Things to look forward to:
. Mature design in flow with the family look
. Plenty of kit
. Car-like driving manners and yet...
. ... quite capable off the beaten path
Things that would make you think twice:
. No base variant
. Engines remain untouched
. Still no DSG yet
. Ride quality can get quite stiff
The SUV segment has bailed out many a manufacturer out of the doldrums thanks to the Indian consumers affinity towards these large hunks of metal. However while most of them have tasted success, there have been a few who despite being capable and better than the competition in most aspects haven't really managed to get the numbers going. The Skoda Yeti belongs to that ‘elite' group as well. While internationally the Yeti has garnered rave reviews, in India its just not been ‘Fortuner', I mean fortunate enough to catch the buyers fancy for a few reasons which may read lame, but are extremely important ones as far as the Indian market is concerned. For starters, it does not have the girth or the presence of a full sized SUV and looks more like a crossover and in India, the bigger the better. That it seats only 5 passengers is another thing that works against it.
Skoda has just updated the Yeti with a face-lift, new interiors and a whole lot of kit. With the changes, Skoda hopes to make things right and convince buyers that looks can be deceiving and that the Yeti is so much more than just a big hunk of metal. We took the abominable car around beautiful Srinagar to tell you what has changed...
Design (4/5 Rating)
The Yeti when it was launched looked quite unique like nothing else on the road. It had a nice blend of boxy and radical bits and along with that integrated fog-light design, the Yeti looked quirky but in a good way. However a majority could not really digest the quirkism and as a result Skoda has stuck to conventional face.
The front now gets the new family look with the sharp Bi-Xenon headlamps which now incorporate straight daytime running LED's. Gone are those fantastic fog lights which were earlier integrated with the headlight. The new car gets split fog lamps at the conventional spot and are now rectangular in shape. The lower grille gets quite a few detailed touches as well with a silver insert highlighting the otherwise black grille.
On the sides, the silhouette remains the same, barring a new alloy wheel design that's highlighted by the accentuated wheel arch's and the roof rails the side view mirrors which now get a silver treatment. And finally towards the back, there are new LED tail-lamps which look quite cool thanks to the C-effect that they generate.
The rear bumpers are all new too with a new fake diffuser and the high mounted reflectors. Overall, the Yeti looks all grown up now and while i personally preferred the old quirky looks, the current design will appeal to the common ‘janta' a whole lot more. But will it appeal to the buyers who prefer SUV's in their most conventional form (big and macho) remains to be seen. Besides, colors like White, Black and Silver are available for roof and ORVMs.
Interiors (4/5 Rating)
While the basic layout of the interiors are the same, the Yeti now gets a lot of important add-ons which were missing in the original car. Slipping into the drivers seat, you don't really feel you're inside an SUV as that high perched position is missing, but you do feel very comfortable thanks to those brilliant seats which not only hold you in place well but also offer very good support in all the right places making long drives a breeze.Finding the right seating position is a lot easier now thanks to the electrically adjustments available (only for the drivers seat) along with memory function.
The steering wheel is new as well and now gets an array of buttons on it to control the audio, Multi-information Display and phone connectivity. The pedals in the foot-well stand out as well thanks to the sporty aluminium finish.
The dashboard looks and feels great in black and beige with a fake wood insert that it could do without. Plenty of storage place around with the arm-rest cabin being quite deep as well.
The multimedia interface is touch screen and now there is also a multimedia device interface to connect various devices. Moving to the rear, legroom remains identical to the earlier car which is quite good and so are the seats. A big plus in the Yeti is the Varioflex seat which now comes with a table function as well. The rear seats can be folded or removed completly to make place for more luggage. The centre armrest doubles up as an armrest and a cup-holder even after its folded down, very smart indeed. For a family of five, the Yeti is as comfortable as it can get. It scores high on safety part as well, protective features like HHC, ASR, TCS, EDL, ESP, HDC, 6 airbags, etc are also on offer with the new Yeti.
Engine and Performance (4.5/5)
The Yeti came equipped with the same diesel engines that then powered the Laura as well. The 2.0 TDI unit in two different state of tunes are carried over in the new Yeti as well which is not a bad thing at all. The front wheel drive only variant gets 110 PS and 250 Nm of torque, while the 4x4 version gets 140 PS and 320 Nm. While power and torque outputs remain the same, the new 4x4 Yeti gets a 5th generation Haldex clutch unit which is a tad bit easier to engage compared to the earlier car which operated on a point and stalled plenty of times.
Since the weather was playing havoc big time in Srinagar we did not manage to get our hands on the 4x4 variant but managed plenty of driving time with the 4x2. With almost all kinds of terrain that included some good roads, broken roads, plenty of twisty's and then then some the Yeti managed to induce a smile from us on most of them. The 110 PS motor pulls hard and will make light work of the Dusters and their like and almost revs like a petrol unit should you decide to give it the beans. However it does warrant a lot of shifting of that brilliant 5-speed gearbox (6-speed in the 4x4) as the Yeti does not like to putter around at low speeds in a relatively higher gear.
Handling is brilliant as well and the Yeti will shame a lot of sedans and hatchbacks with its dynamic skills. Very good steering response along with that well set up suspension means the Yeti can carve corners at a more than decent pace as well. However, the trade off is the ride quality which can get harsh at times. Broken roads and sharp ridges filter into the cabin and can get quite jarring, but if you have the heart and just pummel through them, the Yeti will gobble up all.
From the brief two day sprint that we had, the new Yeti comes across just as capable as the earlier car but with far more universal appeal than its predecessor. The design changes have made it look more mature and more contemporary as well. Skoda haven't skimped on features this time either and the Yeti comes loaded with stuff like, Bi-Xenon headlights, cruise control, touch screen MMI with MDI connectivity, tyre pressure monitoring, keyless entry and a whole lot more.
The downside however is that if you are on a budget and are looking for a base variant of the Yeti, it does not exist anymore. The new Yeti will be available in top of the line Elegance trim only for the 4x2 and 4x4 versions. Now frankly I do not consider this as a wise move because the number of variants available only helps in increasing the cars reach across a broader spectrum of buyers. While the prices are yet to be unveiled, expect the new Yeti 4x2 to be priced around 16 lakh while the 4x4 will be around 20 lakh. An exhaustive road-test coming up soon will tell us how good the 4x4 version is out in the real world conditions while the cars launch on Sept 10th will tell us if the market is finally ready for this radical Skoda or not.