Compact 4x4s have never been more popular and one of the more successful models is the quirky Skoda Yeti. This machine may share engines and other kit with the Volkswagen Golf, but the Yeti looks much more striking, with its chunky styling and SUV stance.

Rivals for this affordable compact off-roader include the closely related VW Tiguan, the bestselling Nissan Qashqai and other models like the Vauxhall Mokka.

What is it?

The Skoda Yeti is one of the smaller SUVs on the road, but it still comes with a raised ride height and the option of four-wheel drive, for added all-weather traction. As the Yeti shares much of its DNA with the Golf, buyers have a wide range of engines and specification levels to choose from.

Two- and four-wheel drive, petrol and diesels and manual and DSG automatic gearboxes are all available. The Yeti is also available in two different styles – the road-focused Yeti and more off-road oriented Yeti Outdoor – which makes up all of the four-wheel drive models.

The Yeti 2.0 TDI 140 diesel we drove is only available in four-wheel drive form. Trim levels range from affordable S to stylish Monte Carlo and upmarket Laurin & Klement. Our car was kitted out in SE Business trim, which includes sat nav and rear parking sensors.

What is it like to drive?

The Yeti is one of the most car-like off-roaders to drive, thanks to its compact dimensions and firm suspension, which means that it doesn’t roll around corners like some SUVs. Ally this to steering that is heavier than many other family cars and keen drivers will enjoy piloting the Yeti more than most of its rivals.

The payoff, however, is that the ride isn’t as comfortable as you might expect. Bumps on the road do make themselves felt in the cabin while you can feel the surface of the road, even on the smoothest Tarmac. While some drivers will value the sharp handling it’s likely that many more potential owners will be irritated by the firm ride. However, Yetis with smaller alloy wheels than our test car should offer a much smoother ride on scarred Tarmac, so it’s worth trying out a few Yetis to find the one that suits you best.

Overall, the Yeti is very easy to drive, with easily modulated pedals and a reasonably precise gearchange. The brakes stop the car promptly while the 2.0-litre 140 diesel engine offers enough punch for most drivers, though the heavy four-wheel drive system does mean that some rivals offer stronger performance.

Refinement levels could also be a little higher – the engine isn’t the smoothest or quietest motor. Even at cruising speeds the engine is still audible and it does rumble when accelerating. Not too much wind or tyre noise makes itself heard in the cabin though.

What is it like inside?

The Yeti has a simple and mostly easy to use dashboard. With rotary dials for the climate control system, changing the temperature is a doddle, though adjusting the fan speed on the move is a bit tricky, as you have to use a rocker switch, which isn’t the most obvious button when driving.

The media system is also easy enough to use, though as with most touchscreen systems, it’s best to adjust settings while stationary. The touchscreen could also be located a little higher on the dash to make it easier to read. The interior does feel high quality and built to last, though.

Is it practical?

The Yeti isn’t the biggest off-roader, but it offers plenty of space considering its dimensions. There is a huge amount of head and legroom for those in the front seats, while even tall passengers should be able to make themselves comfortable in the back. The middle seat is usable too, though the transmission tunnel cuts down on foot space. The boot should be large enough to swallow families’ typical luggage as well.

Our car was fitted with front sports seats. Despite their name these don’t offer too much side support around corners and we didn’t find them particularly comfortable either. Visibility, however, is strong for this class of car, thanks to large wing mirrors and the square shape and vertical pillars of the rear end.

Should I buy one?

The Yeti has a lot going for it thanks to its strong value, practical cabin and punchy motor. The specific car we drove was compromised by its firm ride, but other models in the range do have a more compliant ride, so this isn’t an issue with the car itself.

If you need four-wheel drive and want a diesel Yeti, this model provides a reasonable blend of performance and economy, though the heavy four-wheel drive system does mean that it can’t compete with two-wheel drive rivals at the fuel pumps. Several rivals including the Nissan Qashqai offer more refined engines, though the Yeti gives buyers a strong package for the price.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Skoda Yeti in our classifieds here.

The facts

Skoda Yeti Outdoor 2.0 TDI CR 140 4X4 SE Business

List price: £21,920
Engine: 2.0-litre, four cylinder diesel
Power: 138bhp
Top speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Fuel economy: 40.9mpg (urban), 54.3mpg (extra-urban) 48.7mpg (combined)
Emissions: 152g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five-star