31st May 2008

Matey boy was squatting with a tinnie and a fag

posted in Car News Articles |

I have returned from a flying visit to Poland with GM which was part Aveo 3-door launch (it’s a revamp for the Kalos small hatchback), part general update on Chevrolet. Aveo certainly looks like a decent bit¬†of car for not very much outlay. The 1.4 litre engine was better than the 1.2, but the 1.2 will get you around okay.¬†You just have to be more careful about overtaking manoeuvers – and in¬†rural Poland¬†you find yourself overtaking slow-moving¬†agricultural traffic quite a bit.

The update we were given on¬†Chevrolet in Europe was certainly useful – I hadn’t appreciated quite how well the brand is doing in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Those Russian numbers are getting big and so is Ukraine. Borat’s mates in Kazakhstan will soon be driving Chevys¬†too.

One thing that is interesting is how quickly places can develop in economic terms Рalways clearly reflected in the state of the vehicles on the road (and indeed the state of the roads). Mark Bursa РI was driving with him and his father was Polish - tells me that you would have seen many more old Polonez wheezers and ancient Fiats (like the Polish-built 126) just three or four years ago. A tidal wave of used car imports from Western Europe has made its impact. 

Any¬†obvious signs¬†we were in Poland and not any old¬†Euro-identikit country? Well, there was that bloke squatting in¬†the middle of a rural track-cum-road with a tin of beer and a cigarette. Three spanking new Chevrolets with Austrian plates slowed down and, respectfully, slowly swung around him. He carried on swigging and seemed oblivious. Good on him. And, without wanting to go all¬†Bill Oddie, we saw real live storks sitting in nests atop poles on ordinary streets…

There were also plenty of shrines dotted around – it is a stoutly Roman Catholic country. The roads weren’t great, but they were okay and they were mainly only lightly used outside of Wroclaw. Did see a few old bangers to gladden the heart and there was an old Merc 190 doing some comical cornering¬†at an alarming angle – but his shocks were shot, he wasn’t breaking sweat! There were also a few old Trabants to be admired for their sheer resilience, though not many. As I say, Poland is apparently changing fast.

The food? You will enjoy if you like meat, dumplings, cabbage and spicy soups. I liked the soups (especially the ‘zurek’). And I will be trying some chilled ‘bison grass vodka’ later. I picked it up in the Wroclaw duty-free shop. There’s even a piece of grass in it.

If you want to see the real deal in places like central and eastern Europe, I suggest you get out there soon, before they have McDonald’s, Starbucks¬†and Chevrolets everywhere you look. Not that those things are bad, I know, but once the old cars and ways are gone, they are gone forever. That’s progress I suppose.

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