One very well established old favourite prepares to repel advances from a fresh pair of rivals
Competing with the Skoda Yeti is simple. All you have to do is build a vehicle that’s brilliant in every way, then sell it so cheaply no-one can understand how you manage it.
Piece of cake, huh? Two cars after a slice of it are the Mazda CX-3 and the Suzuki Vitara.
Skoda Yeti 1.2 TSI 110 SE
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Top speed: 111mph
Fuel economy: 39.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
Of the vehicles tested here, the Yeti 1.2 TSI 110 SE is the cheapest at £18,760. There’s not a lot in it, though, with the CX-3 Skyactiv-G 120 SE-L costing £18,995 and the Vitara 1.6 SZ5 £19,000. The Japanese vehicles are lighter on fuel, but the Yeti’s finance payments are the lowest by far.
Your money gets you cruise, Bluetooth and dual-zone climate whichever car you go for. But if you’re a toy freak, the Vitara’s nav, LEDs and parking cam will certainly appeal – though the CX-3’s four-star NCAP rating won’t, when the others both post the full five.
Inside the cabin, the Yeti is famous for its configurability and sheer space. It’s a genuine five-seater, whereas the others can only take two adults in their back seats without someone having to cede territory. For cargo carrying, too, it wipes the floor with this opposition – those rear seats can slide, recline, fold flat or even come out completely, adding a vast level of flexibility to a boot that already dwarfed the others.
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ5
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
Top speed: 112mph
Fuel economy: 49.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 123g/km
Elsewhere in the cabins, you’re apt to notice an awful lot of cheap, shiny plastics in the Vitara, giving a bargain bucket feel to what is the most expensive car here. The CX-3 is interestingly styled, but overall it’s the Yeti that impresses again – its whole cabin is solidly put together using quality materials, giving it the most premium ambience of the trio.
It has an upright driving position, too, as does the Vitara, giving you a fine view of the road ahead. Mazda has tried something different with the CX-3, however, with excellent seats set lower down for a sportier feel.
They’re not flattering to deceive, either. The CX-3 is by some way the most agile car here, with accurate steering and well controlled body movements making it a pleasure to drive whether you’re knifing your way around town or pressing ahead on a run. It’s the quickest, too, with the Yeti second-best in most dynamic areas and the Vitara a distant third for handling and refinement alike.
Mazda CX-3 Skyactiv-G 120 SE-L
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Top speed: 119mph
Fuel economy: 44.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 137g/km
Suzuki’s suspension delivers the best ride, in particular around town. But you pay for it with dumpy steering and imprecise handling which make it by far the least enjoyable car here.
Despite all this, however, the Vitara doesn’t come last. That’s the fate of the Mazda – because fun though it is, it misses the point of being an SUV – which is that Sport without Utility is never going to get you anywhere.
The Vitara does at least get that balance right, though despite giving you a lot of kit for your cash it doesn’t do so well for whole-life costs and its interior quality lets it down.
That’s an area in which the Skoda Yeti continues to excel – and its practicality continues simply to crush the opposition. It’s a good car to drive, too – and it’s fantastic value both to buy and, steeper fuel consumption apart, to own.
Review: Mazda CX-3 v Skoda Yeti v Suzuki Vitara triple test