Europe was changing. We'd experienced the revolutionary Autumn of Nations in 1989, which began in Poland and soon spread like wildfire behind the Iron Curtain.
By the end of that year, democracy had returned to Czechoslovakia. Just a year later, the very linchpin of communism, the Soviet Union, fell apart. And Yugoslavia was soon to follow, violently disintegrating into several Balkan states from 1992.
And so, unbeknownst to Autocar's testers, our November 1990 test of the three superminis representing these countries (or 'cheaps from the old Bloc', as we put it) was, in a way, the last hurrah for commie cars — loved and maligned as they had been by the British public for the previous decades.
Those three cars were the Skoda Favorit 136LX (£5446), the Lada Samara 1300SL (£5549) and the Yugo Sana 1.4 (£5495). Each was front-engined and front-wheel drive and the result of their overseers' swallowing of national pride. Italians and Germans had helped Skoda; Brits had done work for Lada; and Italians had assisted Yugo.
Which was the best bet?
"None of these cars will be bought for its performance," we said, "but all will provide adequate mobility for the family and none can be considered underpowered.
"As expected, the Yugo, with a Fiat Tipo 70bhp 1.4-litre engine, has the legs on the others. It will buzz and thrash its way to 97mph, passing 60mph in 13.2sec and managing 30-70mph in 14.1sec. Quite why the engine feels and sounds so gruff in this installation is a mystery.
"The Lada isn't far behind. The Soviet's 65bhp 1.3-litre iron/alloy engine, with siamesed valves in a non-crossflow cylinder head, doesn't savour revving. Only the cloth-eared will extract all of the available performance. It runs out of puff at 93mph, reaches 60mph in 13.4sec and records a 30-70mph time of 15.6sec.
"The Skoda, with the least powerful, 62bhp all-alloy engine, will hit 92mph, pulls lustily past 60mph in 14.3sec and keeps the driver waiting for 15.7sec during the 30-70mph increment. It makes up for its less spritely performance by having by far the most responsive, eager engine.