This week it’s the turn of the Yugo Sana to make an appearance on PetrolBlog’s Old Gold Top Gear. I fully appreciate there’s probably a generation of PetrolBlog readers who will have no idea what a Yugo Sana is. It’s hardly surprising when you consider that it endured a relatively short life in the UK and was eventually killed off when its importer, Zastava GB, was put out of business by the Yugoslav conflicts.
But for those of you who do remember the Yugo Sana, when was the last time you saw one? I’d hazard a guess that it wasn’t any time recently, as according to How Many Left?, there is only one left on Britain’s roads. All isn’t lost for the Sana though, as there appears to be a further four cars left untaxed, so presumably they’re sat resting on front lawns or being driven around illegally.
Truth is, the Sana wasn’t loved when it was new and there isn’t a lot of love for it now. Even when launched in 1989, the Sana was a rather crude car that was lacking in any character. But it did have a major trump card – its price. For less than £5,500, you could drive away in a brand spanking new Sana. That’s about £1,500 less than a standard, bottom-of-the range Fiat Tipo. You pays your money…
The references to Fiat don’t end there, as the Yugo was powered by a Fiat Tipo 1.4 litre engine and was styled by Giugiaro, who also penned the Uno and the original Panda. The Sana was no drivers’ car, but in his review, Tiff Needell praised the car’s “semi-sports suspension” that gave it good handling characteristics. Rather surprising. But with a 0-60mph time of 13.2 seconds and a top speed of 97, you could never call the Sana a performance car!
Styling wise, it wasn’t one of Giugiaro’s better days. At best, it looks like an overweight Citroën AX. At worst, it looks dull, uninspiring and bland.
So it’s hard to feel much love for the Sana, but I do think it’s a shame to see that so few are left. Back in 1994, there were some 2,500 of the things pootling about our streets, so the Sana’s decline has been rapid and fierce. It’s a glimpse back at a time when new car makers were making inroads into the UK market and, given the economic recession of the early ’90s, many found favour rather quickly. Often, the likes of the Sana came with a good level of standard equipment and generous warranty packages. For those with no interest in driving or having the right badge, a Yugo was just the ticket.
But as the recession ended, buyers demanded more from their cars and perhaps crucially, were able to get the levels of credit needed to satisfy their desires. Cars like the Yugo Sana simply weren’t fashionable any more. Besides, any hopes of survival for were dashed by the Yugoslav wars.
This piece of vintage Top Gear is notable for a number of reasons, primarily Mr Tiff Needell. He’s so obviously on his best behaviour here. There are no excitable comments. No handbrake turns. And not even a hint of tyre smoke. It’s just ‘Uncle Tiff’ in his best Christmas jumper. Also look out for the Montego going in the other direction and the broken seatbelt hook. Finally, is it me, or does the Sana seem to have a huge amount of rear legroom?
So sit back and enjoy some rare non-smoky Tiff footage. Time to covet the Yugo Sana? Well if nothing else, the Zastava Yugo Sana is always going to be fighting for last place in an A-Z of world cars.