The classic Lada was first produced by the former Soviet Union in 1982 and was supposed to be the “car of the people” in the USSR. Sadly for said people and others who bought one in the western world, the Lada, although new, was based on an already very obsolete Fiat 124, which was first produced…
Incredibly, the original 1966 Fiat 124 was more reliable.
The Soviet model was initially popular in Canada because of its cheap price. At launch, 1995$CDN which was then, about a half the price of a cheap Japanese car like the Civic or the Corolla and a third of that of an American car like the Pacer/Gremlin or Ford Pinto. A last competitor for the Lada was the French made Renault 5, the only front wheel drive car in the bunch, and being a front wheel drive remained the Renault’s only strong point as the model I tested back then, a used one, sputtered oil all over the rear end and out its exhaust pipe before catching fire and dying in the lot.
In Canada, the Lada was only popular for the amount of time it took for new owners to first taste the inevitable mechanical failure. And when I say amount of time, I really mean distance; Essentially, it was popular for an average of just over 30′ outside the dealers lots and sometimes even less.
When I got my driver’s license in 1987 my dad took me to a Lada/Skoda dealer where he was lobbying me to purchase either a Lada or a Skoda, the Skoda 120LXE, at nearly 3400$CDN, was considerably more expensive than the Lada but neither of them were satisfactory for me, and already back then I looked real close at a 4×4 Lada Niva which unfortunately for 17 year old me, was too expensive. Too bad because the Niva of course became Lada’s best product which really is like saying that this lady is more handsome than a Pug mixed with a Beagle and dropped from the second floor of a two story building into a pit of molten tar, then bathed in feathers and lastly, set on fire with a blowtorch.
The Lada’s dash literally fell in my lap as I closed the door to sit down, putting an end to the test drive before it even began. As for the Skoda, the demonstrator in the lot refused to start and to add insult to injury, was beige with a black plastic stick on wing on its trunk. When you’re 17 nothing says TESTOSTERONE like a beige Skoda with a black plastic stick on wing on its trunk.
I wound up buying a used 1981 Mercury Capri Turbo RS which was also about as reliable as an Italian government, leaving me stranded countless times due to various failures ranging from a broken driveshaft to a leaky brake line, not to mention its irascible turbo/compressor that worked “whenever it wanted” and when it didn’t work which was “mostly always”, left the 164HP car, with just under 6HP.
The current Lada, is produced by AvtoVAZ and will go out of production next week. AvtoVAZ blame lower demand for the Lada, as the data from the Association of European Businesses in Russia shows that sales from the company were down by 15 percent in the first quarter, outpaced by 50 percent gains by its second and third-place competitors, Nissan and Hyundai.
Bye bye square box of punishment.