Before I came to Azerbaijan, I had heard of the Lada automobile, but thought it was a joke. I knew that it was made in Russia, along with the Volga and thought it was purchased mostly because there were only 2 brands in the USSR and other types of cars were not generally available. I thought it was of poor quality and wouldn't perform well.
This is yet another area in which I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Ladas are everywhere here, along with SUV's, Mercedes, BMW's, Japanese and Korean cars. I have a real respect for them now because I have seen the difficult situations in which they perform well. Ladas are small, economy cars with simple, widely available parts. Many people can fix Ladas themselves without expensive special equipment.
Many of the roads in the country and some even in the city are in bad condition, made of dirt or gravel and are very uneven. Taxis are ubiquitous because many people don't have cars and need to carry heavy loads from the bazaar or other places where public transportation won't work. These cars can go places only an SUV should go and do a great job at it.
It is common in the summer to see Ladas completely full of watermelons, including the front passenger seat, back seat to the ceiling, an open trunk and full roof carrier, proceeding normally down a street.
I did a little reading about them and found they are built tough because they need to survive winters in Siberia and rough terrain everywhere. They are sold on every continent except North America and are even used in Antarctica. Cars with 300,000 miles are not unusual.
I was pretty attached to my Toyota Corolla, but will look around Craigslist when I get back for a Lada!