When the Škoda Yeti was launched into the fledgling small SUV market back in 2009, it immediately proved that it was possible to be both square and quite cool at the same time.
The boxy profile promised spaciousness and practicality, while the raised ground clearance, black plastic addenda and funky headlights gave it a ‘let’s give it a go’ fun factor.
Even back in the previous decade, jokes about Škodas were utterly irrelevant: the company had long prospered under the wing of Volkswagen, and its cars were well-built, spacious and reliable. The Yeti instantly added ‘fun’ to that list.
Prices for the earliest two-wheel-drive 1.2-litre petrol cars start from around the £5500 mark, but those looking at the Yeti as a tow car will need to go up towards the top of the range, four-wheel-drive 2.0 TDI 170 version, whose used prices start around £800 higher.
Bear in mind that cars at this end of the scale will tend to have somewhat intergalactic mileages and, while the Yeti has proved to be robust, it could still be worth increasing the budget for a fresher version.
The Škoda Yeti hit the UK’s showrooms in 2009 with a range of petrol engines that kicked off with a 1.2-litre turbo and carried on up through a 120bhp 1.4-litre turbo. Both are economical and pretty punchy.
The petrol range was topped off by a 158bhp 1.8-litre turbo 4WD version that would better suit towing duties, but be aware that you’re likely to face significant fuel bills.
Diesel power makes far greater sense for towing. The Yeti was launched with the popular Volkswagen 2.0-litre diesel engine, in three states of tune: you could have it with 109, 138 (later upped to 148) or 168bhp, and each would do around 50mpg.
All engines are reasonably efficient, if no longer as good as the best in class, so the annual road fund licence will start with a ‘1’ instead of a ‘2’.
Five trim levels were available from launch, starting from E and continuing up through S, SE, SE Plus and Elegance.
Even basic models have air-con and alloys and feel well put together. The best combination of cost and equipment comes in the SE model, which has dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and cruise control.
In 2013, the Yeti was facelifted to bring it into line with the more staid-looking elements of Škoda’s range.
As part of the tweaks, some new models were released: an economical 1.6-litre TDI Greenline model, an SE Business version aimed at company car choosers, the plush SE Luxury and the faux-SUV Outdoor model. With chunky black plastic exterior addenda, the Outdoor offered a greater choice of trim levels, topped by the luxurious Laurin & Klement.
Whichever Yeti you plump for, you’ll be getting a car that’s good to drive. All versions have sharp steering, a light gearchange and a ride quality that manages to feel sportily firm but with just enough cushioning.
That boxy shape hints at practicality, and so it proves. There’s decent cabin space for four adults and the boot is a fair size.
The rear seats can be folded, but doing so leaves a step in the boot floor. They can also be tumbled forward to rest against the front seat backs, or removed altogether, which leaves a truly vast load area.
Safety is another Yeti plus point, because it scored a full five-star rating under Euro NCAP’s 2009 crash test regime.
The Yeti is based on tried and tested VW mechanicals, so major issues are rare, and are likely to have been the result of poor care rather than any inherent flaw.
Indeed, data from our sister publication What Car? suggests that the major components are stronger and longer-lived than those of rivals. It is far more robust than the class average.
One thing prospective buyers need to be aware of is that the Yeti doesn’t have the ground clearance that its rugged looks promise.
Have a good look underneath, just to make sure that the sills and underbody haven’t been damaged by a previous owner doing some serious off-roading.
All of the engines tend to consume oil, and in some cases can use up to a litre every 1000 miles. Make sure it is topped up and look out for blue smoke.
The Yeti’s functional interior can show the scars of an outdoors lifestyle, with all the scuff marks and scratches that can bring. The good news is that it’s all very well put together, so rattles and squeaks shouldn’t be a problem.
The Škoda Yeti really does offer something for everyone – especially those considering what tow car to buy next.
Indeed, it is a strong and stable tow car that offers great practicality and reliability, as well as a sense of fun.
It’s also tough and reliable, and it won’t use much fuel when not hooked up to a caravan.
It isn’t perfect: the fact that you must leave the seats at home for ultimate load-carrying ability is a nonsense in these days of seats that fold into the floor.
In addition, it can be noisy, with road, wind and engine noise all vying for your attention.
The model we would go for is the 2.0 TDI (140) 4×4 SE. It offers mechanical muscle, reasonable running costs and plenty of standard kit. It’s fun on the road, too, and can cope with some light off-roading.
However, the version we would avoid is the 1.2 (110) E variant – it just doesn’t really have the guts for it. The smallest engine in the range may pack a fair punch for when the car is unhitched, but it isn’t really strong enough to tow anything meaningful.
What you need to know
If you are flicking through the used cars for sale pages hoping to find a 2009-on Yeti, you will find them priced between about £5500 and £22,000.
You can pay less than £6k for a Yeti but whether you’ll want to is another matter, because it’s likely to have gone round the world a few times and will probably show the wear and tear associated with that.
The Yeti was facelifted in 2013, with revised styling, better interior trim and an optional reversing camera, but you’ll struggle to find any examples for less than £15,500. The sweet spot is a pre-facelift 2.0 TDI (140) for around £13,000 – that’s not a great deal of money for a great deal of car.
Here are some useful figures (for a 2010 2.0 TDI (140) 4WD Elegance):
- Kerbweight 1605kg
- 85% match 1364kg
- Towing limit 1600kg
- Nose weight limit 75kg
Of course, if you are wondering what tow car ability any potential purchase has, you’ll probably be looking to fit a tow ball. According to quotes we obtained from PF Jones, a Witter flange towbar is £106.08 and a Witter detachable towbar is £209.28, plus fitting.
And when it comes to servicing, a Yeti 2.0 TDI’s interim service will come to £159.02 and a full service will cost £241.71 (prices supplied by Servicing Stop).
It is far more robust than the class average