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


The Polonez is a rebodied Polski Fiat 125p that Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych (FSO) built under license from Fiat. The internal components, including a modernized engine, (pistons and carburetor), the chassis, and other mechanical, were from the Polski Fiat 125p, but the body was an entirely new hatchback body designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The car was meant to be equipped with Fiat's DOHC engines in the 1980s, but financial problems at the time made the purchase of a license 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 1.9 GLD hitting a concrete block (without an energy-absorbing metal cage) with 40% of the front at 50 km/h (31 mph) 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[]

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) introduced 1996 (first presented 1994)
  • Station wagon (sold in some markets as the FSO Caro) introduced 1999 (first presented 1994)
  • Pick-up called Truck (introduced 1987)
  • Extended Pick-up (with small rear seats)
  • Truck Roy (long body like Caro/Atu but in pick-up form) (introduced around 1997)
  • 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) introduced around 1993
  • 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 including: pickup made using rear part of Fiat 125p pick-up, native-looking pickup (w/o frame in the rear like actual Truck), 4x4 offroader (Analog), hydro-pneumatic suspension, Sedan (much different to Atu/Celina), 4x4 Truck w/o offroad suspension.

Polonez devolopment[]

  • 1970 Fiat launched ESV (European Safety Vehicle) project.
  • 1974 FSO chose Fiat's ESV prototype as base of new car. FSO's designer Zbigniew Watson joins Gioretto Giugiaro and Walter de Silva to convert ESV project to the size of Fiat 125 floor and design interior and all body details. Project known as "type 137".
  • 1975 Fiat prepared prototypes of type 137 named "Polski" and sent them to FSO.
  • 1978 May. Start of mass production and official premiere of the FSO Polonez 1500 and FSO Polonez 1300. FSO Polonez 2000 Rally with 2 liter Fiat DOHC engine displayed.
  • 1979 FSO Polonez 2000, sold mostly to government officials, Fiat engine, DOHC, 1,995 cc, 82 kW (110 hp), 5-speed gearbox, 0–100 km/h acceleration in 12.0 seconds, 175 km/h (109 mph) top speed. The FSO Polonez 2000 Rally debuts in the Rallye Monte Carlo.
  • 1980 FSO Polonez 1300 and 1500 three-door, produced in 1980-1983 in about 300 units.
  • 1981 FSO Polonez in economy version. This was sold without: black side rubbing strips between front and end wheel, chrome bumper strips, rear wipe-wash, fog lamps, luggage cover, and rev counter. Plain vinyl was used on the seats and in the luggage compartment.

FSO Polonez 1500 X - top version, with AB 1,481 cc engine, 60 kW (80 hp), 5-speed gearbox, final drive ratio 4:3, radio. Sold in the domestic market mostly for U.S. dollars.

  • 1982 FSO Polonez 1500 Coupé with three-door bodywork introduced, 1,481 cc engine with 60 kW (80 hp). This was the first FSO model to feature electronic ignition and fuel economiser owing to supply of pre-heated air to suction manifold. Only a few dozen were produced.
  • 1983 The Polski Fiat 125p was renamed FSO 125p, after FSO's licence rights to the Fiat badge expired.

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 an Italian VM Motori HR 488 engine of 1,995 cc, producing 62 kW (83 hp) at 4,300 rpm and 163 N·m (120 lb·ft) at 2,500 rpm. Final drive ratio is 3,727, for a 0–100 km/h acceleration time of 20,0 s, and a top speed of 146 km/h (91 mph). Fuel consumption is 7,1/10,6/10,0, approximately 100 cars were produced to this specification.

  • 1984 FSO Polonez 2000 Turbo 3-door - rally car, never got rally homologation, bodywork like Coupé version, but without the Coupé-like front. This car received a turbocharged 1,995 cc Fiat engine, in some variants combined with a supercharger for better torque.
  • 1985 FSO Polonez - first 5-door cars with a Coupé-like front
  • 1986 FSO Polonez 1.5 Turbo mass production launched. Also a rally version 1.5C Turbo known as "Iron Rain" official premiere.

FSO 125p 1.6 D with a 1,588 cc Volkswagen diesel engine, producing 40 kW (54 hp) at 4,800 rpm and 100 N·m (74 lb·ft) at 2,300 rpm. 0–100 km/h acceleration took 25,2 seconds, and top speed is 125 km/h (78 mph). Fuel consumption was reported as 5,4/9,3/7,4, with the price in Poland being about $4,500 at the time.

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

  • 1987 FSO Polonez 1.6 LE - 1598 cc, 64 kW (86 hp) at 5,200 rpm, 132 N·m (97 lb·ft) at 3,800 rpm, 155 km/h (96 mph)

FSO 125p 1.6 ME with Polonez CB 1,598 cc engine, 64 kW (86 hp) at 5,200 rpm, 132 N·m (97 lb·ft) at 3,800 rpm, 157 km/h (98 mph), 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 to 1, 1481 cc, 78 kW (105 hp) at 6,000 rpm, 180 N·m (133 lb·ft) at 3,200 rpm, 11,0 s, 180 km/h (112 mph), built in rally version only (group N), on special request a Turbo-kit was installed in mass-produced cars.

FSO Polonez 1500 Turbo with AA 1,481 cc engine, 140 kW (188 hp) at 7,000 rpm, 240 N·m (177 lb·ft) at 3,200 rpm, 8,5 s, 220 km/h (137 mph). This was a rally version only, built to group A specifications.

  • 1988 Prototypes of the FSO Polonez in ambulance and van versions based on the FSO Truck (pick-up). Lowered chassis and an additional right-side door were added features.
  • 1989 FSO Polonez MR'89 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 (103 hp) engine, 12,5 s, 165 km/h (103 mph)
  • 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 Citroën's 1905 cc diesel engine, 50 kW (67 hp), 120 N·m (89 lb·ft), 140 km/h (87 mph), sold across mainland Europe. The other versions in pricelist:

FSO Polonez Caro 1.5 GLE - 60 kW (80 hp)
FSO Polonez Caro 1.6 GLE - 64 kW (86 hp)
FSO Polonez Caro 2.0 GLE - Ford's 77 kW (103 hp) 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 60 mm (2.4 in) 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 (102 hp) @ 6000 rpm, 127 N·m (94 lb·ft) @ 5000 rpm, 11,9 s, 178 km/h (111 mph), with or without catalytic converter.

  • 1994 FSO (Prima) 1.4 GLI 16V - race car with Rover 1396 cc engine, 92 kW (123 hp) @ 7200 rpm, 130 N·m (96 lb·ft) @ 6000 rpm, 205 km/h (127 mph), 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 offering in the Netherlands consisted of:

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 Delphi (Multec XM) multi-point fuel injection, 1598 cc 62 kW (83 hp), 130 N·m (96 lb·ft), ca. 155 km/h (96 mph), 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 Daewoo-FSO Polonez Kombi 1.6 GSi MPI. (April) The mass production of the Daewoo-FSO Polonez Kombi 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 Daewoo-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 air conditioning, sold in summer months for extra 1,200 PLN (alloy wheels included).
  • 2001 (summer) Small series of FSO Polonez with air conditioning, sold in summer months for extra 1,000 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 restart 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, Argentina, Bolivia, UK, China, Greece, Italy, Finland, Egypt (Complete knock down (CKD) were assembled in Egypt, and Polonez was still popular in Egypt through 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 and Colombia (in the latter country as police cars and taxicabs) from the late 1980s to early 1990s. In some countries the FSO Polonez was sold as FSO Celina, FSO Prima, or 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. They were withdrawn from those markets largely because of more stringent emissions requirements.


The FSO Polonez suffered from relatively poor performance (except those with Fiat 2.0DOHC, Ford 2.0 SOHC and Rover 1.4MPI 16V). 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 ventilation systems.

Production ended, 24 years after it had begun. The relatively low price of the Polonez was seen as the main advantage over other cars. Demand slumped and the last versions of the Polonez produced were the Truck versions, valued for their low price, reliability and high load capability (up to 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) 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 was rapidly replaced by relatively cheap, tax free, and more modern used cars from Western Europe.