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For the Adorable Showman

S.Muralidhar | Updated on January 27, 2011 Published on January 26, 2011

Skoda Yeti   -  BUSINESS LINE

Skoda Yeti   -  BUSINESS LINE

Skoda Yeti   -  BUSINESS LINE

Skoda Yeti   -  BUSINESS LINE

Skoda Yeti   -  BUSINESS LINE

Skoda Yeti   -  BUSINESS LINE

Skoda Yeti   -  BUSINESS LINE

The Skoda Yeti is as rare a species as the mythical creature it is named after.

In terms of design it is a soft-roader, a metrosexual’s testosterone fix. It is neither an over-sized hatch nor is it a true-blue sports utility vehicle. So, if you were to buy the Yeti, you’ll not get the road presence of an SUV, but you’ll also not be the target of Jairam Ramesh’s ire!

There are other crossovers that have already been launched in the Indian market in the same price segment. And yet, the Yeti is likely to stand out and prove itself to be as unique as its namesake. Unusual in design, and unusual off-roading capabilities for a soft roader, the Yeti will seek to create an altogether new sub-segment in the car market.

I spent some quality time with the Yeti a fortnight ago, had a few not-so-abominable experiences and here are my driving impressions.

Design

The Yeti’s design is a bit like the furry, cuddly stuffed toy version of the mysterious, gigantic snowman that is rumoured to live in the Himalayas. Its design is pretty imaginative though and there is enough versatility in the design to allow the Yeti to be fairly capable on rough, uneven terrain.

The Yeti is more compact than it seems in these photos. Its overall length is only 4,223 mm, just about 10 per cent more than the average B+ segment hatch. But, thanks to its short overhangs and smart design, it manages to pack in considerable space inside the passenger cabin.

At the front, the Yeti sports classic Skoda design traits. It shares the Laura’s underpinnings and of course, a lot of the latter’s lines too. The classic bonnet ridge engine with the company logo at the centre of the grille, the vertical slatted bonnet grille, the ‘squared-off’ wheel arches are all design elements that come from the Skoda gene-pool. Lending it the ambitious off-roader looks at the front are the headlamps and the uniquely designed and integrated circular fog lamps. The fog lamps are offered with the cornering function, where they light up gradually to illuminate the blind spot at the corner every time the vehicle is negotiating a turn.

In addition to the fog lamps, the over-sized front bumper also features a large airdam. With a dual-tone (body coloured and unpainted black plastic) finish, the front bumper also integrates within its design an underbody protector, further enhancing the Yeti’s off-roader looks.

From the side, the Yeti seems to have been endowed with a unique floating roof. With a blacked-out A-pillar and a blacked-out C-pillar at the rear, the roof seems to be only supported by the B-pillar. In fact, the rather invisible C-pillar gives the impression of a wrap around the rear glass too.

While still standing beside the Yeti, the other features that catch the eye are the large door mirrors with integrated LED turn indicators and grab type door handles – like the Laura’s. Though I am not sure how rugged or useful they will be, the elegantly designed roof rails make the Yeti look more SUV-like. 16-inch alloys don’t fill out the wheel arches, but are probably the more practical choice in Indian conditions.

The Yeti’s rear features a vertically opening hatch door and since the design features a very gradual rise upwards at the rear and the rear overhang is shorter, the departure angle also seems to be larger than the approach angle, a very helpful design element if you happen to take the car off-roading.

Interior

The passenger cabin of the Yeti looked very familiar. The overall layout of the dashboard and a number of other interior design elements have been carried forward from the Laura. The Yeti’s interior sports leather seats, a dual-tone colour theme, wood trim inserts, dual-zone automatic climate control with separate vents for the rear bench, steering wheel mounted controls and an integrated multimedia system with touchscreen, which also doubles up as the display for the ‘Parktronic’ warning system. The display can also potentially deliver traffic information.

With a large glass area on all four sides, the Yeti’s interior is airy and well-lit. A wheelbase of 2,578 mm (same as the Laura’s) and an overall width of 1,793 mm, also ensure that there is ample shoulder room and legroom inside the Yeti. Predictably, the interior also has oodles of headroom – will come in very handy if the Great Khali decides to ask you for a lift.

The uniqueness of the Yeti’s interior lies in what Skoda calls the VarioFlex Space Management system. The Yeti is normally a five-seater, but thanks to the system, you can move the rear seats on rails or just remove them all-together. So the Yeti can be converted into a four-seater, a three-seater or even a two seater, if more space at the rear is needed to accommodate large objects. Storage capacity can go up from 416 litres in the luggage area to 1,665 litres with all the three rear seats removed. However, yanking and lifting the seats off the car is quite a heavy duty task.

Engine and performance

The engine in the Yeti is the same two-litre power unit that is available in the Laura. The 2.0 TDI CR/ 103 kW diesel engine is the re-rated version of the 1,968cc unit that was originally offered with a lower (110 bhp) peak power in the Laura. Sporting a turbocharger with self-aligning blades, this 16-valve unit is now rated at a higher 140 bhp of peak power that gets delivered at 4,200 rpm. Peak torque of 320 Nm is generated from as low as 1,750 rpm and is available all the way up to 2,500 rpm.

The engine seems to be a good choice for the Yeti in terms of performance, though for Skoda, sharing it with Laura also makes commercial sense. With 140 horses available under the hood, the Yeti can be pretty fast on normal tarmac and easily manages to cross 170 kmph during my test drive. Straight-line stability is really good and there was no sense of trepidation that I was driving a fairly tall crossover. Rated top-speed is said to be 185 kmph.

The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission that is pretty closely set. Crank the engine, slip the Yeti into gear and press the throttle, and the engine turbocharger takes just short of a second to spool up. Once it is on the boil, there is a lot of power on tap in every gear. With easy, clear slotting, the shift stick in the Yeti is also a pleasure to use and there was no feeling of this being a hulking crossover even during very tight overtaking manoeuvres.

To truly boost its off-roading prowess, the Yeti gets permanent four-wheel drive with automatic torque distribution. The Yeti’s 4X4 system gets an advanced Haldex clutch, which in coordination with the braking systems distributes torque to individual wheels based on slippage and terrain-based requirements. As much as 90 per cent of the engine power can be directed to the rear wheels, including up to 85 per cent to just one wheel to prevent slippage, enabled by the electronic differential lock.

On sandy, slippery terrain the Yeti held its head up, managing to pull out of the challenges that it faced on some of the ‘kutcha’ tracks surrounding the Yamuna near Delhi, where I had tested it. Some of the electronic aids that help the Yeti deal with rugged terrain come in the form of the Off-Road Assistant package, which includes Hill Descent Control, Drive-Off Assistant and the Off-Road Traction Control.

Bottomline

The Yeti has other safety features including ABS with EBD, six airbags, active front head restraints, Parktronic and automatic rain-sensing wipers. The Yeti offers considerable personalisation options such as a steering that can be adjusted for rake and reach, the driver’s and front passenger seats can be adjusted for height, better lumbar support and legroom,. But all of these are manually adjustable only.

The Yeti is a classic Skoda in its build quality and overall fit and finish. But it is targeting a small niche of buyers and there is a good chance that some of them may have considered the Laura too, before being swayed by the Yeti’s charms. For some buyers in this segment, the Yeti might also fall a bit short in terms of overall refinement levels. There was a slightly elevated level of wind noise and road rush intruding into the passenger cabin during my drive. And though the manual transmission can be fun if the Yeti is owner-driven, it might be a bit ‘lurchy’ if it is chauffeur-driven.

The suspension of the Yeti is very European in its set up and is ideal for off-roading and high-speed travel. But, during low speeds on bad quality tarmac, the ride can get a bit uncomfortable. The Yeti is offered with two variants – Ambiente and Elegance and has been priced at Rs 15.40 lakh and Rs 16.62 lakh (both ex-showroom, Delhi).

The Yeti will fill out the ultra-niche that it is pretty much creating. Apparently, there are already over 1,000 takers for the Yeti.

Unlike its mythical namesake, the Skoda Yeti may not be as rarely sighted on the roads, after all.

Published on January 26, 2011
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