FSO Polonez

The FSO Polonez is a Polish motor vehicle produced from 1978 to 2002. The car name comes from the Polish dance, polonaise.


Essentially the car was a rebodied Polski Fiat 125p, which Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych (FSO) built under licence from Fiat, based on the Fiat 125. The internal components (engine, chassis, and other mechanicals) were straight from the Polski Fiat 125p, but clothed in an entirely new hatchback body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The car was meant to be equipped with Fiat's DOHC engines in the1980s, but a crisis at the time made the purchase of a licence from Fiat impossible. This is also why the 125p was produced simultaneously with the Polonez for more than a decade. Moreover, mechanical modernization only took place when it could be applied to both cars. This situation finally changed after the production of the 125p ended in 1991.

An advantage of the Polonez is its passive safety. Crash tests were performed in 1994 according to EU safety regulations so that the Polonez could be exported worldwide. They proved the car to be very safe. The Caro 1.9GLD hitting a concrete block (without an energy-absorbing metal cage) with 40% of the front at survived very well. All doors could be opened without any difficulty, there were no critical injuries for passengers, and no fuel leakage occurred.

Polonez range

Over the years, the Polonez range was expanded to encompass a wide range of bodies. These included:

  • Hatchback (as originally introduced)
  • Sedan (FSO Polonez Atu, also known as FSO Celina on some export markets)
  • Station wagon (sold in some markets as the FSO Caro)
  • Pick-up
  • Extended Pick-up (with small rear seats)
  • Truck Roy (long body like Caro/Atu but in pick-up form)
  • Special-bodied service vehicle
  • Special edition for the Polish Fire Brigade
  • Cargo (Polonez Caro with higher roof and longer rear part made of PVC put on metal crates- this body is what the Ambulance was built on)
  • Coupe (3 doors, about 50 made, side doors and B pillar are wider, C pillar is different)
  • 3-doors (like normal Polonez but lacks rear doors, it is estimated that 300-1000 were made)

There were also many prototypes like: pickup made using rear part of Fiat 125p pick-up, native-looking pickup, 4x4 offroader (Analog), hydro-pneumatic suspension, Sedan (much different to Atu/Celina)

Polonez development

  • 1978 May.Start of mass production and official premiere of the FSO Polonez 1500 and FSO Polonez 1300
  • 1979 FSO Polonez 2000, sold mostly to government officials, Fiat engine, DOHC, 1995 cc, 82 kW/112 PS, 5 speed gearbox, 12,0 s.,
  • 1980 FSO Polonez 1300 and 1500 3-door, produced in 1980-1983, approx. 300 cars
  • 1981 FSO Polonez in economy version, without: black side rubbing strips between front and end wheel, shining strips on the bumpers, rear wipe-wash, foglamps, luggage facing, rev counter. The simple plastic carpets on the seats and luggage room used.

FSO Polonez 1500 X - top version, with AB 1481 cc engine, 60 kW (82 PS), 5-speed gearbox, final drive ratio 4,3 , radio. Sold to Polish people mostly for US dollars .

  • 1982 FSO Polonez 1500 Coupe with 3-door bodywork, 1481 cc engine, 60 kW/82 PS, the first FSO model with electronic ignition and fuel economiser owing to supply of pre-heated air to suction manifold , few dozens produced.

  • 1983 Polski Fiat 125p renamed to FSO 125p, after FSO licence rights to FIAT label expired (There were quality issues too).

The new naming system for FSO cars, produced models: FSO 125p: 1.3 L, 1.3 ML, 1.3 ME, 1.5 C, 1.5 L, 1.5 ML, 1.5 MS, 1.5 ME FSO Polonez 1.3 C, 1.3 CE, 1.3 L, 1.3 LE, 1.5 C, 1.5 CE, 1.5 L, 1.5 LS, 1.5 LE, 1.5 X, 2000.

FSO Polonez 2.0 D Turbo with Italian VM engine 1995 cc, 62 kW/84 PS/4300 rpm, /2500, final drive ratio 3,727, 20,0s, , 7,1/10,6/10,0, approx. 100 cars produced in this specification.

  • 1984 FSO Polonez 2000 Turbo 3-door - rally car, never got rally homologation, bodywork like Coupe version, but without Coupe-like front, 1995 cc Fiat engine with turbo charger.
  • 1985 FSO Polonez - first 5-door cars with Coupe-like front
  • 1986 FSO 125p 1.6 D with 1588 cc Volkswagen diesel engine, 40 kW/54 PS/4800 rpm, /2300, 25,2 s, , 5,4/9,3/7,4, price in Poland $4500

FSO Polonez - first cars with additional rear-side windows in the C-pillar.

  • 1987 FSO Polonez 1.6 LE - 1598 cc, 64 kW/87 PS/5200 rpm, /3800 rpm,

FSO 125p 1.6 ME with Polonez CB 1598 cc engine, 64 kW/87 PS/5200 rpm, /3800 rpm, , very few cars made.

FSO Polonez modifications: stamped rear spoiler instead of plastic one, new model labels on the sticking foil, new version coding system, the 'S' should have meant the car with additional rear-side windows in the C-pillar, rule often broken in practice, produced versions: 1,3 SCE, 1.3 SL, 1.3 SLE, 1,5 CE, 1.5 L, 1,5 LE, 1,5 SCE, 1,5 SL, 1,5 SLE, 1,6 SLE, 2.0 SLE

FSO Polonez 1.5 SLE Turbo with AA engine, compression ratio 8,5, 1481 cc, 78 kW/106 PS/6000 rpm, /3200 rpm, 11,0 s, , built in rally version only (N-group), on special request a Turbo-kit was installed in mass produced cars.

FSO Polonez 1500 Turbo with AA 1481 cc engine, 140 kW/190 PS/7000 rpm, /3200 rpm, 8,5 s, , rally version only (A-group specification)

  • 1988 Prototypes of the FSO Polonez in ambulance and van versions based on the FSO Truck (pick-up). Lowered chassis and extra right-side door applied.
  • 1989 FSO Polonez with rear lid lowered to the bumper level, new rear lamps, rear wipe-wash placed horizontally, side repeaters placed horizontally near front doors.
  • 1990 FSO Polonez 2.0 SLE - with Ford's 77 kW/105 PS engine, 12,5 s,
  • 1991 The end of FSO 125p production.

The end of FSO's 1295 cc engine production. The UK. FSO import temporarily stopped. FSO Polonez Caro - face lifting: new nose with headlamps and grill (makes the front a bit similar to FSO Wars, prototype car supposed to be successor to Polonez), new front and rear bumpers, steering wheel, new rooflet over instruments, improved front crash safety FSO Polonez Caro 1.9 GLD with Citroen's 1905 cc diesel engine, 50 kW/68 PS, , , sold across mainland Europe. The other versions in pricelist: FSO Polonez Caro 1.5 GLE - 60 kW/82 PS FSO Polonez Caro 1.6 GLE - 64 kW/87 PS FSO Polonez Caro 2.0 GLE - Ford's 77 kW/105 PS engine and gearbox from the Ford Sierra (approx. 1,000 units)

  • 1992 FSO Polonez 1.5 GLI, 1.6 GLI with ABIMEX single point injection, with or without catalytic converter.
  • 1993 (August) Polonez after the next facelift: front and rear track wider, fresh air inlet moved from hood to the front of the windscreen, better front and rear wipe-wash kinematics, longer arms and larger wiped area, changes in the dashboard: circular speedometer and rev counter, four instead of two fresh air outlets, illuminated switches and remote headlamps shaft regulator.

(December) FSO Polonez 1.4 GLI 16V with Rover 1396 cc engine, 76 kW/103 PS/6000 rpm, /5000 rpm, 11,9 s, , with or without catalytic converter.

  • 1994 FSO (Prima) 1.4 GLI 16V - race car with Rover 1396 cc engine, 92 kW/125 PS/7200 rpm, /6000 rpm, , took part in Dutch race competitions.

FSO Polonez Sedan prototype - later produced as the FSO Atu - with 4-door limousine bodywork, with completely new dashboard and upholstery (project by FSO), new rear suspension: rigid rear axle with longitudinal wishbones, reaction bars and coil springs. Rear lamps same as in Caro version.

Two prototypes of the FSO Polonez Kombi (station wagon). The next prototype: FSO Analog 4WD, light off-road car with 4-door pick-up bodywork and four wheel drive.

Export to the UK restarted: FSO Caro (Polonez 1.6 and 1.9 D) and FSO Pick-up (Truck)

  • 1995 The next prototype of the 4-door FSO Polonez Sedan introduced on the 1995 Poznan Motor Show - the car had new a dashboard (see 1994) and new rear lamps.

Lucas brakes introduced.

  • 1996 (February) First series of the new FSO Atu 1.6 GLI sold - produced from December 1995 to February 1996. (June) Mass production of the FSO Polonez Atu 1.6 GLI and FSO Polonez Atu 1.4 GLI 16V, very few cars in FSO Polonez Atu 1.9 GLD specification with Diesel engine. The FSO Atu renamed to FSO Polonez Atu after protests by the ATU insurance company.

Production of the FSO Polonez Caro 1.9 GLD stopped.

  • 1997 (March) FSO Polonez mass production of the new Caro Plus and Atu Plus - the new front grill, bumpers, new dashboard.

(summer) End of export to the Netherlands, the last foreign market for Polonez passenger versions; the last offer in the Netherlands: FSO Prima (Polonez Caro) 1.6 GLI FSO Prima (Polonez Caro) 1.4 GLI 16V FSO Celina (Atu) 1.6 GLI

(August) The first Daewoo-FSO Lanos 1.5 S 4d leaves the FSO assembly line.(December) FSO Polonez Caro Plus and Atu Plus 1.6 GSI - with Bosch multi-point fuel injection, 1598 cc/62 kW/84 PS, , ca. , new door handles introduced.

  • 1998 (May) The first public show of the station wagon prototype: FSO Polonez Kombi Plus.

FSO Truck sold in Italy by Daewoo dealer network.

  • 1999 (February) The test production of the new FSO Polonez Kombi 1.6 GSi MPI.(April) The mass production of the FSO Polonez Kombi Plus in passenger (final drive ratio 3,9) and van version (final drive ratio 4,3) with 1.6 engine (MPI). The new steering wheel (From Daewoo Nubira), arm-rests introduced. Start of sale planned for June 1999.(May) Official premiere of the FSO Polonez Kombi 1.6 GSi MPI on the Poznan Motor Show.
  • 2000 The new shape of the FSO label in the front grill. (summer) Approx. 200 FSO Polonez cars produced with aircondition, sold in summer months for extra 1200,- PLN (alloy wheels included).
  • 2001 (summer) Small series of FSO Polonez with air conditioning, sold in summer months for extra 1000,- PLN.
  • 2002 (the end of first quarter) The last passenger FSO Polonez car leaves assembly line. Production has been stopped (meant to be stopped temporarily at first though). Daewoo-FSO did not make any official ceremony of the end of Polonez production.
  • 2003 a new company, Polska Fabryka Samochodow (PFS) tried to re-start Polonez Truck production, renamed to Poltruck (meant to have modified body, to be introduced a bit later though), but it eventually failed leaving only a limited amount of test cars.

Export markets

Polonez was exported to many countries, including Netherlands, UK, China, Greece, Italy, Finland, Egypt (also production kits were assembled here, Polonez is still quite popular in Egypt even today (2008)), Spain, Portugal, and others. In the late 1980s a batch of 150 Polonez hatchbacks was exported to New Zealand . They were also exported to Chile from the late 1980s to early 1990s. In some countries the FSO Polonez was sold as FSO Celina or FSO Prima or just FSO Caro.

Imports to the UK ceased in 1997, though sales continued in some parts of Western Europe - including France - for at least a year afterwards. It had not sold very well in the UK, as demand for such vehicles had declined throughout the 1990s, and by 1997 its price was just about the only thing in its favour. Budget competitors like Skoda and Hyundai had improved their standards and moved on with more modern designs, while the UK had recently gained another budget importer-- Daewoo. FSO, meanwhile, was offering a product that was considered virtually identical to the car launched almost 20 years earlier. Though quality and performance improved, the Polonez was unable to overcome its negative reputation. Polonez had never been a match for most of its competitors. This was the main reason for its withdrawal from the UK market.


The FSO Polonez suffered from relatively poor performance (except those with Fiat 2.0DOHC , Ford 2.0 SOHC and Rover 1.4MPI 16V), especially when compared with newer vehicles, during the latter part of its production run. Reliability was also patchy but this was somewhat offset by the fact that Polonez parts were relatively cheap and readily available. After 1992, quality began to increase, especially after 1995 when Daewoo started its cooperation with FSO. The last production models, the PLUS series since 1997 offered new features such as Korean (Daewoo) made ventilation system including closed air circulation inside car.

Production eventually ended, 24 years after it had begun, due to the fact that potential buyers preferred to buy used cars (even ones in worse condition) imported from western Europe rather than the Polonez whose relatively low price was seen as the main advantage over other cars. Demand slumped and the last versions of the Polonez produced were the Polonez Truck versions, valued for their low price, reliability and high load capability (up to depending on the version). The Polonez is a common sight in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in its home country of Poland, but since Poland joined the European Union in May 2004, the car has been rapidly being replaced by relatively cheap, tax free, and more modern used cars from western Europe.


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