Top 10 greatest Skoda cars ever

9 Mar, 2014 7:00am James Disdale

Skoda Special: The Skoda story goes back long before its tie-up with VW. We drive the 10 best cars from the brand's entire 100-year history.

With more than 100 years of motoring history under its belt, Skoda has plenty of highlights to choose from. Whether it’s the manufacturer’s early luxury models, its bargain-basement cold war machines or is current crop of class leaders, there’s something for everyone.

To celebrate Skoda’s achievements, we’ve picked 10 of the best and brought them together for an exclusive test. So sit back and relax as we take a closer look at the company’s brilliant back catalogue and the stars of its new car line-up.

Skoda 422

Price: £1,360 (1929) - On sale: 1929-32 - Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl petrol - Power: 22bhp - 0-62mph: N/A - Top speed: 47mph

As with many of the first car makers, the Skoda story starts with a bicycle. The company was founded as Laurin & Klement in 1895, and progressed from pedal power to motorbikes at the turn of the century, before making its first car in 1905. It merged with Skoda Works – an arms manufacturer – and in 1924 the first car under the new name emerged. 

The Skoda 422 was launched during a massive global economic depression, so only 3,435 were made. Each was powered by a tiny 22bhp four-cylinder engine and weighed just over a ton, and had a top speed of only 47mph. 

In common with most cars of the period, it was offered in saloon, coupé, cabriolet and taxi bodystyles, and had a simple ladder-frame chassis and a wooden body clothed in steel panels.

Driving it today is a completely alien experience. For example, the throttle and brake pedals are reversed compared to a modern car, and there’s not much space for the driver. However, as befits its limousine status, there’s plenty of room to lounge in the rear. 

It’s packed with period details, too, such as the air horn, single windscreen wiper and dash-mounted, wind-up eight-day clock. It may not be very well known, but the luxurious 422 is a fascinating insight into Skoda’s founding days. 

Skoda Popular

Price: £292 (1940) - On sale: 1934-46 - Engine: 1.1-litre 4cyl petrol - Power: 30bhp - 0-62mph: N/A - Top speed: 70mph

Seeing the 422 and the Popular together, it’s clear how far motoring raced ahead in the thirties. Launched in 1934, the Popular was also the first model with a name rather than a number, and it was designed to offer affordable motoring to the masses. 

The car had a backbone tube rather than a ladder-frame chassis to reduce weight and improve rigidity. Radically for the time, it featured an all-independent suspension set-up. Early cars were fitted with a 902cc engine, which grew to 995cc and then 1.1 litres. 

The shapely body dispensed with running boards, while the functional cabin features Bakelite switches and watch-like dials. 

Available as a coupé, two-seat roadster and four-seater cabriolet, the Popular was the basis for a trio of pre-war models that all featured names Skoda has since revisited – the Rapid, Favorit and Superb. With this line-up, the brand had a market share of nearly 40 per cent in Czechoslovakia by 1938. 

In 1939, the Skoda plant switched largely to war production. Even so, small numbers were built during World War II, including the 1940 example in our pictures. Yet the car’s underpinnings would live on well into the fifties as it formed the basis of the Skoda 1100.

Skoda Felicia

Price: £638 (1963) - On sale: 1961-64 - Engine: 1.1-litre 4cyl petrol - Power: 55bhp - 0-62mph: 24.5 secs - Top speed: 80mph

The idea of a glamorous cabriolet may seem at odds with the austere Communist times of its creation, but that didn’t stop Skoda launching the 1.1-litre Felicia convertible in 1959, followed by the 1.2-litre Felicia Super in 1961.

It has the look of a scaled-down American cabriolet, with its rounded windscreen, chrome wheel covers, whitewall tyres and flared tail-fins. Yet for all its faux Americana, it was actually based on the Octavia (below) and, in the case of the 1963 example in our pictures, only had a 55bhp four-cylinder engine under the bulbous bonnet. 

Drum brakes, worm and nut steering, a hefty 900kg kerbweight and a rear swing axle mean it’s no sports car. But it’s easy to imagine the car justifying the Felicia name (it’s derived from the Latin for happiness) on a sunny day in the early sixties, especially as the four-seat cabin and decent boot meant there was room for friends and a picnic. 

Unsurprisingly for a car made in Eastern Europe and sold in the UK, there was also the option of a fibreglass hard top for the chilly and wet winter months.

Skoda Octavia

Price: £610 (1959) - On sale: 1959-64 - Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl petrol - Power: 47bhp - 0-62mph: 29.0 secs - Top speed: 71mph

Launched in 1959, the Octavia Super was the eighth model since Skoda’s post-war nationalisation. With its bulky, American-inspired looks, this oddball car offered British motorists an alternative to family car favourites such as the Ford Cortina. 

With a 1.2-litre engine and less than 50bhp, performance is leisurely. And while the Octavia had an old-fashioned body on backbone chassis set-up, it benefited from coil-spring front suspension – although a leaf spring was used at the rear. 

The four-speed gearbox operates from right to left, with first at the top, while the vague worm and ball steering takes some getting used to. Compared to mainstream rivals, the Octavia was well equipped, with a heater, rear armrests and no less than three ashtrays. It even had competition success, with a class win on the 1961 Monte Carlo Rally.

Skoda 1000MB

Price: £579 (1965) - On sale: 1964-1969 - Engine: 1.0-litre 4cyl petrol - Power: 42bhp - 0-62mph: 30.8 secs - Top speed: 78mph

When Skoda revealed its handsome 1000MB saloon in 1964, it turned out to be the start of a long love affair with rear-engined cars for the brand. 

Yet while Skoda’s budget-priced Estelle and Rapid models were the butt of many motoring jokes in the eighties, the sophisticated 1000MB matched many rivals for quality and performance. Designed as a replacement for the Octavia, the all-new machine marked a radical change in direction for Skoda. Not only was the 1000MB’s smooth 1.0-litre engine mounted in the rear, the newcomer featured all-independent suspension and a four-speed gearbox.

But it’s the details that mark out the 1000MB. For example, one of the ornate badges mounted on the front wing doubles as a fuel filler flap, while the smooth front grille drops down to reveal the spare wheel. And inside, all the door pulls and window winders are made from beautifully cast metal.

It drives well, too. The steering and gearshift are vague, but the 1.0-litre engine is refined and eager, while the suspension soaks up bumps that would send a shudder through modern cars. Yet it’s the 1000MB’s influence on later Skodas that cements its place in history.

Skoda110 R coupe

Price: £1,079 (1974) - On sale: 1970-1980 - Engine: 1.1-litre 4cyl petrol - Power: 62bhp - 0-62mph: 18.5 secs - Top speed: 90mph

During the seventies, Western Europe’s car makers were focused on compact, stylish, front-wheel-drive hatchbacks, but on the other side of the Iron Curtain, Skoda ploughed on with the rear-engined formula set out by the 1000MB. 

It created the 100 saloon, which was followed by the 110, and while these workhorses went against the grain, they did spawn a sporty two-door: the 110 R. With its raked rear windscreen and sloping bodywork, the 110 R cut a dash when compared to its four-door counterparts, while the smooth front end and grilles cut into the rear wheelarches give it a distinctive look.

The 110 R shared its engine layout with the Porsche 911, although its performance lagged well behind, thanks to the 62bhp 1.1-litre twin-carb engine in the back. Perhaps
that’s a good thing, because the combination of a treacherous swing-axle rear suspension set-up and all that weight hanging out the rear meant the 110 R was prone to sudden lift-off oversteer. But that didn’t stop it from becoming a popular car for motorsport. 

Like the 911, the Skoda’s rear-engined layout resulted in excellent traction, meaning the highly tuned 1.3-litre 130 RS special turned this coupé into a potent rally car and club racer.

Skoda Fabia vRS

Price: £11,990 (2003) - On sale: 2003-2007 - Engine: 1.9-litre 4cyl diesel - Power: 128bhp - 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds - Top speed: 127mph

The original Fabia vRS was a hot hatch that did things differently. By combining a muscular diesel engine with entertaining handling, it proved big thrills don’t have to mean big bills.

At the heart of the car’s appeal was Skoda’s tried-and-tested 1.9-litre TDI, tuned to give 128bhp and 310Nm of torque. It couldn’t match high-revving petrol rivals for driver appeal, but the diesel hit back with blistering real-world pace. 

While 0-62mph took a leisurely 9.6 seconds, heavy-hitting mid-range punch left the competition breathless.

Better still, this effortless pace was matched to composed and engaging handling. Even today the Fabia feels alert and agile, while the steering is well weighted with decent feel. Yet what marks this Skoda out as a future classic is its ability to blend performance with everyday practicality.

The versatile five-door layout and roomy interior make it family-friendly, while a supple ride and tall sixth gear take the strain out of long journeys. Then there’s the economy. Drive it hard and the vRS will return 40mpg, and with gentle use you’ll get nearly 60mpg.

As a hot hatch that appeals to the heart and head, the Fabia thoroughly deserves its place in our top 10.

Skoda Yeti

Price: From £16,600 - On sale: 2009-present - Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl turbo - Power: 104bhp - 0-62mph: 11.4 secs - Top speed: 110mph

When Skoda wanted a more practical car in its line-up, it could have gone down the plain-Jane MPV route. Instead, the brand looked at the popularity of its Octavia and Fabia Scout models, which feature raised suspension and extra black plastic cladding, and decided that a crossover SUV could be just the ticket.

And so the Yeti was born. It’s based on the same platform as the MkII Octavia, but has taller suspension and a highly distinctive design that appeals to buyers who want SUV styling, but without the size and high running costs of a 4x4.

While it looks boxy, the Yeti is actually a surprisingly sharp performer on the road. The extra suspension travel helps iron out big bumps, while a range of turbo petrol and diesel engines gives it decent straight-line performance. It feels surprisingly agile through a series of corners, too, plus the option of four-wheel drive means the Yeti has the off-road ability to back up its rugged looks. 

This combination of decent pace and a practical cabin meant the Yeti took top honours at the 2010 Auto Express New Car Awards, scooping our prestigious Car of the Year title.

And it’s a car that is loved by owners – for the past two years the Yeti has topped our Driver Power survey.

Skoda Octavia vRS

Price: From £23,310 - On sale: 2001-present - Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol turbo - Power: 217bhp - 0-62mph: 6.8 secs - Top speed: 154mph

Skoda’s vRS performance brand was established with hot versions of the first-generation Fabia and Octavia, and the current Octavia vRS continues in that tradition of delivering high performance in an understated, great-value package. 

The first Octavia vRS was launched in 2001, and featured a 180bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine borrowed from the Audi TT. It gave the car an impressively brisk 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds. 

Styling tweaks were subtle, too – only the addition of larger alloy wheels, a bodykit and green vRS badges marked it out. In fact, the hot model could easily be mistaken for a regular Octavia, until it left most other cars standing in the traffic light grand prix. 

The second-generation model shared its running gear with VW’s MkV Golf GTI, which meant a potent 197bhp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine or 168bhp 2.0 TDI diesel combined with an engaging chassis. 

Today, the Octavia vRS MkIII still shares much with the Golf GTI, as it uses the same turbocharged engine, now turned up to 217bhp, and a sharp chassis with lowered and stiffened suspension. There’s also the option of the 181bhp 2.0 TDI from the Golf GTD.

Throughout its life, the vRS has delivered an entertaining drive that’s on a par with the Golf GTI’s, but it’s always had an extra trick up its sleeve – practicality. The hatchback has a 590-litre boot, but if you want to carry really big loads in a hurry, Skoda has always sold a vRS version of the Octavia Estate – perhaps one of the best Q-cars around.

Skoda Citigo

Price: From £8,090 - On sale: 2012-present - Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol - Power: 74bhp - 0-62mph: 13.2 secs - Top speed: 107mph

Today, Skoda is going from strength to strength, with a range of no-nonsense cars that delivers practicality in a high-quality package.

That can’t be any better summed up than with the brand’s smallest model, the Citigo. Its tiny dimensions and wheel-at-each-corner design mean it’s perfect for the cut-and-thrust of busy urban streets, while the rev-happy three-cylinder engine has plenty of power to make the most of any gaps that open in the traffic.

But there’s more to the Citigo than just peppy urban performance. Head for the motorway, and the smallest Skoda won’t feel out of its depth, as the engine happily thrums along and the car feels rock steady at speed.

On top of this, the Citigo has the cabin space to rival larger superminis. Sure, the boot’s not that big, but the practical cabin has room for four, the body-coloured interior trim adds youthful appeal and an excellent finish means the Citigo feels built to last, even though reasonable pricing means you won’t break the bank to sample it. 

All of these factors helped the little Skoda take Auto Express’ Car of the Year award in 2012. And despite the arrival of newer models, it still leads the way in the city car class.

Disqus - noscript

I suppose after "7 best Skoda TV adverts" and "10 best Skoda cars" we will shortly get "13 best puffs for Skoda by journalists". "Absurd" is about the kindest thing that can be said for this malarkey.

It does seem a bit bizarre that right after "learn how to drive from a Skoda champion" article, AE publishes another advert from the VAG company. Furthermore, the VAG scandal from ADAC has not been mentioned by AE, where Golf was voted winner but it was all a scandal.

Google the ADAC scandal and you will not get a hit from AE. Pick any car review and AE pops up as one of the fist hits. Sorry Autoexpress, but your VAG bias seems a bit too obvious; it's about time that you address this.

It might be worth mentioning that Ferry Porsche looked to Skoda for inspiration in designing the Beetle

All magazines have special issues or supplements dedicated to various marques. Autocar seems biased towards Fords and Land Rover and Jaguar and BMW. And it's not been VAG for over a decade now, it is VW Group....

Are you saying that VAG caused the scandal, because if you are then you know bugger all, ADAC members caused the scandal, NOT any auto manufacturer, so get your facts right before you make, libellous comments.

Skoda is a crap!!

No-one is certain of the motivation for this action. However it did happen.

Would not disagree with this save to observe that Autocar gets its criticism for bias, just as much as AE does. There are online and print publications that manage to avoid suspicion.

Incidentally, any feature that purports to show the "10 best" Skodas, yet fails to mention the licence built Hispano-Suizas, is somewhat under-researched.

WhatCar? is another culprit, love their Fords and BMW there they do. I saw the 5 british judges results for European COTY winners, and every single one voted for the i3 above all the the others. The winning 308 came in 5th place in the british vote. badge snob britain at its best.......
Yes, but had Skoda UK owned a Hispano Suiza, or a 1937 Superb, I am sure they would have been included, as would a Favorit, arguably the most important car for Skoda after the 105/120/130 series.

You are a troll. Go fix your Ford rubbish, dagenham dustbins.

Are you a stupid monhé??

I never said they caused the scandal - I have no idea, so I won't speculate. VW wasn't the only make that received complementary votes.

However, I do find it strange that Autoexpress chooses not to make an article about it. It was in newspapers and several motoring magazines have written about - why not AE?

This article is utterly inaccurate, since it misses the whole 1934-1939 line-up. This is when Škoda introduced cars with backbone tube, independent suspension, V8, and finally, during the war, also all wheel drive. This lineup made won it 39% of the Czechoslovak car market compared to previous 14%. Sorry, but omitting Popular, Rapid, Favorit, and Superb is a clear sign that this article was written by someone who had no idea what they are writing about.

Moreover, the first car with Škoda name was not made after the L&K was bought by Škoda - at that time Škoda was already manufacturing cars based on license from Hispano-Suiza.

Quite funny that VW Group had to change that name because it offended women in the USA.

Good to see we agree about some things! As for WhatCar?, when J.D. Power's survey put the DS3 as the "best" supermini, one could sense What Car smiling through gritted teeth! But then J.D. Power are an independent consumer research body and not a collection of motoring journalists who possibly let their own prejudices get in the way.
I regard all such surveys with extreme caution though but the ones conducted by others than the motoring press stand a better chance.

I shall look forward to future "10 best cars from..." for manufacturers such as Ford, Renault, Honda, Nissan, FIAT, etc, etc to balance this up. AE, perhaps you could advise when we will be able to read these.

I don't think anyone seriously thinks AE is being funded by manufacturers for positive reviews - such a thing would be illegal under UK bribery laws but the obvious favouritism towards cars made by VAG is fairly obvious and all it seeks to do is raise suspicions. Magazines who review anything, not just cars, should remain impartial, use the same scoring measures for all cars and to make the playing field level.

The risk for AE is that it becomes so laughable that nobody will read their reviews any longer, let alone buy the magazine.

Don't forget the Yeti be named better than then new Nissan Quashai which has been roundly acclaimed by every other magazine! :-)

no, you are dippy

you clearly said VAG Scandal, not ADAC Scandal, indicating it was something initiated by VAG.

COTY winners are often poor market performers. Pay no heed to it whatsoever.

I don't read the implication that VAG initiated it. Most that can reasonably be inferred from ithat comment is just an association, No real justification to pick an argument.

It was clearly ADAC's scandal, but it was also a scandal for, if not created by, VW. Of course, one may only wonder why they would biased on behalf of some makes.

I don't quite get why you are so upset about this. Yes, it's ADAC who is to blame, but it's also still strange that AE fails to have an article on this - that's either lazy journalism, considering it's an auto magazine, or it is something else.

Sorry about the VAG - VW Group it is :)

Just because other magazines are biased doesn't make being biased OK.

I am not "upset", i just prefer peopel to get facts and statements right, and WHY is it strange a UK publication does not report a German issue, They dont repory issues here, and we dont report issues there, END OF.......

A 59 Octavia? One of the Greats? Really?

Other UK publications DID reports the ADAV scandal. Auto Express, however, is an Axel Springer AG publication - in other words, it's a German publication sister of Auto-Bild.

By the way, "end of" what?

sounds a bit like "top 10 healthiest McDonalds burgers"

I really wonder who asked you to take on the role website idiot? You conspiracy theories are getting really tiring. For starters look up "We drive our favourite Ford cars" on this website. Then there's "Peugeot's 200th Anniversary", "A brief history of Saab"... There are loads from all sorts of manufactures - the list is endless!

Why don't you try to use your brain before you speak?!

Can I suggest that you actually spend time reading posts before jumping in with unnecessary vitriol!? If you'd actually taken the time to read it and, in context, perhaps you'd have responded in a more measured way. However, it sounds like you misunderstood the point so I will make it using simpler terms and words.... After reading "10 Best cars from Skoda", "7 Best adverts from Skoda", "Rally driving with Skoda", and the Skoda Yeti winning a group test including a car that's won every other review, it's easy to see why some people think there is a bias towards VAG cars. Again, if you'd read my post properly I suggested that nobody seriously thinks AE is taking brown bags of cash for favourable reviews. So really not understanding your point of conspiracy theories - perhaps you could clarify that or withdraw it!

It's interesting that you went to all that trouble to post an unnecessary response but couldn't be bothered to register an account - which perhaps suggests it was a heat of the moment rant, either that or somebody has posted this link on a Skoda fansite and got everyone all worked up in doing so.

End of as in END OF CONVERSATION, now go back to your homework. bye bye.

I am not picking an argument so keep your beak out.

I agree. No car enthusiast I have ever come into contact with has ever said that they want a Skoda! It is simply not a car to aspire to in any way! Everything about them is boring and stodgy from the looks (in and out) drive and the image. Superior build and reliability can also be found elsewhere. They are adequate cars for taxi drivers or if your retired 'that last car' before you pop your cloggs, and I am not having a laugh because that is the only types of drivers you ever see in Skoda's..........

They are right though to love BMW's because they are cars for drivers unlike Skodas which are cars for trilby wearers!

still waiting for my sodding new Yeti to arrive! they are very slow at delivering automatics........ will buy a Suzuki next time

I´m glad to contact a person who knows about cars! Skoda means cheap quality and is connected to its weak quality of the past... their cars have no excitment at all and are quite dull to drive and own. Their design is boring and reliability is not its strong point. South Korean cars are far superior in all terms!

I´m glad to contact a person who knows about cars! Skoda means cheap quality and is connected to its weak quality of the past... their cars have no excitment at all and are quite dull to drive and own. Their design is boring and reliability is not its strong point. South Korean cars are far superior in all terms!

Skoda is "a" crap. What? Is there a single Skoda?

Not quite accurate I fear. Skodas are for those who sport those faux tugboat skippers' caps made from brown or blue corduroy. "Sportier" models like the VRS attract the wearers of baseball caps; back to front.
The ultimate trilby hat wearer's vehicle is the VW Polo. Actually wearing any form of headgear by males whilst driving is rather de trop unless the vehicle is a convertible.
BMW's are for people in spiked helmets!

Lol. I had a laugh when I saw this headline because I certainly can't think of one 'great Skoda' car present and certainly not past, let alone ten! This is just an AE sponsored advert for Skoda.

You obviously have never driven one then. Or live in the past.


My overall impression about the history of Skoda autos was that their best periods were in the interwar period when democratic Czechoslovakia was among the most advanced countries in Europe and in the period since VAG took over after the fall of communism. The period between when the communists were in power produced vehicles which were frequently made by forced labour from political prisons and gave the make its appalling reputation. To number ANY of the cars made between the late 40s and late 80s is not only derisory but palpably false in my view.

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