Skoda New Zealand general manager James Yates has tracked down the Yeti - and he says the compact four-wheel-drive "will go further off-road than many of our customers will take it".
Yates put the go-anywhere crossover through its paces in Europe last week, six months before he expects the first example to land in New Zealand.
Skoda is producing four models - front-drive and four-wheel-drive - for the European market, but Yates says he is likely to import one model only: a four-paw with a 103kW diesel engine under the bonnet.
"Initially, we will only bring in the one model," he said. "We've decided that four-wheel-drive, rather than front-drive, is the way to go."
The 103kW/320Nm engine belongs to the Volkswagen Groups's 2-litre diesel family, variations of which appear across the VW and Audi range. In Europe, the Yeti diesel line-up also includes 82kW and 125kW versions of the same engine. The first Yeti for New Zealand will run a six-speed manual gearbox.
"That will be early next year," said Yates. "Later, around July, the six-speed DSG gearbox will be available." The DSG, or double-shift unit, is also available across the VW and Audi range.
Yates says the four-paw Yeti he drove in Europe was "very capable" off-road. "More so than many customers in New Zealand will need," he said. "It is a very nice vehicle all-round. The build quality is exceptional."
The Yeti is much the same as the concept unveiled at the Geneva motor show in 2005, apart from a few tweaks and the addition of rear doors.
Spotlights and a protective grille give the Roomster-style face some grunt, while a skid plate and chunky bumpers at the rear add to the beefy look. Roof rails and a squat stance finish off a design that owes more to a tougher small station wagon than a rough-and-tumble off-roader.
Inside, the Yeti goes with Roomster styling, with ample head and legroom in the back and a pretty spacious boot, at 410 litres with the seats up. The seats can be individually moved, folded flat or removed altogether, freeing up 1760 litres of space.
Under the skin, the Yeti has much in common with the Volkswagen Golf-based Octavia four-wheel-drive, but picks up rear suspension parts from the Passat for improved stability. The four-paw Yeti will be pulled along in normal motoring conditions by the front wheels, but a Haldex clutch varies torque to individual wheels when things get sticky.
Standard equipment in the four-wheel-drive is a hill descent system and a push-button off-road setting, which softens throttle response and tweaks the traction control and anti-lock brakes for off-road surfaces.
Air-conditioning, six airbags, anti-skid brakes and electronic stability control are fitted as standard on all models.
The New Zealand offering will be highly specified - and start in price probably at about $46,000-$48,000.