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The Yeti has proved an impressive sales success for Skoda and the latest revised version is likely to gain more converts, thanks to the fifth generation Haldex clutch
Words: Nigel Fryatt
It seems Yeti sightings are becoming a lot more common. Indeed, unlike the fabled ‘big foot’ itself, it’s now quite common to spot one, since a quarter of a million Yetis have been built since the launch in 2009. And after sightings in China, Russia and Germany, the UK is the Yeti’s most popular home with just under 30,000 having been sold. That makes it a popular SUV, and in its 4x4 mode it has achieved our Highly Recommended Award in its class for the last two 4x4 Of The Year group tests. It’s a very popular machine, and owners tend to be extremely enthusiastic, this is one SUV that you make a decisive decision to buy. In looks alone, this is not another ‘copycat’ SUV design and for 2014 the Skoda Yeti has received a facelift, which actually goes a lot further than just tarting up the somewhat idiosyncratic exterior. It’s the changes underneath that interest us.
No need to keep the family standing around in the rain waiting for a bus to come along when you can have an all-weather people carrier parked right outside the house. We look at the Top Ten seven-seaters…
With fuel prices and the cost of public transport rising to ever more ridiculous heights with every passing day, the lure of the seven-seater SUV seems more attractive than ever. Who, after all, would board a bus or take a train when there’s a comfortable minibus parked right there on the driveway? How many families will be considering a single seven-seater as an alternative to two five-seater family cars, thereby saving on insurance and maintenance costs as well?
The car manufacturers have anticipated this surge of interest with the result that more and more have been offering seven-seater versions of their family estates. Four-wheel drives are no exception, seemingly offering the best all-round all-weather solution for the active family. There’s a good selection of seven-seater SUVs available; here we’ve chosen to feature our top ten, ranging from the patently old-fashioned to the hi-tech trend leaders, from affordable yet still well equipped budget models to prestige limousines reflecting the heights of luxury. We’ve chosen to look at cars not more than seven years old, settling on a lower price limit of £5000; naturally much of what we have to say about these lower-end models will apply to earlier examples that could be available – albeit with more signs of wear and higher mileages – for much less. At the other extreme the sky’s the limit, epitomised by the £60,000 being asked for a nearly new Mercedes-Benz GL with all the luxury trimmings.
As we all know, 4x4s come in all shapes and sizes, but few can actually float. We meet with Tim Dutton, an endearing character, and founding father of the this country’s kit car industry, with his latest 4x4 creation. Let’s go off-road Surf-ing in the UK…
Words and photography: Nigel Fryatt
For most people, an amphibious car answers a question that never gets asked. Surely you only ever want one or the other; a road vehicle, or a boat. Strange, therefore, that when Tim Dutton asks the simple question, “Would you like a coffee?” the only answer is an amphibious four-wheel drive.
When the cappuccino in question awaits you on the other side of the River Arun in Littlehampton, logic says you take the road away from the river to search out the nearest bridge. Not so, of course, when you have a Dutton Surf, since the journey to the local barista merely involves negotiating the gluttonous mud of the river bank, before ploughing into the water, deselecting the four-wheel drive, initiating the jet motor and powering across the fast flowing river to the somewhat slippery slipway, where four-wheel drive is re-engaged for the effortless, and remarkably drama free, exit from the water up to the café.
Now we don’t usually cover classic military Jeeps… but then this amazing vehicle is nothing of the kind! For one Polish 4x4 enthusiast, the Jeep ‘look’ was what he wanted, but with reliable running gear, in this case, from standard Nissan parts! Yes, that’s right, this is a Jeep CJ7 Nissan. Sort of….
Words: Jakub Chelmicki Photography: Igor Kohutnicki
The idea for this car came about by chance while I was doing an engine replacement in a friend’s passenger car. My colleague Michael was helping me and he casually mentioned that he’d give me one of his four (!) Jeep CJ7s, along with all the documents and suggested I rebuild it. Now I had a set of axles from a Nissan Patrol 260, a Nissan Patrol 160 gearbox with a transfer box, together with some other junk, so since I had the axles and gearbox, the engine was not going to be a problem, and I could do the wiring by myself. This would mean that working at my own pace, I could build a car in the shape of a classic Jeep, but based on my favourite Nissan mechanics. Michael is known for really outlandish ideas, so this one was no surprise. But the more I thought about it, the more I became hooked, and the project got under way.
It’s hard to believe that we are now into our third decade of publishing this magazine’s annual 4x4 Of The Year mega test. Needless to say there isn’t another magazine that can claim anything close to that kind of experience and dedication to its subject. The knowledge and experience that such a heritage creates cannot be easily matched, and it’s fair to say we are proud of what we achieve; especially in today’s more frugal times, which limits the resources available. Or to put it another way, this group test is produced by a small, dedicated editorial team. At all times, our testers are as objective as possible; of course we are all human, we love our 4x4s, and so include some necessary subjectivity to our test regime.
As before, we have split the 30 vehicles tested into groups, each of which has its own class winner and a Highly Recommended, runner-up. Those winners are then matched together for us to decide an overall titleholder for 2014. To get to our final decisions, we look at each vehicle’s on and off-road ability, its overal competence, we consider value for money, and whether the machine is fit for purpose. This later category is how we match a £15,000 Fiat Panda 4x4 with a £100,000+ Range Rover, to surprising results at times!