ROAD TEST: Alan Candy drives the Skoda Yeti TDI

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WE demand so much from our cars nowadays. They need to be fuel efficient, family friendly, practical, versatile, fun to drive, safe. And if possible, get us through ice and snow safely, too.

But it’s hard to find a vehicle that ticks all those boxes without breaking the bank.

Then again, it’s always proved difficult to find the Abominable Snowman. But there’s a Yeti closer to home that more and more people are turning to, recognising it’s impressive all-round performance and character.

Because the Yeti really can do all this and more – and the 4x4 versions can see you safely through winters and add all important peace of mind, too.

This is one family hatchback that can climb slippery slopes, descend steep hills and keep everything under control on difficult terrain, using the latest in 4x4 systems.

And the Yeti is just so versatile. The high-riding Yeti, with seven airbags as standard, has a big amount of boot space and crams in plenty of room all round, despite a compact footprint that makes it easy to park and manoeuvre.

Skoda’s Varioflex system allows more than 20 different seating combinations and seats can be moved forwards and backwards, reclined, rolled up individually or completely removed.

And if you need to load up quickly, the Yeti’s rear seats fold down in seconds to provide a flat, bumper-level load floor with stacks of useful space.

I have been testing Yeti’s flagship 2.0 TDI CR 170PS 4x4 DPF Elegance model, which combines luxurious spec and 4x4 safety with plenty of driving pleasure while nudging 50mpg overall.

The chunky Yeti’s design works because it looks the business and is instantly recognisable on the road. Ruggedly handsome, it is smooth bodied and boasts useful roof rails, with handy ground clearance and the now familiar barred Skoda grille and big green marque badge.

Coming from a family under the Volkswagen umbrella, you’d expect the Yeti to be solidly built and well screwed together, and you won’t be disappointed.

Doors shut with an impressive thud and interior quality is up there with the best.

It’s easy to quickly feel at home, get comfortable and find a good driving position, which is always a sign of thoughtful design.

All dashboard instruments and displays hold no mysteries and are ergonomically laid out and the flagship model boasted three-setting heated seats that are a real blessing in winter.

There are also some nice touches, such as subliminal ‘ghostly’ lighting that throws an unobtrusive but useful glimmer of light from roof straight down to the console and gearbox at night; the quirky but now familiar ‘stalactite’ strap hangar to pull down the rear hatch door; and the safety and security of ‘follow-me-home’ lights that stay on for about half a minute while you get up the drive and get the key in the door.

All-leather sports seats are wide and luxurious, with comfortable long cushions, big winged side support to hold you through the bends and precision rake adjustment.

Deceptively big inside, with stacks of headroom and legroom, the Yeti is smooth running and fast, with zesty turbodiesel power that delivers the goods when asked.

A quiet cruiser with impressive acceleration, the long-striding engine is mated to a fast-action, six-speed manual gearbox.

Yeti also handles better than might be expected, given the overall squarish shape and tall ride height, and gives a good account of itself through the bends, with accurate steering and strong adhesion. When Jack Frost comes calling, or driving conditions get tough, just push the off road button, which helps maintain control.

The Yeti will then maintain a constant speed on a downhill slope, keep traction going uphill and prevent over-revving of the engine, hold the car still on

a hill start and help prevent wheelspin on loose surfaces or wet slippery

roads.

If you’ve never tracked down a Yeti, be prepared for surprises. They are abominably good and the 4x4 version will ensure there are no more hairy moments ...

Stat attack

> Skoda Yeti Elegance 2.0 TDI CR 170PS DPF, £23,675.

> Powered by 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and 4x4.

> 0-62mph in 8.4 sec.

> Top speed 125mph.

> Bi-xenon headlamps with cornering function and angle control.

> Four-spoke multi-functional steering wheel for radio and telephone.

> Off road button.