The lesser-spotted Yeti clearly got a few postal orders for Christmas and has been having fun in the January sales. After a day on the high street, he's wandered back to the wilderness with a shiny new Laurin & Klement suit and a price tag to match. But PetrolBlog wonders if Skoda would have been better off ignoring the glamour of the L&K label and opting for something a little more Primark.
Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you how much I love the Skoda Yeti. For me it's one of the most relevant and appealing new cars you can buy today. If I had the cash I would go out and buy one with my own money which, given how much I champion used cars and Bangernomics, is quite a statement. It would have to be the 4x4 version, as highlighted by my review, almost two years ago to the day.
To it's credit, despite the success of the Yeti, Skoda has kept it's pricing structure largely untouched. Back in 2011 the Yeti I tested would have set you back £22,230, whereas today it costs £22,835. An increase of £600 is far from outrageous.
Today, Skoda announced the arrival of a new Yeti - the range-topping Laurin & Klement model. And it all sounds rather lovely. For an extra £2,000 over the price of an Elegance, buyers will be treated to £4,000 worth of extras. So the price of my favourite 1.8 TSI 4x4 goes up to £24,835, with the 2.0-litre diesel with DSG transmission weighing in at £26,400.
The Laurin & Klement Yeti is loaded with toys. Highlights include sat nav, DAB radio, heated windscreen, panoramic sunroof, park assist, acres of leather and lots of L&K logos to remind you you're sat in a top spec Skoda. To my eyes though, the 17-inch Annapura polished alloy wheels are a step too far. A bit too Premier League footballer. A bit too bling and totally out of keeping with the Yeti's understated and unassuming brilliance. But even so, the Yeti L&K remains exceptional value for money when put alongside the competition.
But I do wonder if Skoda has missed a trick here.
Skoda has limited the availability of Laurin & Klement trim to the 4x4 Yeti which, given the weather outside is incredibly well timed. But could Skoda have done something at the opposite end of the scale too? Would a budget-priced Yeti make even more sense than a premium spec model?
It won't have escaped your notice that Dacia is about to make a big splash in the UK. Put aside the £5,995 Sandero for a moment as the most interesting Dacia is the Duster. For a mere £10,995 you can get behind the wheel of the wonderfully utilitarian Duster Access 4x4. It's a stripped-out, back-to-basics off-road vehicle. You can spend less if you can do without four-wheel drive or you can spend more for a few toys. A smidgen under £15,000 gets you the Lauréate model.
The entry level Yeti E starts at a Duster-rivalling £15,135, but for four-wheel drive you'll need to fork out an extra £3,700 for the 2.0-litre TDI S model. A big leap for a potential Duster customer.
Take a look at what's happening in the retail sector - a genuine case of the squeezed middle. According to the Christmas trading figures, the best performers were Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason, Aldi and Lidl. In other words, it's the top-end and the bargain basement supermarkets that are enjoying the most success. The all-things-to-all-people supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons all endured a miserable festive period. I'm no retail analyst, but it looks like a clear proposition turns customers on.
There are remarkable similarities in the automotive sector. Jaguar Land Rover recently announced sales were up 30% in 2012 and the creation of 800 new jobs. Compare that to Honda which recently announced it was shedding 800 jobs at its plant in Swindon. For Jaguar Land Rover read Waitrose, for Honda read Tesco. It's too early to tell if Dacia will replicate the success of Aldi and Lidl, but the number of pre-orders is said to be very strong.
Skoda is doing well, with UK sales up 17.6% in 2012 and global sales nudging a million units. But do we want the brand to move upmarket? I have a feeling it has been successful by offering a good, honest approach. Customers bought into the ‘Volkswagen for less’ proposition years ago. The product range has always remained relevant and free of clutter and as a result, Skoda now stands up on its own two feet. Or should that be four wheels?
So I think a ‘Waitrose Essentials’ Yeti would make for a rather interesting competitor for the ‘Aldi’ Duster. What a bottom of the range Yeti 4x4 would give up to the Duster Lauréate in terms of spec, it would ultimately make up for in overall quality, performance and economy. It would just need to come in at £15,000, with 15-inch steel wheels, wipe-clean seats, black plastic bumpers and side mouldings and offered solely in solid colours. Ideally white.
The Yeti's character would suit it down to the ground. A no-frills, slightly obscure and brilliantly unique car that in 4x4 form offers superb all-round abilities. A Yeti that stays true to the Skoda promise - I'd drink to that. I don't want Skoda to move upmarket - it would lose its charm and appeal.
Aldi and Lidl have noted an increase in the number of Audis and BMWs spotted in their car parks. Time for Waitrose to welcome the influx of Yetis and Dusters into theirs? Essentially, yes.