The history of the legendary Skoda Felicia – a combination of the forces of Skoda and Volkswagen

Skoda Felicia is still one of the symbols of the connection between the most significant Czech car company and the German concern Volkswagen. It started a prosperous era, which the car manufacturer from Mladá Boleslav intends to end with up to 1.5 million cars sold by 2018. And in 1994, it didn’t even dream of that.

Already at the beginning of sales of Skoda Favorit, the automaker had thoughts of a successor. At that time, still in deep socialism, the Bertone studio, which was behind the original Favorit design, again asked for help. And before November 17, 1989, Bertone created a proposal for a compact hatchback with the name Felicia and the code designation 791 (Favorite had 781), which, however, was only a slightly redesigned Favorite. Under his leadership, a modernized sedan codenamed 792, a three-door hatchback (coupe) 793, a pickup with a glass rear part 794, and finally a station wagon 795 were created. design and development team. It was decided to radically redesign the Favorita from the body design, through the quality of the interior to the chassis components. In 1991, the first designs of the future Felicia appeared on paper. A year later, i.e. in 1992, the first prototypes were already in the world. In 1993 came the verification series and in 1994 the D-day arrived! At the end of October (production in Mladá Boleslav, however, traditionally took place much earlier) on the Charles Bridge, Škodovka ceremoniously unveiled a new model in its range – the hatchback Felicia, named after the now legendary convertible from the 1950s, was presented here accompanied by the mayor of Prague in colors of the tricolor.

The design of the 791 was dramatically different from the Favorit. Instead of the sharp edges of the Favorit, the Felicia was rounded and smooth, you could even say clean, and I have to say for myself that I somewhat miss this simple design in current Skoda cars. The interior of the car was similarly simple, and although it was and is made of hard plastics, the famous workmanship of Volkswagen Group vehicles has already penetrated here as well. The steering wheel was two-spoke from the beginning. Only the more expensive Felicia with an airbag (from 1995) got a four-spoke steering wheel. Similar to the Favorit, the Felicia also received compact dimensions – 3855 mm long, 1635 mm wide, 1415 mm high and a 2450 mm wheelbase. The volume of the luggage compartment has not changed during the entire production period – 272 liters in the basic configuration, 967 liters after folding the rear seats. From the beginning, Felicia was offered in four equipment levels – LX, LXi, GLX, GLXi, when the letter i only indicated a more powerful drive unit. But more on that later. Thanks to Volkswagen, it also got access to additional features, never seen in Skoda cars. The customer could choose, for example, air conditioning, power steering, mirrors and handles in the body color, a sunroof, tinted glass, a radio with two speakers or leather accessories in the interior.

At the time of arrival, a single engine took care of the drive – the BMM 13 -cylinder petrol engine with single-point injection had, in the LX and GLX versions, an output of 54 hp and a torque of 94 Nm from the start, while these values were able to propel the hatchback to 100 km/h in 18 seconds at maximum speed of 145 km/h. The LXi and GLXi versions were equipped as standard with a more powerful version of the same 68 hp engine, which gave the hatchback a top speed of 151 km/h and acceleration to 100 km/h in 16 seconds. If Felicia reached markets outside the Czech Republic and Europe at this time, it was probably also with a 13-liter gasoline engine, but equipped with a carburetor, with a power of 58 hp. And while we’re talking about technology, we can’t fail to mention that the basic chassis group is the same as the Favorite, but the Felicia had a redesigned front axle with negative wheel deflection and a McPherson suspension as well as an innovative rear axle with a stabilizer. The curb weight at that time was under one ton.

After winning the title of Car of the Year 1994 in the Czech Republic, the range of Felicia grew considerably in 1995. At the then very important Brno Motor Show, Skoda showed a practical version of the Felicia Combi, codenamed 795, which was produced together with the hatchback in Mladá Boleslav (apart from the Czech Republic, the Felicia was also assembled in Serbia and Poznań, Poland), with the same wheelbase of 2450 mm, but with an extended and an increased body to 4205 mm and 1420 mm, respectively. Of course, such a significant increase had an effect on the interior space, especially on the size of the trunk, which grew to 447 liters in the basic configuration, 1366 liters with the seats folded down, and 1475 liters with the seats removed. The equipment and distribution of engines were the same as for the hatchback, only the station wagon was slightly slower – with the 54-horsepower 1.3, the station wagon accelerated in 19 seconds, with the more powerful version in 17 seconds. In the autumn of the same year, the range of engines was expanded – Volkswagen gave the Felicia a more powerful 16 MPI petrol engine with a capacity of 75 hp, as well as a diesel nineteen engine with a capacity of 62 hp, which came with a standard tachometer and, with the 1.9D version, power steering. The introduction of a petrol engine is somewhat spoiled by the fact that even before the takeover by the VW concern, Skoda was developing its own all-aluminum petrol sixteen-cylinder engine with a power of 100 hp, which, however, ended up only appearing in a few prototypes of the Favorit and the Forman. Additional equipment has grown to include a driver’s front airbag and ABS, and the first special edition based on the Felicia has also gone on sale. The luxurious Laurin & Klement was created on the occasion of the car company’s centenary in 1995 and was based on GLX equipment. Compared to it, however, it had, for example, frontal airbags, ABS, central locking, 14-inch light alloy wheels, fog lights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a car radio and, in the station wagon version, also roof racks.

At the end of 1995, the offer of body variants grew again. This time it was the successor of the popular Favorit Pickup, which became not only the Skoda Felicia Pickup (code number 796), but also the Felicia Van Plus (code number 795). The Felicia Pickup differed from the Van Plus, which was based on a station wagon, not only in the number of doors, but also in the number of seats or only in the additional plastic storage compartment. While the Pickup was strictly a two-seater, the Van Plus could seat up to five, following the model of a station wagon. The dimensions are also different – the Pickup has a length of 4115 mm , a width of 1635 mm and a height of 1440 mm, while the Van Plus has a length of 4205 mm, a width of 1635 mm, and a height of 1830 mm. The wheelbase is the same as the station wagon and hatchback, i.e. 2450 mm. Interestingly, even though the Van Plus is bigger, it can only fit 2176 liters of cargo, while the pickup truck has up to 2410 liters of cargo, according to official figures. Under the hood could be all the engines as in the standard Felicia – i.e. a petrol 1.3 with a power of 54 or 68 hp, a petrol 1.6 with a power of 75 hp or a diesel 1.9D with a power of 62 hp. However, the range of equipment was narrowed, including only the LX and LXi grades. Production took place at the factory in Kvasiny, where, in addition to the Pickup and Van Plus, the Volkswagen Caddy, derived from the Felicia Pickup, was also created. Unlike the Skoda, it has its own radiator grille and wheels from the Polo model, under the hood can only be a 16-liter petrol or a 19-liter diesel.

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In 1996, Felicia underwent its first modernization. This was mainly related to technology, as Felicia received a reinforced body, and in both performance versions, the 13-liter petrol engine received camshaft timing and a new shape of cams, as well as Siemens multi-point injection (hence the changed designation 1.3 MPI), which did not increase power, but shortened it time needed for acceleration and improved torque as well. The interior received minor modifications – the trunk was opened from the driver’s seat as standard, the lamp in the luggage compartment got an automatic switch and the Pickup got a new box between the front seats. In addition, the palette of body colors, interior covers and decorative wheel covers has been expanded. With the modernization, the leisure-tuned version of Fun (code name 797), following on from the never-produced Favorit Pickup Fun, also entered the offer. Fun was technically based on the Pickup variant, but compared to it it was stretched to 4245 mm, widened to 1680 mm and increased to 1465 mm. The biggest difference to the Fun is the installation of an additional bench for two people at the back, which was created when the body wall was moved further into the body. The bodywork was painted only in the yellow color Fun, which was complemented by elements in yellow, orange or green, and alloy wheels were always equipped. The interior was penetrated by yellow alarm clocks, a yellow ring on the steering wheel and door panels or special seats with yellow sidewalls. Only the 16-liter petrol and the 19-liter diesel got under the hood. An interesting additional modification is the Fun Midi version, which received a laminate superstructure weighing 36 kg, the production of which was provided by Air Design from Mnichov Hradiště. Production took place together with Pickup and Van Plus in Vrchlabí, and one of the produced pieces was also owned by singer Lou Fanánek Hágen, frontman of the band Tři Sestry. The same person even wrote the lyrics to the song Felicie by the group Těžkej Pokondr. Today, however, there are only a few dozen pieces in the Czech Republic, so Fun is more of a rarity.

The second facelift, which mainly focused on the design of the body, came in 1998. At that time, the first Octavia, which established the brand’s new design style, was already on offer, and Felicia wanted to get as close as possible to it. The radiator grille, front bumper, lights and hood were new. In addition to the design changes, the new front bumper also meant that the Felicia was lengthened by 28 mm – the hatchback thus measured 3883 mm after the upgrade, the station wagon 4237 mm. Side airbags and an electronic differential lock were added to the list of additional equipment, but the standard equipment (new grade LS-Special ) was also improved, including, for example, an immobilizer or central locking with remote control. The modernization affected only Felicia and Felicia Combi, Pickup, Van Plus and Fun did not undergo a facelift. Shortly after the modernization, at the 1998 Geneva Motor Show, Skoda exhibited an interesting-looking Felicia Golden Prague concept. It was equipped with a 1.6 MPI engine and, compared to the serial model, was painted with gold metallic including scuff strips in the body color, received new covers for the front and rear headlights, alloy wheels and two-tone leather interior upholstery with an Orloje motif on the seats. The modernized version also came with a new utility variant labeled N1 (sometimes also Praktik according to the previous Praktik Favorit). Its “exceptionalism” consisted in removing the rear seats, installing a plywood floor with a rubber base, tinning the rear windows in the station wagon version, blinding the rear door windows with foil and permanently blocking the left rear door. This modification was carried out by branded services and affected both the hatchback and the station wagon. The production of the successor Fabia of the first generation was launched the following year, and the production of the Felicia and Felicia Combi was moved to Kvasin in 2000.

But Felicia was not only a model with five different bodies but also a model with a large number of special editions. It all started with the above-mentioned luxury version of Laurin & Klement, which, however, was only the tip of the iceberg. Especially for export to Germany, the Blue Sky version (also available in Italy) with Webasto canvas roof, Friend, based on the LX model, complete with electric front windows, alarm, central locking, aluminum thirteen-inch wheels, painted exterior mirrors, ABS or front airbags, All Safe, Nigari Exclusive, Conte, Sound, and Special. France exclusively received Tipi models with a weaker version of the petrol thirteen, new wheel covers, sunroof, immobilizer and Kenwood radio, Tipi 2 additionally with electric windows and wooden trim, Bonne Nuit with wheel covers from the Tipi model, sunroof and carrier, Kenwood radio, electric windows and alarm, Morzine, Ste Maxime with remote central locking, Mangas with Pioneer CD player and modified dashboard, Bergamote and Arcane with Philips radio and electric windows, Comfort, Grand Air, Pack, Palomino, and Yellix. Poland, where the Felicia was also produced, received the Genua version with the base in the LX model, yellow bodywork and sports accessories such as a three-spoke Momo steering wheel, chrome exhaust tip or black B-pillar, Lato with radio and rubber carpets, Active, which is derived from the GLX trim and it also received electric front windows and front airbags, Kliff, based on the LXi equipment, also has a Blaupunkt Sao Paulo radio, fog lights, alloy wheels or tinted glass, Perfekt with ABS, four airbags and an alarm, Samba, based on the Lato version, supplemented with alarm, Milena, derived from the LX version with Blaupunkt radio, alarm and black B-pillars, Tango 2, marking the end of Felicia production, based on the LXi model in addition with a Grundig radio, 13-inch alloy wheels and a modified center console, Twist, Trend, Saga and Gemini. Great Britain received a special version of Bohemia, with alloy wheels and a decent body kit, Moravia, Popular and Classic.

Among the most famous action editions available in the Czech Republic (but also elsewhere in Europe) is the Color Line , based on the LX equipment, with body color limited to navy blue or Fun yellow in combination with a yellow, blue or colored interior and equipment supplemented with door handles, bumpers, mirrors and lock rings in car color or fog light, Magic , available in 1998 in 3000 units in granite metallic with equipment including Borbet thirteen-inch aluminum wheels, four-spoke steering wheel, power front windows, split rear seats, remote central locking with alarm, preparation for radio including two speakers in the doors or fog lights, Mystery , based on the LX version, supplemented with, for example, height-adjustable front seats, central tunnel with removable box, chrome exhaust tip, driver’s airbag, split rear seats, fog lights, central remote locking and alarm, electric front windows, electric mirrors no bo rear spoiler in combination only with the green May or purple Esprit, and finally the Sport Line , based on the LX version, in addition with central locking, driver’s airbag or electric windows, was only available with Rally red and Magic black paints in combination with a colored interior and sports accessories such as a chrome exhaust tip and fourteen-inch wheels. Furthermore, in Czech showrooms, there was, for example, the Family version aimed at families, based on the LX version, which was supplemented with new storage and safety elements such as front fog lights or a driver’s airbag. The Felicia Atlanta was dedicated to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, available only in green, white and dark red with a more powerful 1.3 MPI, it was based on the LX trim, which was supplemented with, for example, a radio, fog lamps, alloy wheels, a driver’s airbag and several gift items with logo of Skoda and the Olympic Games. The safety end of the range was represented by the Felicia Safe Line , which added frontal and side airbags to the LX equipment. Only in the estate version was the Felicia Space Line available with a roof rack, special seat covers, fog lamps, a removable box between the seats, a driver’s airbag, electric windows or a modified luggage compartment space with eyelets and a double floor. The Felicia Combi Excellent, based on the LX equipment, came immediately with a facelift, with fog lights, tinted windows, new wheel covers, roof rails or metallics. It also reached economically minded customers, for whom the 1,000-piece X Line series in the colors of the Czech tricolor was intended, with a slightly exotic touch, the Pacific and Country versions were released. In 2001, i.e. the last year of production, Skoda showed the Felicia Trumf with new wheel covers and painted mirrors, door handles and bumpers. In the end, I kept the Magic 2 version, based on the Magic version, but which it expanded with a leather package, a driver’s airbag, 14-inch wheels, new body paints (granite, silver, blue and green) or a different color of the seat covers.

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Felicia’s racing history in rallying began back in 1994 when Skoda built two small halls for the development of racing cars, where about 30 employees worked on the development under the leadership of Pavel Janeba. The result was the Kit Cary 1300 and 1500, which the FIA granted homologation in 1994, following on from the successful Favorit models. In all cases, the front wheels were driven via a six-speed gearbox, derived from the Favorit. And the body was widened in the area of the fenders, ventilation appeared on the roof, and some parts were made of lighter materials. The Kit Car 1300 has a 147-horsepower 13-liter gasoline engine under the hood, the Kit Car 1500 received a 15-liter engine, which is a modified 13-liter engine from the Favorit, with an output of 156 horses and a weight of 850 kg. The 1500 used a self-locking differential and independently suspended wheels. The first sharp start, with both the 1300 and 1500 versions, was made by Skoda Motosport at the 1995 Swedish Rally, and in addition to the Czech pair of Sibera and Triner, the local Johansson also sat behind the wheel. The biggest success is the victory at the Argentine Rally 1995 in the two-liter category, when Pavel Sibera was behind the wheel, the fourth man in the overall rating of this rally. In 1996, the FIA also granted homologation to the Kit Car 1600, whose 16-seater VW produces 174 hp. This version was extremely successful, as the factory team fought with it for the overall triumph in the F2 category until the last RZ RAC rally. Just before the end, however, Siber’s piston pin broke and the title fell into the lap of Seat, while the factory team of parent company Volkswagen also got ahead of Skoda. The final tally for 1996 included victories at the Monte Carlo Rally, the Portuguese Rally, the New Zealand Rally and the Australian Rally, respectively third place at the infamous RAC Rally. Before being replaced by the newer Octavia Kit Car in 1997, Felicia still managed to win in Monte Carlo. In addition to the Rallye gravel stage, Kit Car was also presented on racing circuits, where, for example, in 1995, Martin Dlouhý won the title of national champion in class A up to 1300 cm3. In addition to the Felicia Kit Car, there was one more officially consecrated modification – the Felicia Freestyle is intended for racing circuits and is based on the Felicia Pickup, which was specially modified by the company Autospektrum 2000 s.r.o. from Mariánské Lázně. Under the hood, there is a four-cylinder fifteen-cylinder engine with an output of 129 horsepower in combination with a six-speed gearbox and a weight of 780 kg.

The company MTX (formerly Metalex) took care of the production of very interesting derivatives based on Felicia. The most famous model is the MTX Cabrio, introduced in 1997 at the Brno Motor Show. The design of the bodywork is the responsibility of Pavel Škarka from the Zlín Department of Design of VŠUP, the structural solution was undertaken by engineer Pavel Solfronk. Compared to its predecessor based on the Favorit ( MTX Roadster ), the MTX Cabrio is a four-seater with five doors, while the most significant change is the installation of a safety arch in place of the B-pillars and a new rear cover, hiding a three-layer canvas roof with manual control. The floor section was modified with reinforced sills, and two new cross members and struts were added between the two pairs of shock absorbers. In most cases, a more powerful 13- cylinder petrol engine or a larger 16-cylinder engine takes care of the drive. Both engines could be further modified directly by the MTX company. In 1998, the MTX Cabrio came with a facelift, which modified the front part in the style of the then-new hatchback and station wagon. The equipment and, after all, the appearance could be modified based on the individual wishes of the customer, so it is not surprising that the price climbed to 500,000 crowns (the basic model cost about 300,000 crowns). In the end, only 30 examples were produced. The Felicia MTX Sport also comes from the workshops of the former Metalex, based on the classic Felicia, which, however, has a rebore engine to 1342 cm³, modified stroke and compression ratio, and thus increased power to 78 hp. Thanks to this, the maximum speed has increased to 170 km/h, acceleration to 100 km/h has been reduced to 13 seconds, and safe stopping is ensured by disc brakes on all wheels. Only 15 cars were produced, all with modified interior and optical body kit. The Czech company is also responsible for the Felicia MTX Komfort with larger alloy wheels, a bodykit body, better equipment, leather upholstery and wood interior trim, the Felicia MTX Country with a raised chassis, plastic protection for fender edges, front frame, tubular threshold protection, stainless exhaust tailpipe, with an engine strengthened by 8 horses thanks to a reprogrammed control unit and other mechanical modifications or modified interior, Felicia Combi MTX Family with fog lights, new radio, roof rack and window, standard child seat, rear curtains, reading lamp or luggage specially adapted for transporting dogs, Felicia Combi MTX Assistant, Felicia Combi Tip and Felicia Combi Space. From Jaroslav Jelínek and his company Laureta Auto comes the Jelínek Laureta – Pickup extended by 600 mm to the final 4715 mm, with a load capacity of 560 to 580 kg. The M1B version is equipped with an open loading area, the M3B has a plastic loading area extension and a pair of rear wing doors. Both versions are equipped with a pair of seats as standard, but there is also an M4B version with two additional seats. Under the hood you will find a more powerful version of the 13-liter, the 16-liter, and the diesel 19-liter. About 300 cars were produced between 1999 and 2001, and not a single one has the logo of the car company, which distanced itself from the project and banned the use of its logos and names. Most Laurets were used as ambulances, hearses or mobile workshops.

And this takes us in a detour back to the standard Felicia, whose production has taken place in Kvasiny since 2000. There, too, on June 21, 2001, production of the Felicia finally ended. Already in 2000, the Van Plus, Fun, and VW Caddy were ordered, and the Pickup ended at the beginning of 2001. And the overall balance? Skoda produced 915,853 hatchbacks, 351,895 station wagons, 124,589 pickups, 5,160 Van Pluses, 3,992 Funes, and 18,952 Volkswagen Caddys. In total, over 1.4 million cars. Even today, one of Skoda’s most popular models of all time remains at the top of the registration statistics, and as a fan of these cars, I hope it stays there for a few more years.

Source: Skoda, book Skoda cars known and unknown; author Mario René Cedrych, Lukáš Nachtmann, contemporary car catalogs, wikipedia.cz, auta5p.eu, degriottier.free.fr, autoevolution.com , histoquariat.de, feliciaklub.cz, SKODA AUTO Archive