Skoda Yeti review: The suave snowman

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Sep 13 2014, 19:00pm hrs
Skoda YetiFor Rs 18.99 lakh (two-wheel drive) and Rs 20.53 lakh (all-wheel drive), the Skoda Yeti sits in a unique segment.
The conditions, until the day we took the new Skoda Yeti out on roads around Srinagar last week, were just right. It had rained the previous night, so there were waterlogged roads for us to check out the SUVs under-body insulation; there was slush for us to inspect its 4x4 ability; tiny intermittent landslides to check out its ground clearance; and misty conditions to gauge the effectiveness of its fog lamps.* Driving in the land of the Abominable Snowmanfrom which the Yeti takes its namewe did a little research as to why it is named so. The name was given by its design team, for they believed that this SUV has the ability to survive in most conditions, and that it is one of a kind, just like the mythical Himalayan snowman. So, how good is the Yeti in its latest avatar

Exterior

After the Octavia and the Superb donned Skodas new design philosophy, it was the turn of the Yeti (the next is the Rapid, which will soon be redesigned). Gone is the love-me-or-hate-me front fascia that consisted of lamps within the lamps. Now the front has a strong emphasis on horizontal, precise linesthere are clean edges and the new logo is neatly placed on top of the grille. While from the sides it still looks boxy, the wheel houses have a stronger shape. Though the rear also looks more or less the same, the Yeti now gets the characteristic Skoda tail-lamps and a restyled bumper. What especially attracts attention is the contrasting roof; for instance, you can choose silver roof rails with a matte black roof.

Interior

The three-spoke multifunctional steering wheeladjustable for height and reachlooks good. There is ample space all around and even rear-seat passengers get enough legroom. All three rear seats have adjustable backrests and can be folded down. The boot is large and a low loading lip adds to convenience. Overall, the quality is good, materials used are premium, and there is ample space.

Drive

The Yeti comes with two diesel engine optionsthe 2.0 TDI (109 bhp) two-wheel drive mated to five-speed manual transmission and the 2.0 TDI (138 bhp) all-wheel drive mated to six-speed manual transmission. Both engines provide brisk acceleration. While the clutch is now lighter than that in the outgoing model, driving in a citys bumper-to-bumper traffic, when you have to use the clutch too often, can be bit of a pain. Visibility is good and, thanks to large ORVMs and sensors, parking this small SUV is a breeze. The rear passengers may find the ride a bit jerky, especially on bad roads. But as far as sheer driving experience is concerned, the Yeti is hard to beat at this price point. However, if the Yeti has to really portray Skodas technology at its best, it must come with the famed DSG automatic transmission option.

Safety

True to Skodas character, the Yeti gets ample safety features. So you get electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system, engine braking control, brake assistant, anti-slip regulation, etc. Inside the cabin the passengers are protected by six airbags. Further, there is the hill-hold control assistant that activates itself on inclines of 5% or more and ensures safe uphill starting without the use of the handbrake. It gets four disc brakes as standard. In fact, in 2009, the Yeti was awarded five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test.

Verdict

For Rs 18.99 lakh (two-wheel drive) and Rs 20.53 lakh (all-wheel drive)ex-showroom, Delhithe Yeti sits in a unique segment. It costs a few lakh rupees less than the Fortuner and a few lakh more than the XUV500 AWD. Though smaller than both, the Yeti gets more equipment than the Fortuner and has a better build quality than the XUV500. However, steep pricing means the Yeti may yet again find it difficult to attract Indian buyers. Moreover, soon enough, it will also face competition from the Duster AWD.

* The drizzle that started during the days we were driving the Yeti in Srinagar turned into a heavy downpour and caused havoc in the Valley. We pray for peoples safety in flood-hit J&K.

50% of the customers who test drive the Yeti end up buying it

The Yeti is about establishing an image and portraying Skodas technology at its best, says Sudhir Rao, chairman & managing director, Skoda Auto India. In an interaction with FEs Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that the Yeti, though it is an SUV, makes sense even for a customer who would otherwise consider only a sedan.

We have found that the Yeti is a driver-focused SUV

The driving dynamics of the Yeti are impeccable; it performs well within the city and its off-road performance is very good. So as to reach out to the right customer, what we now need is a targeted marketing approach. We are looking for customers who appreciate good riding dynamics, and are discerning enough to understand that an SUV doesnt really stand for a vehicle that simply combines macho looks and large size. We have also been able to improve the rear-seat comfort in this new model. Yes, the Yeti doesnt seat seven, but it can carry five people in comfort. Here I must add that 50% of the customers who take the test drive of the Yeti, actually end up buying it.

Who is the Yeti customer

Our target customer is a person who drives mid-size sedans such as the Verna or the City, or slightly bigger cars such as the Corolla, the Elantra or even the Octavia. The dividing line between the sedan and the SUV is diminishing and customers are crossing this line fairly easily. Moreover, since the Yeti is very car-like to drive, such customers would readily love this SUV. In fact, the Yeti makes perfect sense for such customersit drives like a car and has more usable space.

Would you be taking the experiential marketing route to sell the Yeti

Anything that goes towards targeting the customers and giving them a pleasurable experience is something we will definitely look at.

People still talk about Skodas relatively poor after-sales services

Our turnaround plan is under way. The message we want to send out to the market is that we have strong products and that we are turning this company around in terms of all its negatives. In fact, the reality is gradually changing, but changing perception may take some time.

Do you believe the previous generation Yeti was hit by the XUV500

No, the Yeti is an altogether different product. The Yeti is about establishing an image and portraying Skodas technology at its best. Volumes was never our target.

Well we see the Yeti participating in Indian rallies

We havent decided as yet, but it is definitely a good idea.