1989 Yugo GVL: It's Better Than Walking
by Reese Counts Vehicle Testing Assistant on September 28, 2015
As the newest member of the Edmunds editorial staff, it's slim pickings when it comes to signing out a car for the evening. So slim in fact that one evening it came down to either my personal vehicle or a 1989 Yugo GVL. I was in the middle of moving so at the time my GTI was serving as a mobile storage unit. I felt my belongings were a little safer tucked away in the parking structure deep below Fort Edmunds.
That left me with one option.
At the time I was staying just a few blocks away from the office, so if anything went awry I knew I could hoof it back to the office. I wasn't too worried. Josh Sadlier assured me the idle problem had been sorted and, with a new battery installed, I wouldn't have to push start the car again.
My time behind the Yugo's forward-canted steering wheel was long overdue. When I was still an intern, I was part of the team that went and purchased the Yugo in Boise, Idaho. Since then, I've felt obligated to drive it. After two nights with the so-called Balkan Bullet, I was left with very mixed feelings.
First off, turning the ignition requires you to hug the steering wheel while awkwardly twisting your wrist. The clutch pedal works in the sense that it engages and disengages the clutch. But there is no pedal feel or discernable catch point, just one smooth transition from the firewall upward. The shifter is vague, centering itself after moving from one gear to the next. The unassisted steering is surprisingly heavy for a car with such little weight and narrow tires, though the large steering wheel aids your efforts.
Since the entire car smells of gasoline, rolling down the window is a must. Because the lever has broken, lowering the window requires the driver to rotate what remains of the crank with one hand while pushing down on the window with the other. It's best to do this before you're buckled in with the two-piece seat belts.
It might sound like I'm complaining, but these are mostly just observations. The act of actually driving this car is quite fun.
The Yugo wants to be wrung out. Heavy steering and lack of power encourages the driver to maintain any momentum that's been gained. Slowing down means eventually having to speed back up, one of the Yugo's many weak spots. Tossing the Yugo into a corner produces comical amounts of body roll and makes the car feel like its traveling faster than it actually is.
I wouldn't want to drive this every day, or even 900 miles back from Idaho. Part of the fun is knowing that I don't actually have to live with the Yugo and all that comes with it every day. But for puttering around town, it's good for a laugh.
Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 41,706 miles