The Wild Man of Kvasiny

That rare thing: a desirable crossover.

(c) autocentrum

The product planner’s art has never been a particularly straightforward one, even less so when one is dealing with a brand portfolio the size and scope of the VW Group. Nevertheless, during the previous decade at least, the individual business units contained within the sprawling VW Group were allowed to exhibit a certain autonomy – especially it would seem, their Czech Republic outpost.

During the previous decade the once bargain-basement Škoda brand had successfully carved itself a niche as a smart, slightly left of field choice for those who valued sound engineering, unpretentious style and solid quality over the lure of an upmarket badge.

Under the design leadership of Thomas Ingenlath, Škoda produced a series of well crafted, soft-formed shapes which varied from the pragmatism of the Octavia C-segment hatchback to the innovative (some might say daring) in the Roomster MPV. In 2005, the same year Ingenlath departed for Wolfsburg, Škoda debuted a compact CUV concept at Geneva, called Yeti.

Combining concurrent Škoda design traits with the visual (and mechanical) toughness required of a part-time off-roader, the Yeti concept was warmly received, but it would be another four years before it was realised in production form. First revealed at the 2009 Geneva show, the production Yeti, ascribed stylistically to Škoda designer, Peter Kukorelli, remained faithful to the broad brush of the concept’s style, although, if anything the latter’s proportions were better resolved, even if some details were toned down somewhat.

Based on a broadly similar platform to that of the in-house VW Tiguan/Audi A3, Škoda’s crossover came with either front, or all-wheel drive, with the usual array of VW group powertrains in both petrol and diesel form. Suspension was similar to that of the Mark V Golf, utilising a variant of that car’s multi-link independent rear suspension and where fitted, its Haldex 4WD system.

The Yeti’s interior borrowed from its Roomster sibling its variable layout seating – the front passenger seat being capable of being folded down, while the rear passenger Varioflex seats could be slid forward, reclined, or with the centre section removed, slid inwards. The cabin itself was hardly penitential, and while the touch-feel of the interior plastics was probably not to Audi standards, they neither needed to be, nor was Mladá Bolaslav charging Ingolstadt prices.

It all added up to a highly attractive, and for a soporifically normative class, quite distinctive looking vehicle for those who needed (or simply wanted) a compact all-road option. Britain’s Top Gear magazine nominated the Yeti as its ‘family car of the year’ in 2009 and throughout its life, it was hailed as a recommended purchase by large swathes of the motor press.

Despite this, there was some resistance to its appearance, some not believing its appearance emitted the requisite assertive tropes. Furthermore, others baulked at its name. However, demand for the Yeti allegedly remained well in advance of the production capacity at Škoda’s Kvasiny plant – a factor which perhaps put the biggest brake on the model’s sales success.

2013 saw the Yeti receive its first and only facelift. Visual changes were confined to details, but the most noticeable being the removal of the separate circular spot lamps from the nose – a clear reference to the 2005 concept and one of the car’s more distinctive visual characteristics. However, normalising Yeti tied in it seems with moves at Mladá Boleslav to distance themselves from their value-brand past.

Production ceased in the Czech Republic in 2017, the now dating Yeti’s prospects having already been eroded by the larger and more conservative looking Kodiaq model launched the previous year. It’s direct replacement, a model very much in the same stultifyingly normative idiom to that of its larger sibling was introduced the same year and is as difficult to tell apart as any replicant bar that emerges from the VW group soap factory nowadays.

(c) autogaleria.hu

The Yeti is unlikely to be recalled for its driving dynamics (although they were reputedly better than many), nor will it be viewed as any changer of games, but it is likely to be best remembered as the nicest and most distinctive of last decade’s European compact crossover offerings. It might be cliché to say so, but that doesn’t make it any the less true: we won’t see its like again – certainly not from the banks of the Jizera.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

9 thoughts on “The Wild Man of Kvasiny”

  1. That’s the first picture of the Yeti concept I’ve seen. Very Tonka truck with inherent robustness yet playful character. The real Yeti seems a bit more Playdoh but what would I know? The local dealers couldn’t sell them fast enough. The final iterations looking very pleasant in dark green or even chocolate tones. Have to agree with Eoin on the soap factory image of VAG products now: there was a hullabaloo over the launch of the new Scala – yet to see one on the mean streets of suburbia

    1. The concept has more than a little hint of the Matra Rancho to it, including those extra lights sunk into the bumper. Odd sighting earlier this year: A Roomster followed by a Yeti going round the same suburban back-road roundabout, both in silver.

    2. Hi Bernard, I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right: the Matra-Simca Rancho anticipated both the Yeti (tall, compact crossover) and Roomster (enlarged and tall rear cabin) in different respects. It really was ahead of its time when launched in 1977 . Here it is for anyone too young (or old and forgetful) to remember it:

      Unlike the original Espace, another Matra product, albeit with Renault branding, the Rancho probably was just too early for the market to understand and buy into.

  2. The Yeti and Roomster were by a large margin the most distinctive mainstream VW Group designs in recent years. I really regret the loss of the creative independence that allowed Skoda to produce them. The Roomster was meant to be replaced by a derivative of the VW Caddy van, but that never made it to production:

    The Karoq/Ateca/Tiguan siblings are so similar as to be entirely interchangeable: swap the badges around and each would make a perfectly plausible mid-sized crossover for any of the three brands, since their mid-sections are virtually identical. (Strangely, the Tiguan, although having apparently identical doors, has a fixed rear quarter light not featured on the other two.) Audi made more of an effort to distinguish the fourth sibling, the Q3, but it really shouldn’t have bothered, as the result is a fussy, overwrought mess:

    Returning to the Yeti, it was subjected to the indignity of an unfortunate makeover that attempted to apply Skoda’s newer, geometric style front end to the rounded form of the original design. Although not in the Jocelyn Wildenstein league of misbegotten facelifts, it merely served to rob the Yeti of some of its design coherence and distinctive personality:

  3. Back in 2014, my partner and I considered buying a Yeti as our everyday car. Unfortunately, it had become wildly popular around these parts with the “beige cardigan brigade”, presumably because of its high H point, which facilitates easier entry and egress. Instead, we bought a Mini hatch. I guess that must mean we’re more insecure about our ages than our masculinity!

  4. The Yeti is clearly one of the VERY few SUVs/CUVs I’d ever consider buying, if it wasn’t for its ties to the Wolfsburg syndicate. Rugged looking, but not aggressive, and with some playfulness added in the round headlights. The facelifted version is out of the question, obviously. Of Škoda’s current offering, I don’t even bother remembering the stupid names any more…

    1. Your beige cardie is in the post…

      Make sure you get some elasticated waist slacks to match.

  5. I am also one who finds this the only acceptable SUV, Jimny aside. It’s such a ‘just so’ design, with great stance, proportions, dimensions and little bullshit. The interior is practical and airy. It’s it my wife’s extreme aversion to things SUV like that put us in an Octavia Estate instead, which I only regret on the basis that it’s a bit bigger than I had wanted, and a little too strait laced. Skoda looks to be becoming more mainstream and less characterful, which is a loss.

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