The marque: Fiat's contribution to the great communist miracle.

The history: In 1966 Fiat and the Soviet government got together in a deal brokered by Palmiro Togliatti, then chairman of the Italian communist party. In return for plant, machinery, help with building the factory and the design of the Fiat 124, Fiat got a supply of poor-quality steel which did its rust reputation no good at all.

Ladas came to the UK in 1973, at an astonishingly low price. In 1978 they were joined by the Niva 4x4, and the original Lada gradually got squarer-cut in attempts to modernise it. Imports to the UK faded out in 1997, due to problems with emissions.

The company (known as AvtoVaz) currently produces a 10-car range with some GM influence. Some are quite modern -- the 110 GTI, the Nadeschda MPV, the Calina saloon -- but, incredibly, the old Fiat-based car soldiered on as the Nova until last year. Defining model: Riva; beneath the boxiness there still lurks a Fiat 124.

They say: You'll drive it and like it or there'll be no more cars for you.

We say: Market forces haven't withered them yet.

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