Like its Himalayan namesake, the Skoda Yeti is a rare sight. Its problem is that it is too much of a crossover — too small to be an SUV, too big to be a hatchback and priced well above many mid-size luxury cars. Skoda hopes this new more affordable 110bhp, front-wheel drive version will lead to more Yeti sightings on our roads. Priced at Rs 14.32 lakh (ex showroom, Delhi) for the top Ambition variant (the lower Active is Rs 13.46 lakh), the Yeti 4x2 is approximately Rs 2.5 lakh cheaper than its all-wheel-drive sibling. Certainly worth a look, then.
Key differences between the front-wheel and all-wheel-drive versions are that the former comes with afive-speed manual instead of the 4WD version’s six-speeder. By deleting the all-wheel drive gear, the Yeti sheds 98 kilos too. So, despite being 30bhp down on its all-wheel-driven sibling, you’ll never feel the need for more power. There’s little lag to speak of, the engine is pretty free-revving and pulls hard all the way to the redline, and the 25.5kgm of torque (down from 32.6kgm) is more than adequate for the Yeti’s 1445kg kerb weight. The 0-100kph time of 11.76sec is entirely respectable and only one second off the more powerful 4x4’s time. There’s little difference in refinement too, the engine remaining quiet at low and cruising speeds with a bit of a growl when you accelerate hard.
It’s only when you try a Formula 1 start from the lights that you get a hint that it is a two-wheel drive. You also get a bit of torque steer as the turbo kicks in, and under extreme cornering, you will miss the extra grip and stability the 4x4 gives you, especially in the wet. Still, ESP is standard, and cuts in before you have any unintentional off-road excursions. A welcome improvement is how this Yeti doesn’t stall as easily as the 4x4 version when you get off the clutch and this makes it infinitely easier to drive in traffic.
The rest is the Yeti as we know it – high-quality interiors, practical, sorted ride; it is genuinely one of the best Skodas for India. There’s no differentiation on the outside either, not even 4x2 badge. The Ambition is well equipped too — there’s two airbags, a CD player, hill descent control, parking sensors at the rear and powered everything, but doesn’t get the extra kit that helps make the Yeti special. The lower-spec Active doesn’t get as much kit, but gets alloys, ABS and two airbags.
We also think Skoda missed an opportunity to introduce a DSG auto gearbox. Considering the Yeti’s city-friendly nature, an automatic would be very appropriate. Also, a small irritant is how all new Skodas, the Yeti included, get a shrill horn rather than the old ‘parp’ horn that sounded so much more expensive.
Speaking of which, the Yeti still isn’t a value proposition and remains a niche product. It is for people who understand its vast range of talents, all packed into a compact footprint, and don’t mind paying a premium for it. So, does it really make sense to offer a less talented, cheaper version? We think it does. The Yeti 4x2 doesn’t give away much in terms of its on-road abilities, which is what most owners will it use for. The build quality is really special too and is what distances the Yeti from bigger, cheaper and more practical SUVs, and the price is now more realistic for its size. If only it had an automatic.