Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: the FSO Polonez

I don't doubt that you go a bit red round the gills every morning when you find that Postman Pat has filled your hall with junk mail. You don't want to win a tumble dryer, you don't need an Amex card and you'd rather buy Razzle than Reader's Digest.

But consider for a moment what life would be like if you actually had to read everything that came through your door. Imagine if you were forced to open bank statements and bills, rather than simply feed them to the waste disposal unit.

Well that's what happens at Telly Towers every morning. I have to scoop up the debris that Pat has fed to my doormat, and read it.

I'm talking about press releases from the world's car companies - tomes that redefine the concept of dull. They are more boring than a Jane Austen novel, more shiversomely tedious than a parish council meeting.

Just last week, Nissan changed the radiator grille or something on the Micra and poor Pat gave himself a hernia lugging the press pack up my drive. 17 pages in, I'd already worked out that the whole thing could have been done in one sentence: "We've changed the Micra a bit".

But today, in amongst the encyclopaedic volume on the Corsa's new engine and a gushing diatribe about the new Hyundai Lantra Estate, was something that stopped me dead.

FSO is not dead. The Polish car company has managed to survive the transition from Communism to Lech and back to Communism again. And more than that, the cars are still being imported to Britain. Oh no.

"It was a box under which the careless car buyer would discover a 1940s tractor"

I still maintain that the Nissan Sunny was the worst car of all time. It had absolutely no redeeming features; nothing that you couldn't find better and cheaper elsewhere. But the worst car in the world to actually drive was the FSO Polonez.

Its did have a redeeming feature - it was cheap. But it had to be, because it was a car that wasn't really a car at all. It was a box under which the careless car buyer would discover a '40s tractor.

The styling was enough to put most people off, but it only had to compete with the Wartburg and the Trabant, neither of which will ever feature in a book called ‘Beautiful Cars' by Jeremy Clarkson.

You cannot begin to imagine how bad the ride was on this truly awful car, and just as you were marvelling at its ability to bounce so high off the ground, you'd find its steering didn't really work because the front wheels had been concreted on.

If Karl Benz had invented its engine, he'd have given up with the whole concept of internal combustion. The noise frightened birds and the fuel consumption read like the spec sheet from an InterCity 125.

The last time I actually went in a Polonez was last year. It was a minicab and it broke down in Heathrow's tunnel. Then I had an argument with the fat driver when I point blank refused to pay.

But since that long, fume-filled walk to the terminal, I've not heard anything about this wart on the bottom of motoring. Until now. It seems FSO has a new car called the Caro which has met with some success in Britain. 480 were sold here last year but I can only assume that the owners limit forays onto the road to the hours of darkness. I've certainly never seen one.

I'm sure though that it's a pretty hateful machine, but there's no denying one thing. At £4,527, it is cheap.

Also, it can be ordered with a 1.9-litre Citroen diesel engine and it will eventually get ZF power steering and Lucas brake systems. It may then become a half decent car, but I'm also sure its price will rise.

They'll end up with a half decent car at an indecent price. Except they won't, because this press release says that Daewoo has taken a 10 per cent stake in FSO and that in the next five or six years, the Korean com-pany's share will rise to 70 per cent.

The idea is simple. Daewoo will ship bits of old Astras and Cavaliers from Korea to Poland where they will be nailed together to form a vague, but inexpensive interpretation of what motoring should be all about in the next millennium.

We know all about that already, of course, because Vauxhall has shown us. No more fast cars. Birds in the trees and the good people of the world transported to and from work in Vectras. God Help Us.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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