THEY once had all the street cred of a Space Hopper and were the butt of more jokes than John Prescott, but that was before Škoda was bought by the Germans and dragged into the modern world.
The reborn, VW-owned, sassy, image-conscious Škoda has become a big player in the mainstream car market and a serial award winner, turning out a range of models that tick all the motorist’s boxes with a blend of quality, value and innovation.
They seem unable to do anything wrong nowadays, even in these straitened economic times, and they were the toast of the trade the other night when they scooped no fewer than five prizes at the annual Auto Express New Car Awards.
The Škoda Yeti won the top award as Car of the Year, as well as the crossover category; the Superb won best family car and best estate; and Škoda also won the trophy for the best reliability and owner satisfaction.
David Johns, of Auto Express, said: “The result is a reflection of just how far Škoda has come and how good its cars now are. They have always represented fantastic value for money, but increasingly they have come to stand for great quality, driveability and reliability.
“The Yeti, in particular, just blew our judges away. It is a car that combines the best of a family hatchback with the looks and go-anywhere ability of an SUV. Two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, it is a car that is truly worthy of being our Car of the Year.”
BMW were multiple award winners, too, with the new 5-Series being chosen as best executive car, and the 3-Series best compact executive car and best convertible. German rivals Audi won best performance car with the R8 V10 but were pipped for best coupé by the rather exciting new Peugeot RCZ, which also won the design award.
There were notable first wins for Korean brands Hyundai – the i10 took the best city car class – and Kia, another massive success story, whose Venga won the supermini-MPV section. Land Rover celebrated wins with the Freelander (best compact SUV) and Discovery (large SUV). The Oxford-built, BMW-owned MINI was named best premium supermini.
The new Nissan Leaf won the coveted Special Award given in recognition of the best innovation in the motor industry. The judges were unanimous in choosing the Leaf, which will be the first mainstream all-electric family vehicle on sale in the UK when it hits showrooms next March. It will be British built.