With the possible exception of a toilet bowl, there’s few things that get shit on more than the Yugo, the small Yugoslavian hatchback that was sold in America from 1985 to 1992. So many stupid, hacky “Worst Cars Ever!” lists or articles include the Yugo pretty prominently, and I’m going to officially say enough. Sure, the Yugo was pretty crappy, but it absolutely does not deserve the “worst car ever” reputation it’s saddled with today.
The Yugo, called the Zastava Koral in its Yugoslavian homeland and based heavily on the Fiat 127, was fundamentally a pretty straightforward, conventional small European hatchback. Its Fiat-derived design is by no means terrible—at worst, it’s a little dull, but it’s a very rational, useful design for a hatchback city car, pretty much like almost any manufacturer’s small hatchback of the time—Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf, Renault 5, whatever. It’s totally appropriate for the jobs the car would do, and, again, not the worst in the world.
Sure, the quality wasn’t great, but you have to keep in mind how much the Yugo sold for in America at the time—$3,995. That was dirt cheap, less than half what you’d pay for most cars—average car prices in 1985 were right around $9,000. Even cheap compared to other little crapboxes of the era.
A 1985 Chevrolet Chevette, for example, was $5,690, and there’s no way in hell a Chevette was that much better than a Yugo. The Chevette was still using last-gen RWD technology, and as a result had less interior room and worse bad-weather traction, and wasn’t any faster or better appointed than a Yugo, really.
Maybe the build quality was a bit better, but let’s not get too revisionist in our memories of Chevettes—they were pretty shitty, too.
The whole point of this video, aside from finally just getting a chance to drive this legendary shitbox, was to give the Yugo a fair shake, finally, and I hope I did that.
Mike’s sad little Yugo just isn’t that terrible. I liked driving it! It’s actually kind of fun, in a certain light, ramshackle way, and with those big rally lights, I think it even looks sort of cool, too.
Yeah, the dash feels like it’s held together with stern looks and gum, and Ballaban’s foolish tire choices don’t help anything, but there’s no way in hell this car is the worst.
It’s a cheap and shoddy and uninspired, sure, but it’s also honest and unpretentious and willing to do what’s asked of it. That’s okay in my book.
So, lazy car-journos, enough with the Yugo on your stupid worst-ever lists. There’s plenty more options out there.