1989 Yugo GVL: Performance Testing - Will It Survive?
by Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager on October 11, 2015
We needed a couple of tries to get our 1989 Yugo GVL up to instrumented performance testing standards. Now that it was as healthy as we've known it to be, the Yugo was ready for a day at the test track.
The proposition was a bit sketchy. Largely because this was the first time the car had run reliably in the past three weeks. We anticipated some laughs, a steady flow of sweat and even a few white knuckle moments. In the back of our minds we all wondered if it would survive the day but nobody said it out loud. This was going to be fun...
Vehicle: 1989 Yugo GVL
Driver: Carlos Lago
Drive Type: Front-Wheel Drive
Transmission Type: Four-speed manual
Engine Type: Inline-4 cylinder
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,116/68
Redline (rpm): no tachometer
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 55 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 57 @ 3,000
Brake Type (front): One-piece, solid disc, two-piston sliding caliper
Brake Type (rear): Drum
Suspension Type (front): Independent, MacPherson strut, anti-roll bar
Suspension Type (rear): Strut, transverse leaf spring
Tire Size (front): P155/80R13 79T
Tire Size (rear): P155/80R13 79T
Tire Brand: Kumho
Tire Model: Solus KR21
Tire Type: All-Season
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 1,822
0-30 (sec): 4.8
0-45 (sec): 8.5
0-60 (sec): 15.3
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 14.9
0-75 (sec): did not reach 75 mph in 1/4-mile
1/4-mile (sec @ mph): 19.87 @ 65.96
30-0 (ft): 36
60-0 (ft): 155
Slalom (mph): 52.9
Skidpad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.60
RPM @ 70: no tachometer
It'll chirp the tires. Disappointingly, it won't do a burnout. Like most serious drag racers, getting the Yugo off the line is all about the launch. These new Kumho tires have more grip than the engine has power, so you have to carefully and slowly engage the clutch at high rpm. Get the balance right, and the Yugo makes some approximation of an aggressive launch.
The absence of a tach means shifting is more about judging acceleration by your gut and worrying about valve float. The shifter has the precision of a blind man with a machine gun. You have to rush it to the area where the next gear might be and release the clutch with the hope that you've made it. Also, because the throttle sticks when you use wide-open throttle, you're basically flat-shifting. Serious drag racing stuff.
It's with trepidation that you do approach the aptly-named panic stop with a Yugo. It takes a while to wind up to 60-plus mph, and you hope coming back down to zero will take less time. The pedal actually feels pretty good. You can threshold brake right to the tire's limits. They are low limits, mind you. But you can stand right on them.
The best 155-foot stopping distance is 10 feet shorter than new. As much as I'd like to credit my spectacular driving skills it's likely the result of a few decades of tire development. It takes some steering correction to keep straight — especially so if you lock up the brakes — but it's easy to control.
The Yugo is a slow, low-grip, and high-effort car. The 52.9-mph result may sound poor, but from the driver's seat it's a very fast 52.9 mph. You have to sit up on the wheel to get enough leverage on it, bracing against the door. Most of that speed comes from the Yugo's narrowness, which allows you to get through the cones without working too much on the steering wheel. This is good, because keeping in sync with the body roll is important. Zig when it zags and its bad news.
The Yugo would rather not turn. Ask it to, and it'll want to throw itself on the door handles. From the tires squealing to how you have to brace against the door, everything protests turning. With the suspension sophistication of a mobile home, the Yugo posts unsurprisingly poor numbers and a rather painful experience from behind the wheel.
Onlookers have a better time, as they can see it pick up an inside rear tire — just like a GTI! We didn't experience any starvation from fuel slosh (old-school stability control), but perhaps that's because the lateral acceleration was so low.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 41,838 miles