Lada has long been the butt of many a joke. For the vast majority of its history, they were entirely justified. The first car to wear the Lada badge, sold over here as the 1200, was awful when it was launched in 1970 and was catastrophic when the related Riva finally died in 2012.
But since Renault bought into parent company AutoVAZ, Ladas have been steadily improving. It’s latest effort is the Granta, a smallish saloon that serves as a budget alternative to the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo saloons.
By the standards we’re used to in Western Europe, the Granta isn’t brilliant. It probably doesn’t hold up to the the EuroNCAP crash test very well, and the tall suspension, though good for Russia’s dreadful roads, gives rolly-polly handling. But it’s cheap, tough and roomy. Which is exactly what a lot of Russians want.
If you prefer a hatchback, there’s the related Kalina, and if you like the car but not the badge, you can buy a slightly restyled version called the Datsun on-Do. Nope, we don’t know what that means, either.
Power comes from a 1.6-litre engine, producing around 90bhp. It ain’t quick, or especially economical, but it’ll probably last forever. If it somehow manages to survive the carnage on Russia’s roads.
Slightly surprisingly, you can buy the Granta in Germany, where it’ll cost you around EUR9,000 (£7,000). Even more surprisingly, Lada races the Granta in the World Touring Car Championship, where it picked up two wins this year in the hands of Rob Huff.