Lada has been with us since 1970, and when it came to life, it brought jobs for thousands of people in Russia. With its models (some original, some copied from other manufacturers), they became a laughing stock in car industry. They have always been known for the bad bodywork, tweaked (or rather ruined) Fiat engines and no luxury interior options whatsoever. But, one of their models proved to the world that you don't need a lot of things to be good at what you're doing.
Despite not having computers or controls for more relaxed driving, the Lada Niva can teach today's SUVs a good lesson. Believe it or not, the Niva is one of the longest living models in car industry; it's been with us since 1977, and in April next year, it's going to celebrate its 42nd birthday.
To be honest, the Niva evolved in hundreds of ways, but no major changes were happening to it, which made it even more perfect. It's a car that reminds you of the past, and that's not a bad thing, since it's still big, unattractive and very raw.
2009 Lada Niva. Credit: FavCars.com
And it seems that the company realized the point of its ruggedness. It's not about changing every single detail on the car to make it good, but more about sticking to only one thing-tradition.
That's why this car looks like it's been teleported from the 1980s, and it is the perfect example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its covers. This is a car that you can use in the city to get from point A to point B, while other SUVs are too big for some city streets. However, the Niva can also get you through the roughest of terrains in Siberia, where your beloved Range Rover or Bentayga would never stand a chance.
Many other SUVs are equipped with all sorts of gadgets and shite that can easily break, but since Niva doesn't have any gadgets, nothing will break. On the official Lada page, the Niva is described as:
"Lada 4x4 is a legendary vehicle which cannot live without strong emotions.
It stormed the North Pole and Everest, participated in rally Paris-Dakar, domesticated the Antarctic.
It is known and loved on all continents. It is strong, enterprising and low-maintenance."
And that's it! That's the official description of this car. If you don't believe me, click here and see for yourself. And to be honest, that's the proper and most basic description of a car; straight to the core, and no bullshit.
But, Lada is trying to "modernize" this model, and today they are offering it with air-con, electric windows, power-steering, and a CD-player. You may notice that it doesn't even come with an airbag, because real men don't need them; the airbag is your face.
The engine changed over the years, and the initial 1.6-litre straight-4 disappeared in 1993. After that, Niva got 3 new engines that are still being used: the 1.7-litre straight-4, 1.8-litre straight-4 and a 1.9-litre straight-4 borrowed from the PSA Group.
Of course, these things will not attract a big crowd of customers, because most people want their cars to be loaded with crazy equipment. So, since most people still think Niva is ugly, old and pathetic, Lada decided to offer it with one of the best options ever.
For extra €400, your Niva can get..........a camo paintjob. So, for that price, you'll get the most Russian thing in history of cars; the only way to make it more Russian is to fit a red star on the front. And to be honest, I'd love to have this car in my garage because it's different than anything else.
It's one of those cars carries a history lesson within, and no matter what the market dictates, Lada Niva will never bow down to anyone. It will always be faithful to its tradition, and to its amazing off-roading abilities.
To some, it might be funny, but others will see the soul in it. It has a big heart, which I hope won't disappear when they present the new generation next year. There's something so special about it, and not matter what anyone says, it will always be cool. End of story.