Crossovers are designed to deal with all that family life can throw at them. Despite the odd issue, the Skoda Yeti made life easier
Crossovers come in all shapes and sizes, but the idea is the same: to combine elements of MPV and 4×4 practicality with some style and fun. What defines the result is the proportion of these ingredients – and a year with our Yeti shows that Skoda has a winning recipe for young families like mine.
Not only is the Yeti family-friendly transport, it’s available with some impressively economical engines. Seeing as most of my modest annual mileage is done in town, it had to be a petrol, and to keep the running costs low I went for the smallest engine, the 1.2-litre turbo.
Plenty of standard equipment was also on my agenda, so that meant range-topping Elegance trim. I still managed to add a few options, most important of which were sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, and a variable- height boot floor. All in, my Yeti just broke the L20k barrier.
Of course, I needed something that would make my frantic muddle between home, nursery, work and back again as painless as possible – and that was before my second son came along.
Life with the Yeti began well, and it’s down to the car’s distinctive shape. It has the vertical rear of a van, which maximises interior space on a comparatively compact footprint (it’s 11 centimetres shorter than a Nissan Qashqai, and only two centimetres longer than a Volkswagen Golf). Even though I reduced the boot height by keeping the L140 variable floor in its upper position, the boot easily took our kit for a weekend at the in-laws’ with our toddler: travel cot, three-wheel pushchair, holdall and a collection of other bags and bits.
The rear seats might have been able to slide back and forth to vary boot space or legroom as required, but I left them in their rearmost position. Moving them forward didn’t add much more to the boot and meant my toddler’s feet could too easily kick the seat in front.
More useful was the fact that they were raised, which reduced the need to bend down when I was loading sprogs into place. It also allowed my toddler to see out easily. I was impressed to find that a small adult could fit in the central rear seat between my two children’s bulky seats; my mum said she was comfortable enough on the hour-long journey to visit friends in Sussex, which made the Yeti a viable five-seater.
There were smaller details that also helped make my life a bit easier; take the door pockets, which were a properly useable, practical shape. The dashboard was also user-friendly, with well-sized, clearly labelled and sensibly laid-out buttons. The only exception was the driver’s air-con dial, which was in the way of my hand as it travelled from gearstick to steering wheel. I frequently knocked the temperature on to fully hot or cold as a result.
Over the year I became ever-more pleased that I’d chosen the variable-height boot floor, because in its highest setting it sat flush with the bootlip. It meant I could simply slide in heavy items. The front and rear parking sensors were also a must because the bottom edge of the Yeti’s rear window was too high for me to easily judge the car’s rear. The sat-nav unit was a pricey L1435, but was a pleasure to use.
Only the rough road package (L185) turned out to be a waste of money because the car never went farther off-road than a grassy car park.
I took issue with the shape of the Yeti’s standard daytime running lights, which were incorporated into the large round foglight units under the headlights; it looked like the foglights were on, so I was often flashed by other road users.
Importantly, the Yeti was totally stress-free to drive. The engine was smooth and, on the whole, very sprightly, although I did sometimes get frustrated waiting for the turbo to do its thing in town. Despite my occasionally unsympathetic driving, it did an average of 30.8mpg; seeing as it spent so long in rush-hour city traffic, that looked pretty good next to the official urban fuel economy of 37.2mpg.
The steering and pedals were well weighted, helping make the Yeti easy to drive. Even though it’s a fairly tall car, it remained composed in corners. Only the ride disappointed; it was always a bit jittery and never really settled down, even on smooth roads.
Refinement was another issue. I found the Yeti a bit noisy, and not just at low speeds in town; it became really obvious on the motorway, but this wasn’t a major problem because I rarely made long trips in the car.
I was relieved that the Skoda needed very little special attention during its year with me. The biggest issue was self-inflicted when I damaged the underneath of the front bumper by driving over a discarded builder’s pallet. The repair wasn’t too expensive, at L130 for parts and labour, but I was dismayed when Marlborough Skoda said the labour was more than they’d initially suggested simply because they weren’t familiar enough with repairing a Yeti. Surely the customer shouldn’t be paying the price for their lack of expertise? Luckily for Marlborough, they redeemed themselves a few months later when a piece of rubber trim came away from one of the Yeti’s wheelarches; they fixed it in a few seconds.
The interior of the Yeti proved very robust after a year with me and my kids. The only obvious sign of use were the scratches on the rear bumper sill where I had struggled to lift our heavy baby buggy into the back.
You could say that my year with the Yeti has been somewhat unremarkable, but it’s only because it was so easy to use. I hardly thought about it, in fact, which also made it praise-worthy. When family life seemed at its most chaotic, the Yeti always made sense.