Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Skoda Yeti - brilliant and fast when you least expect it

THE Skoda Yeti was the fastest thing on wheels when last weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed drew to a close.

It was a weird moment of motoring brilliance but it really happened – a car I’ve long championed as being the best all-rounder you can buy in the real world was faster than a Ferrari California, a Porsche 911 Turbo and a BMW M3 CSL to name but three. Largely because they were stuck in Britain’s longest snake of pre-event traffic and we weren’t.

All three of these supercars – and, to be fair, all the Astras and Accords they were sandwiched into the jam alongside – weren’t able to take advantage of the rutted byway we’d found snaking across the fields in a completely different way out of the nation’s biggest motoring event.

While it was a road in the loosest terms, it had the sort of frightening inclines, pointy rocks and deep ruts that’d give Land Rover owners second thoughts. But I’ve long maintained the Yeti is a shrunken Discovery, and sure enough it was skirting its way around every obstacle, leaving the miles of traffic behind. Mr 911 Turbo, I imagine, is still stuck in that jam now!

So the Yeti – with its short overhangs and slab sides – is a far better off-roader than it has any right to be. Yet it’s also the same car that managed to convey an obscenely long bookcase the previous weekend, and the same set of wheels that whisked me across the breadth of the country comfortably and quietly along the motorways.

Don’t get me wrong - it isn’t perfect. The air con controls are mounted so close to the gearlever that you’re confronted by an Arctic gust every time you go for third, and there’s a mysterious button on the centre console marked ‘TIM’ which failed to summon Messrs Henman, Dalton or Mallett whenever I pressed it.

It’s also not quite as sharp to drive as the Golf it’s based on, but if anything that’s a backhanded compliment. The Volkswagen Golf is Europe’s best-selling car and its party trick has been to spawn all sorts of other cars using roughly the same ingredients, which is why the Audi A3, the Volkswagen Scirocco and the SEAT Leon all feel a bit familiar. But I reckon the Yeti – by making a Golf so rugged and roomy and yet still feel Golfesque to drive – is by far the best of the bunch.

Yes, on paper the quickest Golf of them all is the 300bhp Golf R. But give me a rutted track, a bookcase and a traffic jam to deal with and I know which I’d bet on.

1 comment:

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