We’re live – and Lada returns
Given that it took 4,000 years to get from the wheeled chariots of the Sumerians to the rickety petrol-powered three-wheeler of Karl Benz, we can be forgiven for our tardiness in making our motoring mark on the blogsphere. But we’re here at last. The aim is to offer updated news, views and the occasional rant on all things motoring. Alongside our weekly coverage in the paper, readers will be kept updated with the latest goings-on courtesy of this blog.
We’ll have sneak previews of the cars we’re testing, immediate first impressions as we get behind the wheel and a chance to air our views on the latest news and respond to reader queries. So let’s get started.
After a week in Audi’s new A8 – complete with massaging seats and enough ubercool gadgetry to make Steve Jobs swoon – Lada isn’t in my motoring lexicon. Yet reports suggest the icon of Russian motoring achievement is set for a return to the UK market. With a little help from Renault, Lada is planning to offer budget motoring to recession-ridden western Europe.
Thanks to some regressive therapy I can just about recall a time when these Soviet-era skips spluttered along our back roads. Growing up in the west of Ireland, they were a common sight in the late 1980s, offering new car luxury to families trading up from a Honda 50 scooter or a pushbike.
If ever there was a car that summed up the national mood of the unemployed and impoverished nation that was Ireland in the 1980s, it was the Lada Reva. Arriving onto the market in 1986, a four-door Reva 1200L set you back the princely sum of £4,995.
The idea was good: if they could survive the worst excesses of a Siberian winter, they’d easily cope with wet and windy Sligo. Sadly, in most cases they didn’t.
At the Moscow motor show last year I called over for a chat with the folks at Lada to see if they were thinking of revisiting our little island. A bit of tyre kicking on the stand showed the cars haven’t improved that much since the Reva days. And the “marketing” people looked more like bouncers squeezed into suits they last wore when Brezhnev was a boy. In a smoke-filled backroom that looked like a set from The Third Man, they didn’t think much of their potential to conquer western Europe. They were too busy defending their home patch from the invasion of brands like Ford and Opel.
Clearly the Renault link has rekindled some Russian ambitions. However, before you dust off that Lada cap from 1988, a spokesman for Renault Ireland was quick to quell any excitement. Whatever about the UK, there are no plans to bring Lada to these shores. Instead our bargain buys are due to come from Romania, in the form of the Dacia range that’s due to launch here in 2012. A subsidiary of Renault, the first model we’ll get is the Dacia Duster compact SUV, similar in size to the Nissan Qashqai but expected to be priced significantly lower.
As for Irish Lada fans, they’ll have to make do with the memories for now.