The Story of Chevrolet Niva

How a partnership created one of the most unknown cars of all time.

Many of you here may remember the name Lada Niva - a sturdy SUV which didn''t cost too much and is considered by many to be the most recognisable car to ever have come out of Russia. However, what if I told you that there was another Niva, made in co-operation with Chevrolet and Lada?

The story begins back in 2002, when Lada was trying to launch a new SUV called VAZ-2123, but were unable to due to the ongoing issues caused by the 1998 financial crisis. As a result, the company struck a deal with General Motors, creating the joint venture GM-AUTOVAZ, which brought the car to light under a new name: Chevrolet Niva.

Between 2002 and 2012, the venture sold almost 470,000 Chevy Nivas, which is pretty low considering the car's price of 553 500 roubles (£5000) . The car's safety was adequate, with the car scoring 4 out of 5 stars on its EuroNCAP test in 2003. In 2009, the car underwent a restyling by Bertone in order to make it look more similar to GM cars in terms of design.

2014 Chevrolet Niva concept

2014 Chevrolet Niva concept

In August 2014, GM-AUTOVAZ unveiled a concept for a new generation of the Niva, with features such as four-wheel drive and 1.8 litre PSA engine that produced 135bhp. Production was set to begin in 2016, but due to Chevrolet halting its exports to Russia, no further updates came, and by 2018 the project was suspended by GM.

Now, Lada has announced a new car under the Niva name called the Niva Travel, which shares some design similarities with the Chevrolet/Lada Niva, such as the rear. Although the brand has been out of the European market since 2019 due to emissions regulations, a spokesperson has recently reported that the company is "investigating plans to be back in some years".

This then is the story of Chevrolet Niva - a car which has been much overshadowed by its Russian-bred half-brother and one which might remain known as one of the most anonymous and underrated cars of the last 20 years.

To be honest, it's quite amazing that they managed to create an SUV that you could buy for just £5000. Lada should definitely bring this car to the market - and also make sure it complies with emissions regulations - so that it would be possible to drive around the British countryside cheaply and without fear that you might get dirt on your bodywork.

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Comments (2)

  • I just encountered something similar with Jeep Phoenix based on Fiat Panda 4x4. Believe me it is ugly as hell.

      1 month ago
  • Nice article! The Chevy Niva (or the Shniva, which is its nickname) is often forgotten even here, in Russia. I remembered that it's still on sale only about a year ago.

      1 month ago