Lada is actually a decent car... believe it or not.

For example, in Finland, kids often laughed at us for having such a piece of junk. But I tell you, their smiles would have frozen in the winter, if they had realized that most of the time the western cars froze during the coldest days and Ladas kept running even in the freeziest nights.

Plus, they're dirt cheap here. And performance isn't that bad either (yeah, my friend didn't believe when I said I had driven at 120 km/h along the freeway, but it was true... =)

Also, western cars look so boring. I once had a big pile of pictures of cars; I could tell Lada apart, but the others looked the same. Lada isn't pretty, but it has more space inside than what it looks like.

I've heard (from my Russian studies) that "Lada" is just the name name of the exported cars; The brand name in Russia is Tshikuli (or something like that). "Lada" means... well, my dictionary lists "lad" as "harmony" and "ladno" as "good", so I guess it's something positive. =)

There are many "Lada" jokes, here is one.

A man walks into a garage and says "can I have a hub-cap for my Lada" ?

The garage attendant replies "That sounds like a fair deal"

Or this one (thank you, rec.humor.funny:

Q: What's the difference between a Mercedes and a Lada?

A: Princess Diana wouldn't be caught dead in a Lada. . .

Lada is the "export" brand name of the "Zhigulye" brand, produced by "VAZ" ("Volzhskiy Avtomobilniy Zavod" = "The Vogian Automotive Factory").

Even though less prestigious than the Volga's (GAZ) or Chaikas/ZIMs, those were one of the most well-regarded car brands in the Soviet Union, surpassing the reputation of Moskvitches (AZLKs) and Zaporozhetzes (ZAZs).

This comes mostly from superior design and quality, which in turn comes from the fact that the factory in Toliati they were built in was built by the FIAT, during the times of cooperation between Italy and USSR in the late 1960s.

The first model (the 2101, or the 1-Series) was produced starting from 1970 and was almost identical to the FIATs of that time. Actually - it still looks quite nice, though I wouldn't want to drive one.

It influenced heavily all of the Cold War era Ladas, most of which were small 5-passenger sedans with a gross weight of about 1 metric ton, and engine displacement between 1.3 and 1.6 litres - not much fun.

The exception could be the rugged VAZ-2121 "Niva" cross-country vehicle (but not a SUV), that was quite successful in (other) 3rd world countries.

Many Ladas are still on the road in ex-Soviet Union.

Currently VAZ produces some new Lada models that could possibly compete with Kias and Hyundais... but maybe not :-).

The official website is http://www.vaz.ru/.

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