Lada Niva

13 Aug, 2010 11:00am Keith Adams

Verdict on reborn 4x4, back from the USSR!


Rough, tough, rugged and chunky to drive, the Lada Niva won’t appeal to sophisticated SUV drivers – it feels like a car from the past. Unsurprisingly, the UK importer is targeting the agricultural market, offering it as an alternative to a second-hand Land Rover Defender. With a two-year warranty and a whole load of old-school appeal, it has a certain charm – although its best days are long behind it.

NO, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. This really is a Lada Niva, and you can buy it new for less than £10,000! Although you would be forgiven for thinking it died years ago, Russia’s favourite 4x4 is still in production, and it’s being imported to the UK again for the first time since 1997.

As you can see, it doesn’t look any different to when it went on sale in 1978. It comes only in left-hand drive, with a 1.7-litre petrol engine, but Niva Imports offers the car in dual-fuel form, so you can refill with LPG at 66p per litre.

The interior is basic and not terribly comfortable, while there are three simple levers sprouting from the transmission tunnel to control low/high ratios, the diff lock and the five-speed box.
Space is in short supply in the rear, and the LPG tank takes up most of the luggage bay. Yet despite these drawbacks, the Niva appeals with its old-fashioned honesty, plus its off-road ability.

On the road, it’s a mixed bag – the engine is refined, but the steering is vague and low-geared, while the non-ABS brakes don’t exactly inspire confidence. Performance is leisurely, with 0-60mph in 17.5 seconds.

But the car is accomplished in mud and gravel, and the short wheelbase, high ground clearance and torquey engine ensure only the roughest terrain will stop it.

Key specs

* Price: £9,995
* Engine: 1.7-litre 4cyl petrol
* Transmission: Five-speed manual, four-wheel drive
* Power: 79bhp
* 0-60mph: 17.5 seconds
* Top speed: 90mph
* Economy: 31mpg
* Towing capacity: 1,610kg
* Standard equipment: Switchable low-range gearbox, diff lock
* On sale: Now