Lada Niva

Verdict on reborn 4x4, back from the USSR!

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

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.

Most Popular

Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car
Tipo 184 kit car front

Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car

Inspired by classic Grand Prix racing cars, Darren Collins has created a model that faithfully recreates the originals, but with a twist - it’s actual…
11 May 2022
Best electric cars to buy 2022
Best electric cars
Electric cars

Best electric cars to buy 2022

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from, so we've picked some of the best you can buy in the UK now
28 Apr 2022
New Lucid Air 2022 review
Lucid Air - front tracking
Lucid Air

New Lucid Air 2022 review

Lucid's first model intends to make a lasting mark on the luxury EV market
13 May 2022