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CAR confidential: Škoda’s bid for domination

Škoda should have nothing to fear from Martin Winterkorn acceding to the Volkswagen Group throne.

VW’s Czech outpost is profitable, and makes bank vault-solid cars far more cheaply than Volkswagen. But those virtues put Volkswagen, the premium brand, under pressure – and a new range of more exciting small Škodas isn’t going to help.

The quirky, comfy Roomster is the standard bearer for the new family. Its front end – bigger grille, more stylized headlamps – is the new Škoda face, which will grace the imminent new Fabia, due for an official unveiling at Geneva.

Significantly, the 2000 Fabia nabbed the next Polo’s platform ahead of the VW. Both cars get an updated version of their current PQ24 base, due to VW’s decree that each new chassis should last two generations. But it’s slightly stretched to make the five-door Fabia even more spacious.

Engines will be twinned with Roomster, which means three- and four-cylinder petrol and diesels.

The Golf’s fab new 1.4-litre Twincharge unit will power the Fabia vRS.

Škoda has been showing its hand with its last few concepts, and the funky Yeti SUV will see the light of day in 2008. Sources say the small SUV rides on old Golf MkIV underpinnings to enable part-time four-wheel drive and bigger wheels suitable for an off-roader. Gruntier engines could include the 140bhp and 170bhp TDi diesels, and the Polo GTi’s 150bhp 1.8-litre turbo.

What next? The Superb has been pencilled in for replacement by a VW Jetta-based saloon in 2009, but the new VW boss may see that as above Škoda’s station. An alternative project may be a city car to replace the VW Fox. As the Joyster concept in Paris showed, the Czechs are considering a smaller three-door to take on hatches like Citroën’s C2.

And with Škoda’s recent record with concepts, you wouldn’t bet against a similar car making production soon.

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