda will launch, on average, one new or revised model every six months.

So these are heady days for a marque once denigrated by its name and former reputation. But a drive of the current Skoda Yeti, this week’s test car, did nothing to diminish it in my eyes. As with some of the other models in the Skoda range — notably the diminutive Citigo, the baby of the range and one of my cars of the year — the Yeti’s qualities come to the fore at that most important moment when you sit behind the wheel.

But before I wax lyrical about the current model and leave Frankfurt entirely let me tell you a little about the new-look Yeti.

Skoda has developed the facelifted Yeti range to incorporate two different variants —Yeti and Yeti Outdoor. The former has been designed to look and feel at home in the big city, and features body-coloured bumpers, side protective mouldings and rear panels to give a smoother, sleeker look.

The Yeti Outdoor features black plastic mouldings that are designed to give this SUV (sports utility vehicle) a “rugged and adventurous” image.

Six different engines will be available across the revised Yeti line-up, with the option of front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.

In addition, the facelifted Yeti offers new alloy wheel designs and fresh interior design features, including steering wheels, new seat fabrics or decorative trim pieces. The Yeti can also be equipped with a parking camera for the first time.

So there you have the new, and there is no reason not to like it. However, as I was saying briefly above, the proof will be in driving the 2014 model.

For now, the current model is still be a recommended buy: its Varioflex system gives the Yeti a flexible array of 20 different seat positions. Safety features include a tyre pressure monitor, disc brakes on all four wheels and activation of warning lights during heavy braking (for example on motorways).

The electromechanical power steering on the Yeti is an excellent feature and with such a range of engines, the choice of performance capability is wide. The Yeti GreenLine II achieves a combined fuel economy of 61.4mpg.

I do wonder if such commitment to turning out new models at such a fast rate might have its drawbacks. Skoda needs to be aware that it not only has to be seen to be competing at the highest level but still has to be mindful of delivering the best cars it can to customers. Customer satisfaction is everything.

The Yeti has proved itself to be a stayer: Skoda should be sure that its new models will have as much chance of emulating the Yeti’s reputation when they leave the factory production line.

Skoda Yeti SE Plus 1.4 TSI

* Price (on-the-road): £18,800


* Combined mpg: 41.5mpg

* CO2: 159g/km

* Maximum speed: 115mph

* 0 to 62mph: 10.5secs

Some key features:

* 17in Dolomite alloy wheels

* 3.5mm aux, socket for MP3 players

* Acoustic rear parking sensors

* Cruise control

* Folding tables on back of front seats

Telephone preparation including Bluetooth GSM II

By Nigel Wigmore

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