Lada Samara

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Lada Samara
Lada 21093 Samara 1500 S 1995 in Chile.jpg
Manufacturer Lada
Also called Lada Carlota (Belgium)
Lada Forma (Sedan)
Lada Sagona (Sedan)
Lada Sputnik
Lada Samara 2
VAZ 2108/2109/21099
VAZ 2113/2114/2115
Bognor Sagona (ROU)
Production 2108: 1984–2003
2109: 1987–2004
21099: 1990–2004
2115: 1997–2012
2114: 2001–2013
2113: 2005–2013
Assembly Togliattigrad, Russia
Uusikaupunki, Finland
Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan[1]
Zaporizhia, Ukraine (AvtoZAZ)[2]
Montevideo, Uruguay
Body and chassis
Class Small family car
Body style 4-door sedan
5-door hatchback
3-door hatchback
2-door convertible
Layout FF layout
Wheelbase 2,460 mm (96.9 in)[3]
Length 4,005 mm (157.7 in)[3]
Width 1,650 mm (65.0 in)[3]
Height 1,335 mm (52.6 in)[3]

The Lada Samara (nickname car of first generation Zubilo (Chisel)) is an small family car produced by Soviet/Russian vehicle manufacturer AvtoVAZ under the Lada brand since 1984. The brand name Samara originally was used only for exported models, in Russia the same model was called "Sputnik" (fellow traveller or satellite), until 1991, when the sedan version of Samara entered in production, using the export name.

The production of Lada Samara ended in 2013. However, there is no word of the pickup version to be discontinued.


VAZ 2108 Samara (3-door)

The Samara was to build on the success of the traditional Fiat 124-based range, by providing a car that combined a robust build and ease of maintenance with a modern style. It was produced in various three, four and five door designs with 1.1, 1.3 and 1.5 litre petrol engines. Lada had hoped that the Samara would enable it to compete for sales in the mainstream European car market. It was the second autonomous design from AvtoVAZ (the first was the Niva SUV), and the first Lada car not based on the Fiat derived mechanicals.


VAZ had made their first front-wheel drive prototype, the VAZ 1101, in the early 1970s. The engine from the Fiat 127 was used. Further development of this project led to the 900 cc "Ladoga" three-door prototype in 1976.[4] On 31 December 1979 the first VAZ 2108 prototype was completed.[5] During VAZ 2108 development, VAZ engineers also looked closely at a range of European competitors like the Volkswagen Golf, Opel Kadett D, Ford Escort Mark III, and Volvo 340. While named "Sputnik" at home, it was more commonly known as the "Eight" after the last digit in the model code. The export version was named after the Samara River, a tributary to the Volga.[6] The first cars left the production line on 18 December 1984.

VAZ 21099 four-door saloon, rear view also called LADA Sagona

Planned from the beginning to be available with 1.1, 1.3, and 1.5 litre inline-fours, originally only the 1.3 (with the three-door bodywork) was available. The engines were developed with help from Porsche, and most Western observers assumed that Porsche's involvement went beyond just the engines.[7]

Despite NAMI (National Automobile Institute) having allowed the involvement of Porsche engineers in the engine development, the Samara never achieved the same success as the Riva, even though it did prove to be a robust car with a modern style and an initially competitive price. Even so, it suffered from variable and often doubtful build quality and some of the uglier handling qualities that had always been associated with Lada. The car's molded plastic front grille was also a point of contention, as it was often seen to be ugly and cheap-looking; many were replaced with after-market grilles, often even by Lada dealers themselves before the cars were sold.

The disputed front grille was soon replaced by a smoother design. A number of other minor alterations followed, including fuel injected engines to meet emissions regulations in export markets. The long planned sedan version (VAZ 21099) finally appeared in 1990. To mark this as a separate model, it had a different interior and also a different front end. On the earlier Samaras the front clip had been a separate piece, surrounding the headlights. On the sedan version, the fenders go all the way up to the headlights and the lip of the bonnet dips between the headlights and meets the slimmer grille. This front design was later applied to Samara hatchbacks, beginning with the 1.5 and gradually being applied to the lesser models as well. The 1.1 and 1.3 were eventually taken out of production, having already been withdrawn from export markets.

Special models[edit]

In very small numbers, a rotary-engined (VAZ-415, 2 x 654 cc) Samara was sold in Russia only. Due to severe reliability problems, this remained rare, most commonly bought by police and other agencies to use as a pursuit vehicle. There were also a rear-engined Samara 4x4 rally car (1985), and the 1987 mid-engined Samara-EVA with a turbocharged 16-valve 1,860 cc engine (300 hp). An even more powerful Samara S-Proto appeared two years later (350 hp). Most notably, the Samara T3 came seventh in the 1990 Paris-Dakar Rally and fifth in 1991, piloted by none other than Jacky Ickx. The T3, however, didn't contain many Samara parts, using the Porsche 959's four-wheel drive system and a 3.6-litre Porsche flat-six. It was developed by French concessionaire Lada-Poch together with NAMI and the Tupolev aerospace.[8] In the mid 1980s Lada developed its first ever convertible car on its own, then actually entering production and quickly exported to most European countries, called the Lada Natasha Cabriolet, a four-seater convertible that was based on the popular Samara 1300/1500 models with a manual opening and closing canvas roof. Also in some European car markets the LADA Niva 4X4 1600 cc engine was also available for both the Lada Natasha and Lada Samara cars during the 1990s.


1992 Lada Samara Cabriolet, also called "Natasha"

The Samara was sold all across the world, from Australia to Canada, in most European countries and throughout the COMECON sphere. In most nations, versions and equipments were decided on and installed by the dealers themselves. These local varieties ranged from decals and badges to the convertible conversions offered in Belgium and Germany. The Samara was often sold under other names as well, in particular the VAZ 21099 (Samara Sedan), which was sold as the "Sagona" (France and Spain), "Diva" (Belgium and the Netherlands), "Forma" (Germany)[9] and "Sable" (Australia and New Zealand).

In certain markets where the tax structure benefited diesels (such as France and the Benelux), the Samara was available with a 1.5-litre Peugeot diesel engine in 1995-97.

With VAZ facing bankruptcy in 1996-97, exports began coming to a halt. The Lada Samara disappeared from Canada after the 1997 model year, leaving the Niva as the only Lada sold in Canada for the 1998 model year. Exports to Australia and Britain ended around the same time. The biggest problem was GM's reluctancy to sell the fuel injection kits necessary for exports, as they doubted VAZ's ability to pay. Faced with parts shortages, tax problems, and the chaos and criminality of Russia in the mid-nineties, export efforts languished and RHD production was no longer feasible.[10]

As a partial response to this situation, a higher quality version for the European market, the Lada EuroSamara or Samara Baltic in some markets, was assembled in Finland at the Valmet Automotive plant in Uusikaupunki. Production started in summer 1996 and ended in July 1998, with 14 000 cars made from 85 per cent Russian parts.

British market[edit]

The United Kingdom had to wait nearly three years for the Samara to go on sale, after its launch in the USSR, but sales were reasonably strong when the first versions of the car left forecourts, in November 1987.

The Samara was a major change compared to other Lada models at the time, with a modern hatchback body-style and front-wheel drive as well as new engines featuring on the car. But the low-rent plasticky interior, sub-standard finish and lack of dynamic qualities were a big let-down for those who had been hoping for a car that was comparable with Western contemporaries. Many budget buyers, Lada's main targets, stuck with the old Riva. Still, the Samara remained on sale in the United Kingdom, right up to 4 July 1997, when the decision was made to withdraw from the United Kingdom, and most other export markets.[11]

Samara 1500 hatchback (UK, Dec '92)

The attempt to appeal to a wider clientele failed; while an improvement over previous Ladas, the Samara's higher price pitched it against stiffer West European competition.

By the time of the Samara's launch, the British small family car market was effectively split into two segments: The large "mainstream" market was dominated by mass market manufacturers, such as Ford, Vauxhall, and Volkswagen. The "budget" market consisted of Eastern European and Far Eastern brands, such as Škoda, FSO, Hyundai, and Proton.

The Lada Samara was very much in the budget sector, but during its years on sale in Britain, it faced ever stiffer budget competitors such as the Škoda Favorit, Hyundai Pony and Proton "Aeroback". Strong initial sales soon dropped, as the competition leapt ahead with newer models from Daewoo, Hyundai, Kia and Proton, pushing Lada sales into terminal decline.[citation needed] The Samara came bottom of the annual 1996 and 1997 JD Power survey in Great Britain. In countries where ruggedness was more important, it did manage some success, selling reasonably well in Canada, Australia, and Finland for instance.[12] In the 1996 and 1997 Top Gear survey, the Lada Samara was named as the least satisfying car to own in Britain.


Initially sold as a three- or five-door hatchback with a 1.3 petrol engine, a 1.5 version became available in October 1988. Metallic paint became an option for the first time in November 1989 when the 1.5 SLX was launched. A new entry-level model arrived in July 1990 when the 1.1 petrol engine was added to the range (Select or L). An updated version of the Samara was launched in April 1991, with all new trimlevels. This was followed by the introduction of the VAZ 21099 saloon version 15 months later. The saloon also became available as a sporty 1.5 "Juno" from July 1994, featuring alloy wheels, swoopy, ill-fitting sideskirts and a rear spoiler. A fuel injected engine became available on the 1.3 and 1.5 models in August 1996.[13]

Australian market[edit]

The Samara was introduced into the Australian market in July 1988, and was offered in 3 door and convertible body styles. A 3 door variant called the Bizivan was also offered, which was sold without rear seats in order to qualify as a commercial van, and therefore, lower import duties. In 1990, the range was pared down to a single 5 door model, marketed as the Lada Cevaro. The 3 door returned in 1994 as the Lada Volante and the 4 door was introduced as the Lada Sable. Imports had ceased by 1996.[14]

In 1988, approximately 6,000 Lada Samaras were modified by Peter Brock's Special Vehicles operation that had previously made high performance Holden Commodores. The cars would be known as the Lada Samara Sedan Brock Delux and included a few subtle Brock-devised suspension tweaks to improve the car's low speed ride, as well as a special body kit. It cost about A$3,000 more than the base model Samara.

Samara 2[edit]

VAZ 2115 (Samara 2 Sedan)

After 1997, the Samara was mostly sold in its homeland only, although it was still sold in some foreign markets with less strict emissions regulations. The Samara 2, a lightly facelifted version with a fuel-injected version of the 1,499 cc engine and a better gearbox, went on sale in limited numbers as the 2115 (four-door sedan) in 1997, built at the VAZ "special vehicles" unit. Brakes and interior were also upgraded, incorporating parts from the VAZ 2110. Full production on the main line in Togliatti began in 2000, in 2002 a five-door (2114) was added and the 2113 three-door followed in September 2004. The three-door was not originally planned to be built, but was added as a response to strong dealer demand. The last first generation Samara rolled off the Togliatti production line in 2004, ending 20 years of production there. Production of the "classic" Samara 2109/21099 continued at ZAZ in Ukraine as of 2004, and from May 2007 in Kazakhstan (Asia Auto).

In January 2007, an upgraded Samara 2, using the modern 1.6-litre VAZ-11183-20 engine first seen in the VAZ 2110 went on sale. While the Lada 110 and the Lada Priora have taken much of the Samara's market share at home, the Samara retains a clear price advantage and steady demand. The production of sedan Lada Samara 2 was stopped in December 2012; hatchbacks will be still assembled until the end of 2013.[15]

Technical specifications[edit]

  • Available Trims: many were available through the years and on different markets. Most of trim options were actually importer upgrades.

Engine type

  • Engine designation: VAZ 21081, VAZ 2108, VAZ 21083, VAZ 21084; VAZ 415 (wankel type)
  • Valvetrain: OHC
  • Displacement (cc): 1100, 1288, 1500, 1568; 2x654 for Wankel engine
  • Bore (mm): 76.0, 76.0, 82.0, 82.0
  • Stroke (mm): 60.6, 71.0, 71.0, 74.2
  • Compression Ratio: 9.0 :1, 9.8:1, 9.8:1, 9,8:1
  • Net Power: 53 hp (40 kW; 54 PS) @5600, 67 hp (50 kW; 68 PS) @5600, 71 hp (53 kW; 72 PS) @4800, 90 hp (67 kW; 91 PS) @4800; 140 hp (104 kW; 142 PS) @6000 for Wankel engine
  • Fuel System: 2 barrel carburettor or multipoint electronic fuel injection
  • Recommended Fuel: Regular Unleaded, 87 Octane


  • Configuration :
    • Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
  • Transmission :
    • 4 or 5 forward synchromesh, 1 reverse (4-speed gearbox was used on early cars)


  • Type :
    • 3-door hatchback (VAZ 2108)
    • 5-door hatchback (VAZ 2109)
    • 4-door sedan (VAZ 21099)
  • Later styling of all Samara vehicles was updated, and they received new designations:
    • 3-door hatchback (VAZ 2113)
    • 5-door hatchback (VAZ 2114)
    • 4-door sedan (VAZ 2115)

There are various commercial and specialty conversions.

  • Suspension (front): MacPherson strut with coil spring
  • Suspension (rear): Longitudinal arms and cross beam with coil springs
  • Steering (type): Rack-and-pinion
  • Brakes (type): Power-assisted
  • Brakes (front): Discs
  • Brakes (Rear): Drums
  • Wheels (size): 13 inch
  • Tires (type): Steel-belted all-season radials
  • Tires (size and Rating): 165/70x13

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ao"Азия Авто"". Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d "1987 VAZ Lada Samara 1500 technical specifications". Retrieved 19 June 2010. 
  4. ^ "Модель ВАЗ-1101". Retrieved 24 August 2010.  (Russian)
  5. ^ "Модель ВАЗ-2108". Retrieved 24 August 2010.  (Russian)
  6. ^ Andy Thompson (2008). Cars of the Soviet Union: The Definite History. Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset: Haynes. pp. 251–252. ISBN 978-1-84425-483-5. 
  7. ^ Letrou, Jean-Claude (January 1986). "Lada Samara: L'anti-Seat". L'Automobile Magazine (in French) (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France: Societé des Editions Techniques et Touristiques de France): 69. ISSN 0758-6957. 
  8. ^ Thompson, pp. 257-258
  9. ^ Thompson, pp. 255, 257
  10. ^ Thompson, pp. 323, 328
  11. ^ Lada History in the UK", Lada Owners Club UK
  12. ^ Thompson, p. 260
  13. ^ Lada Cars in the UK, Lada Owners Club UK
  14. ^ The Red Book, retrieved from on 14 September 2009
  15. ^ "Production of VAZ-2115 Lada Samara-2 Stopped". 27 December 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2013. 

16 EAST EUROPEAN CARS book by Julian Nowill, published by Sutton Publishing Limited England 2000 ISBN 0-7509-2369-5

External links[edit]