So much has happened at Skoda over the past 25 years that it’s hard to imagine that the company’s alliance with the VW Group is only a quarter of a century old. But the alliance is being celebrated in Prague and Wolfsburg this very day, and there are many good reasons for the partners — and their latter-day customers — to raise a glass.
Back in March 1991 the company, already 96 years old, was bumping along on the back of a bunch of odd-handling rear-engined saloons (the low-priced Estelle was a decent UK seller).
There was also the more progressive three-year-old Favorit, a cheap, decent but entirely lacklustre 1289cc five-door hatchback, which only three years before had discovered the transverse-engined, front-drive layout the rest of the world had adopted wholesale two decades earlier. Superior western European car buyers knew enough about Skoda and its behind-the-times image to make dismal jokes that nevertheless stuck.
VW’s entry into the narrative came promptly after the Czech Velvet Revolution of 1989, during which sheer non-violent insistence by the population caused an extraordinary overthrow of the Communist rule that had lasted since the occupying Germans departed at the end of World War II.