Abominably Refined

In search of snow monsters…

Image: Skoda Storyboard

Lately, more light has been cast regarding the development of that still beloved creature, Škoda’s Yeti. Before the K-named cars were but a twinkle in Stefani’s eye, the Roomster’s replacement came in for plenty of conducted and rather surprising concepts with which we unravel, today.

Against the common manufacturer’s grain, Škoda allowed themselves a frisson of comedy. In the early years of the millennium, Thomas Ingenlath (now of Polestar, nee-Volvo and at the time, Škoda), donned mountain boots and coat, taking to the Palexpo stage to announce the Yeti Concept. Hardly conducive to operating a small car’s pedals, he ditched the robust luggers for more appropriate apparel, neatly depositing the unwanted garments through the practical folding tailgate. Inglenath’s point being that if you’re not out there looking for Abominable Snowmen, why the need for huge off-roaders? The Yeti Concepts were small, almost cuddly, wholly non combative. In fact, they were the very opposite of abominable.

Image: Skoda Storyboard

With its ice blue and silver colour scheme, the Yeti Concept’s interior positively screamed ‘outdoors’ with almost every hand control capable of being operated by a gloved hand. Even the normally dash based GPS system was demountable for mobile use, most handy for walking through snowstorms.

Image: Skoda Storyboard

Keeping one’s vision clear when driving, the solitary wiper which when not in use across the elongated and roof integrated screen, would park in the shadow of the right A-pillar. Painted black and continuing as aesthetic roof rails, the darkened edge formed a definitive strip between the front and side glass. No mention is made of the potential blind spots, perhaps large enough for a giant snow creature to hide within. If the front screen was angled moderately, the rear ended abruptly with Škoda’s engineers citing two responsible theories – improved internal roominess alongside a reduced effect from the celestial rays. The cabin would remain cool until the users felt otherwise.

Image: Skoda Storyboard

That rear end derived more clever packaging. The glass hatch as Ingenlath demonstrated, pivoted à la P38A. The lower section combined a split inner and outer skin, the former keeping the weather out. The outer lower section folded down to provide a shelf for storing a couple of mountain bikes or a specially designed aluminium box. Other uses included tying one’s laces or perhaps offering the large snow-dwelling chap a lift, although it’s doubtful he’d fit inside.

Image: Skoda Storyboard

Leaving the Geneva crowds and journalists somewhat excited, the Yeti Concept then moved onto Frankfurt, along with a new guise. The ice blue had melted into a sunset orange along with a new rear end. What could abominably be referred to as a landaulet, Škoda opted for “an unconventional pick-up.”

The hard top could be removed, perfect for observing big game or, more prosaically, easy access under the Golden Arches. The rear canvas could remain in place, shading rear passengers from the relentless sun or folded away (by hand) for a more presidential feel. Or indeed removed altogether, which when combined with flattening the rear seats made for a two metre long pick-up bed. With the tailgate folded, a floor cover would automatically deploy. A manual switch was deftly hidden within the O of Škoda to the rear.

Incredible as it may seem, just thirteen short years ago the SUV was not the choice of the masses. The Škoda Yeti, at launch certainly, was deemed a left-field choice yet in its eight-year, single facelift tenure shifted over 630,000 units. German magazine, Auto Strassenverkehr wanted the Yeti launched immediately, as in the Concept. Even tousle haired motormouth, J. Clarkson is alleged to have cited the Yeti as the best car in the world.

The Yeti Concepts brought about squarer wheel arches that continue on today’s K-named brethren. The Concept also introduced the deletion of the badge to the rear, replaced by a spelled-out name, another continuing tradition. Embossing was fine for such niche projects, but the notion was deemed unfeasible for production.

Image: noticias.coches

With both Concepts being based on the then current Fabia chassis, the vocal encouragement Škoda’s management heard saw a shift of focus to that of the Octavia, allowing for more generous proportions alongside the ultra-lucrative 4×4 versions. Heading slightly off-piste, Škoda once more opened up their more playful side in 2014 with the Yeti Xtreme Concept.

Image: noticias.coches

Revealed at the ever-popular Austrian GTi Festival at Worthersee, the chunky looks and eye-popping colours had returned. Flared wheel arches, knobbly tyres, under vehicle protection and muscular, if still not that aggressive bumpers announced a more rally-based theme. Inside, the Xtreme came with Recaro racing seats with harnesses with for the more adventurous, fire extinguisher, belt cutter, sand (or snow?) shovel, metal recovery tracks and not forgetting the ubiquitous Thermos flask. The contents of which are not specified; you may have thought to pack a stiff drink should you actually witness a Yeti.

Image: carscoops

Maintaining a stance in the world of make believe, Škoda looked into the possibilities of creating a genuine pick-up around 2012. Dipping heavily into the Wolfsburg parts bins, the Yeti Pick-up was a hybrid mix. With a production ready Yeti front, the rear was pure Golf Caddy territory – axle, suspension and floorpan. Given four-wheel drive, the rapidly approaching five-meter vehicle was given an eventual thumbs down by management, keen to concentrate further Yeti expansion to what was most definitely by then an exploding genre.

An extension did occur, though. Gazing longingly to the East, the Yeti wheelbase gained an extra 60mm over the European version. 2013 saw the Chinese only market version garner favourable sales figures. This variant also sired the Xtreme, mentioned above.

The indomitable rise of the utility brand saw Škoda eventually allowing the Yeti to return to the wilderness, without a true and direct replacement in 2017. Size-wise, the Kamiq nudges closely whereas in the Czech brand’s output, the Yeti’s place was taken by the Karoq. The Kodiaq being the only version that a snow creature may reasonably fit inside.

One cannot blame Škoda for jumping aboard the SUV money ship, but wishing for a little more boldness and playfulness, well, that’s a bit like searching for mythical creatures.

Data Sources: Skoda-storyboard.com

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

25 thoughts on “Abominably Refined”

  1. Good morning Andrew. Ah, the Yeti, probably the most interesting and distinctive VW-era Škoda of all, before the Czech company’s design wings were clipped by its jealous parent. China got the most useful Yeti version of all, an LWB with 60mm added to overall length. Very subtly executed too: you have to look closely to spot the extra length behind the rear wheel arch in the second image:

    The Yeti pick-up concept is new to me, a sort of mini-‘ute’. I like it.

    1. I’m slightly confused by this: is the wheelbase longer, or is there just extra length behind the rear wheels? If the latter, I’m even more confused because the point of every ‘China special’ version of a foreign car that I read about seems to be the longer wheelbase, specifically to benefit the rear seats.

    2. Hi Tom. On further investigation, I found out that it was actually the wheelbase was extended by 60mm, from 2,578mm to 2,638mm. The overall length was obviously stretched even more behind the rear axle, but I cannot find any figure for the latter.

  2. Good Morning Andrew

    The only SUV I have ever thought of buying and, if it were ULEZ compliant, I might still do.
    I really like the fact that it is such an individual concept and why it has been discontinued really surprises me. Such a shame.

  3. The Yeti concept car looks really good, with a solid stance and good proportions. The transition to production Yeti made it lose quite a bit of that, although to be fair, it still turned out not too bad after all. It could have been so much worse, as evidenced by the many sad concept-production transitions we’ve seen throughout the years.

  4. Like Mike said, this is the only car of this type I would buy (unless one includes the new Dacia Jogger under the same umbrella). Every time I see one I smile.

  5. What can one say? Except that yet again the wise commentariat is confirming the DTW strapline, by showing itself to be completely out-of-touch with the zeitgeist of the car-buying public. We really liked the Yeti, and find its successor(s) bland. Yet European Yeti sales peaked at 64,348, whilst 105,041 Karoqs were sold in 2019 and, despite Covid, 82,121 the year after. I look at the Karoq and ask myself how I could have been so picky as to decide not to purchase a Yeti seven years ago, since I found its interior a bit disappointing when compared with its exterior – and even more so when compared with the concept. I also look at the Karoq and its competitors and despair as to what I might purchase when my current car needs changing.

    1. We went to look at a Yeti when they first came out, as a potential replacement for our trusty Mk1 Fabia. I’m embarrassed to admit that the deal-breaker for us was the couple who were also examining the Yeti in the showroom, an old boy and girl in matching beige anoraks and slacks. We subsequently noticed that they typified the Yeti owners around our former stomping ground. Now that we have reached their age, I am sure we would appreciate the higher H-point, surely the crossover’s major attraction for buyers of more mature years.

  6. Speaking of the Jogger, I’ve seen a couple round these parts and it’s a big old bus, but good looking and very SUV-ish:

    Its closest competition in both size and price must surely be another Dacia, the Duster:

    Starting prices in Ireland are €24,590 for the Jogger and €21,790 for the Duster.

  7. Morning Andrew. Loved the Yeti, thought it was different yet a very practical car, especially if you specified four wheel drive.

  8. I looked at the Yeti a few years ago, when my better-half needed fresh wheels. Time spent with Honest John revealed that the manual diesel versions were sound investments, but the petrol automatics (which we desired) were less dependable. A good-looking machine nevertheless.
    I wouldn’t look at any of the “K” series offerings.

  9. There are many things you can consider, but my suggestion for the ‘older demographic’ (and frankly anyone else who objects to subjugating their body to the demands of the vehicle, rather that the inverse, as should be the case in any sensible situation) is that unless there is a more-or-less hard angle of less than 60 degrees at the top leading edge of the front doors, the vehicle is unfit. The Yeti was the last Skoda to comply with this. What does that leave us with? Various overpriced Land Rovers, MINIs (the exceptions that prove the rule), Jeep Wrangler, various unobtainable Kei cars. Any other suggestions? Even the current Land Cruiser doesn’t strictly comply.

    1. Hi bristowfuller. I’m struggling to understand what you mean. Is your preference for a more upright windscreen and A-pillars? If so, I would certainly agree.

      That said, I was parked facing uphill in town a week or so ago on a narrow street. As I got back into our Mini, I was trying not to open the door too wide because of passing traffic, misjuged my entry and caught myself just to the right of my right eye on the top front corner of the (frameless) door window. I bled profusely for a couple of minutes and now have a black eye for my trouble. All my own doing, of course. Getting old is a pain…literally!

    2. Thank you, Fred. It’s not pretty, but no longer painful. I’ll live!

    3. Ouch Daniel! When I had a car with frameless windows, my entering ritual was always to put my hand on the top corner when entering.

      Having a roofline that curves down onto the A pillar might (sometimes arguably) look better. And it can help towards secondary safety giving a stronger roof structure. Against that, it brings primary safety visibility problems.

      But in this case my gripe is that when the top of the door opening starts curving down almost as soon as it leaves the B pillar, it asks you to be so precise in your entering ritual, in order to avoid bumping your head, especially if you’re tall. The new Prius appears to be an extreme example of this. Magazines may publish best practice ways of entering a Lotus 7 or Lamborghini Countach, but for real cars, I just want to be able to flop in, maybe turning my head to carry on a conversation, or whatever. I’m sure some architects might dream of zigzag diagonal door openings, but generally even the radical ones make doors human friendly – and of course they need to consider disability access. Many car door openings are becoming exclusively for the fit and able of average size with, for me at least, no apparent upside.

    4. Ah, understood, thank you bristowfuller. Ironically, it was the sharp corner of the glass at the junction of the (horizontal) roof and A-pillar that exacerbated my injury, but I take your point.

    5. In which case Daniel, you do have a very good reason to rubbish my desire for that very area to be sharp rather than rounded.

    6. Your story reminds me of my barchetta’s roof linkage.
      The rod immediately over the horizontal part of the door window is covered in rubber because it’s the one you bang your head against when you get in carelessly.
      A friend of mine is more than two metres tall and he always managed to get into the barchetta unharmed by folding together Houdini-style. Only once did he bang his head against this piece of rubber with very painful results. In the twenty-four years of ownership of the car I banged my head five of six times, enough to teach me to be extra careful.

      Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Daniel!

    7. Daniel, keep telling yourself – old age is a privilege….

    8. Not to be glib, Daniel, but whenever I get something painful, I always think: ‘as long as it’s an injury and not some chronic condition, I’m relatively happy’. Even if that lasts shorter than the recovery from said injury…

  10. Ah! There’s a lot to be said for the good old 2 door 5 seater. I never banged my head or knocked my glasses of getting img in and out of my 2.8 Capri. Mind you I was only 20 ish then and not disabled knocking on the retirement door. I could never understand why they stopped producing the Yeti. Easy to get in and out, a good boot size with the seats folded to use the hoist to get my mob. scooter in and with a wheel at each corner it took no driving. Now to get that kind of boot space I have an Octavia estate. I do like it, but sometimes it is like driving a barge. Not a very tight turning circle. For a 1.5 dsg it’s no slouch either and still regularly hits 50mph.

    1. Hello Philip, and welcome to Driven To Write (or, at least, to the ranks of our commentariat!)

      “still regularly hits 50mph”

      That made me laugh! Having recently returned to Ireland from the UK and reset the digital speedometers in our cars to read in Km/h instead of mph, I still find the sight of three-digit speeds to be somewhat unnerving, until I remember it’s only 62mph!

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