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Lada Niva: Still Going Strong at 44, This Russian Hard Candy Won't Crack Soon

The commercial career of this little stubborn Russian 4x4 started in 1977. The technical stuff hidden inside its ultracompact body came partially from the Russian adaptation of the Fiat 124/125 (born in 1966 in Turin, Italy), locally known as the VAZ-2101 and VAZ-2103, respectively (Lada 1200 and 1500 for export markets).
Lada Niva 15 photos
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Regarding the design, it is rather easy to notice the Niva was styled to keep a kind of family look with the contemporary Lada sedans. So, even in 1977, there was nothing really new about it. In fact, looking back further, the very deep roots of its DNA can be found in the early 40s, when the military Jeep took shape.

I’m talking here about the idea of a small and lightweight 4x4 vehicle with remarkable off-road capabilities, robust construction, low gear range, short wheelbase, wheels relatively big in diameter, as well as a simple and practical interior designed to accommodate more than two people or two people and some stuff.

It proved to be a winning recipe at any time, through the worst driving conditions. Functionally, the Lada Niva has a determinant advantage over the military Jeep: its body really has an interior! You can heat it, you can roll the windows down and up, and even get a glovebox inside a proper dashboard. That's a quite civilized environment, after all. Siberia, here we come!

Remember that saying: if it isn’t there, it can’t break! Simplicity has a key role in the Niva’s reliablity. And in the event it breaks, it is easy to find out what went wrong. This kind of vehicle is still appreciated and needed almost everywhere on Earth, especially given it's cheap vehicle. Are you familiar with the SUV-like, 2WD subcompact family hatch called the Dacia Sandero Stepway? The Lada Niva is cheaper on certain markets, and it doesn’t need a road at all.

Fact: it’s the year 2021, and the Lada Niva is still exported toward the pretentious markets of western Europe, albeit not in big numbers. As for a replacement, I believe the guys from Lada would answer this with another question: "Pochemu?" (Russian for "why"). Yep, that’s quite a tough question. Right now, it seems the “eternal” Niva will be assembled at least until 2024. Want something like the Niva, but not Russian-made? Try the Suzuki Jimny. If you aren’t taller than a typical Japanese fellow, it will fit you.


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