David Motton

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The Škoda Yeti may be a lightweight, but our Practical Caravan tow car test proved that it's steady, stable and boasts impressive fuel economy when towing

Overview

The Škoda Yeti is one of our favourite crossovers to review as a tow car. Recent changes have brought the Yeti’s appearance into line with more recent models, and have split the range in two between the regular Yeti, which bridges the gap between SUV and hatchback, and the tougher-looking Yeti Outdoor. 

Our experts tested the most fuel-efficient standard Skoda Yeti, the Greenline II. Powered by a 1.6-litre diesel engine, it achieves a claimed 61.4mpg on the combined cycle and emits 119g/km of CO2 which puts the car in Band C for Vehicle Excise Duty.

They hitched it up expecting outstanding fuel efficiency, stability at motorway speeds, a practical and flexible cabin, and enough boot space to cope with holiday luggage.

Towing

The Škoda Yeti is a relatively light car, which limits the tourers it can tow if you take a cautious approach to outfit matching. Including 75kg for the driver (which Škoda doesn’t include in its published figure), the Greenline II has a kerbweight of 1410kg, which gives an 85% match figure of 1199kg. The legal towing limit is 1400kg, and the noseweight limit is 80kg.

If these figures are too low for you, then one of the heavier 4x4 Yeti models will suit you better.

During our test we hitched up to a Swift Expression 514 with a mass in running order (MiRO) of 1256kg and towed with the Yeti on the road and on the test track. Even unladen, the Swift was an 89% match for the Škoda; 85% is usually recommended for secure and stable towing. Still, the Yeti was at ease with the Expression regardless of the speed or the kind of road.

On the motorway, the Yeti was controlled and composed, with no obvious sign that it was towing more than 85% of its kerbweight. Whether dealing with crosswinds or overtaking high-sided vehicles, the Yeti took everything in its stride.

Pushed hard at the test track, the Škoda continued to impress Practical Caravan's team. In its emergency lane-change test, the Yeti kept the van in its place with little roll and plenty of grip. Even at high speeds, the car followed the driver’s intended line with hardly any interference from the tourer.

With a relatively modest 184lb ft of torque pulling a total combined weight of almost 2.7 tonnes, straight-line performance was never going to be spectacular. Pulling from 30-60mph, as you might when joining a motorway, took a leisurely 19 seconds. Away from dual carriageways, any overtaking will need a long stretch of straight road and plenty of forward planning.

The engine’s modest punch is noticeable on hilly roads, too. The five-speed gearbox needs to be worked fairly hard to hold speed on steep gradients, and engine noise becomes intrusive at high revs. However, as long as you’re not in a hurry, the Greenline stays just the right side of being underpowered for towing duties.

You notice that the Yeti doesn’t have big muscles to flex when starting on a hill, which needs a careful balance of clutch and throttle. Nevertheless, it pulled to the top of a 1-in-6 slope with little fuss and the handbrake was up to the job of holding the outfit still.

In normal towing, the brakes were strong and easy to apply smoothly. Coming to a stop from 30mph needed 11.1m on dry Tarmac, and the Škoda stayed straight and stable.

Given its limitations, the Yeti is a very capable tug. The low kerbweight makes it a match for small and light vans, but it can tow them well. Acceleration is steady but determined, and we’d live with that to get the Škoda’s stability and reassuring performance in an emergency.

Everyday driving

In day-to-day motoring, the Škoda Yeti is a joy to drive. Its size and weight come into their own without a caravan to tow. It’s nippy around town and entertaining on country roads.

The steering is light enough for easy parking but is precise and responsive at speed. Body lean is kept in check in corners and there’s plenty of grip. Its 1.6-litre engine produces only modest power and torque, so the Yeti isn’t especially quick. Without a van, though, its limitations are less keenly felt.

However, the Yeti trails our favourite compact crossover, the Nissan Qashqai, in a couple of departments. The first is refinement. At motorway speeds in particular, there’s more wind and road noise than you’d hear in the Qashqai.

Ride comfort also falls short of the standard set by the Nissan, and the Yeti feels quite firm around town. It’s particularly noticeable in the Greenline version, which sits 25mm lower to the ground than other models to improve aerodynamics. What’s more, you can hear the suspension at work more than in the Qashqai.

You couldn’t call the engine whisper-quiet either, although it settles down to a murmur in the background once cruising along.

These are minor criticisms rather than major flaws, though. The Yeti is not quite as polished as a Qashqai, but it’s still one of the best crossovers to drive.

Space

For a car that measures just 4.22m from bumper to bumper, the Škoda Yeti is reasonably roomy. We were pleased to see that those in the front get plenty of legroom and the tall body allows generous headroom.

The driving position has plenty of room for adjustment and it’s simple for drivers of most shapes and sizes to get comfortable. The dashboard is clearly laid out and the controls are easy to use, although the sat-nav screen sits low, which forces the driver’s eyes further from the road than if the screen were higher.

Rear-seat passengers benefit from lots of headroom, but the Yeti is less generous with legroom. Despite this, there’s just enough space for one six-footer to travel behind another without feeling too cramped.

The prominent transmission tunnel means the Yeti’s bench seat is better suited to carrying two rather than three. It’s good to see air vents between the front seats to keep temperatures in the back comfortable, and there’s a fold-down armrest that boasts built-in cupholders.

The boot's capacity is 416 litres, just 14 litres less than a Nissan Qashqai’s. There’s a high lip over which to lift luggage, though. 

To get more load space, every Yeti has Škoda’s Varioflex seating. The rear seats can slide forward to make more room for bags, although this compromises legroom for anyone travelling in the back. 

The seats can be tumbled forward to sit against the front seats, which leaves 1580 litres of stowage, but for the maximum of 1760 litres, they must be removed, which means finding a place to store them.

We’d prefer rear seats that simply fold away into the floor. Otherwise, the 2015 Skoda Yeti is a practical car for its size.

Running costs

The Škoda Yeti is keenly priced. At £19,715, the Greenline II SE is good value. Our sister magazine What Car?’s Target Price researchers reckon that should drop as low as £17,793 if you haggle.

SE, the mid-spec version of the Greenline, comes with 16in alloy wheels, cruise control, dual-zone air conditioning, front fog lights, roof rails, a trip computer, parking sensors and a CD player with eight speakers.

The comprehensive safety kit includes stability control, curtain airbags, and ISOFIX child-seat fittings in the outer rear seats. The Yeti achieved a five-star overall rating from Euro NCAP in 2009.

A few years ago, an official combined economy of 61.4mpg would have been headline news for this class of car. Now, there are plenty of diesels, some much bigger than the Yeti, that beat this figure, at least on paper. Our testing suggests the Yeti’s real-world economy will rival cars with better official figures: we achieved an impressive 30.3mpg towing on a mix of B-roads, A-roads and motorways.

The Greenline II SE sits in insurance group 15E (of 50), which will make premiums more affordable. As for depreciation, hold on to the car for three years and it should be worth a healthy 49% of the original price.

The three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is shorter than that offered by some rivals, but owners don’t seem to mind. 

The Yeti finished third out of 109 models in the 2014 JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Technical specs

Engine size1598 cc
Kerbweight1410 kg
85% KW1199 kg
Towball limit80 kg
Maximum towing limit1400 kg
Power104.0 bhp
Torque184.0 lb ft
Official MPG61.4 mpg
CO2119 g/km
30-60mph19 seconds
30-0mph11.1 m

Verdict

It’s not a quick car, and the low kerbweight and modest towing limit restrict the range of tourers the Škoda Yeti is suitable to tow. Regardless of these limitations, the Yeti is still a very capable tow car from Skoda.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – we’ll take stability over speed any day of the week, and the Yeti is one of the most stable crossovers we’ve used for towing. Firm suspension keeps car and caravan in control and, from behind the wheel, we felt that the Yeti tows as well as larger cars.

At motorway speeds it’s unflustered and relaxing to drive. Pushed hard in an emergency manoeuvre, the Yeti stays completely in charge of itself and the caravan.

In solo driving, the Yeti gives best to the new Nissan Qashqai, because it’s not as quiet at speed and it doesn’t ride as comfortably. However, it’s fun to drive thanks to its surprisingly sharp and agile feel.

Inside, the Yeti isn’t huge, but it is a practical and flexible car. The Varioflex seating system allows many permutations to make room for people, luggage or a mixture of both, although it’s a shame the seats have to be removed completely for maximum luggage space.

As an ownership proposition, the Yeti makes a very strong case. It’s well-priced and economical, and holds its value very well. Judging by its strong showing in this year’s JD Power Customer Satisfaction survey, it’s a painless car to live with and Škoda dealers do a good job of keeping owners happy.

If you own a caravan light enough to make a suitable match, the Skoda Yeti Greenline II is up to the job.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The Škoda Yeti is stable and keeps a caravan under control in an emergency
  • Its size and weight make it a joy to drive solo
  • Its mpg when towing can rival those of cars with better official fuel economy
  • The Yeti is roomy enough inside for passengers to get comfortable, and their luggage
  • It costs relatively little to buy and insure, and holds on to its value

Cons

  • The Škoda Yeti is not the fastest car, so passing slow traffic may take a while
  • A limited number of caravans are 85% matches for the Škoda Yeti Greenline II
  • The five-speed gearbox has to be worked hard to maintain speed on hilly roads
  • It is not all that refined and it could be quieter at speed
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