This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (June 2021)
|Lada Niva Legend|
|Also called||VAZ-2121 «Niva» (Soviet Union/Russia (1977-1993))|
Bognor Diva (Uruguay)
Lada Super 4×4 (Egypt)
Lada Bushman (Australia)
Lada Cossack (United Kingdom & New Zealand)
Lada Turist (New Zealand)
Lada Job (Italy)
Lada Sport (Iceland)
Lada Taiga (Germany & New Zealand)
|Assembly||Amman, Jordan (LHJ)|
Quito, Ecuador (Aymesa)
Bucharest, Romania (Dunarea)
Cherkasy, Ukraine (Bogdan)
Cairo, Egypt (Alamal Group)
Montevideo, Uruguay (Bognor)
Tolyatti, Russia (VAZ, VIS)
Thebes, Greece (Automeccanica)
Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan (Azia Avto)
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||3-door Compact SUV|
2-door pickup truck
2-door chassis cab
3-door pickup truck-based van
3-door box van
2-door police SUV
|Layout||Front-engine, full-time four-wheel-drive|
|Transmission||4-speed manual (1977–1993)|
5-speed manual (1993–present)
|Front||independent suspension with coil springs|
|Rear||5-link live axle|
|Wheelbase||2,200 mm (86.6 in) (hatchback)|
2,700 mm (106.3 in) (wagon)
2,700 mm (106.3 in) (pickup)
|Length||3,740 mm (147.2 in) (hatchback)|
4,240 mm (166.9 in) (wagon)
4,520 mm (178.0 in) (pickup)
|Width||1,680 mm (66.1 in)|
|Height||1,640 mm (64.6 in)|
|Curb weight||1,150 kg (2121)|
1,210 kg (21213/21214)
1,350 kg (2131)
|Successor||Lada Niva II|
The Lada Niva Legend, formerly called the Lada Niva, VAZ-2121, and Lada 4×4 (Russian: Лада Нива), is a series of exclusively 4WD, small (hatchback) and compact (wagon and pickup) (cross-over) SUVs, designed and produced by the Russian (former Soviet) manufacturer AvtoVAZ since 1977 – initially for the rural market, but later models also aimed at urban users. Sold as Lada's, the 3-door, 4x4 hatchback is continuously built since 1977.
From the 1990s, three- and five-door wagons on a 50 cm (20 in) longer wheelbase, and an extra long pick-up, were added to the range. Following the demise of the original Land Rover and Defender in 2016, the Niva is the longest-running SUV still in production in its original form. By the end of 2020, an estimated 650,000 plus Lada Nivas were on the roads of Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent (post-Soviet) States, and other countries.
The Lada Niva is the world's first mass-produced off-road vehicle with fully integrated body and frame (unibody) architecture. Combined with a coil-sprung independent front suspension, it is a predecessor to current crossover SUVs, nearly all of which follow this format; it inspired the Suzuki Vitara. The Lada 4x4 uses a worm-and-roller steering box carried over from the VAZ-2101 sedan and the original Fiat 124 sedan on which it was based. Pickup and emergency-van versions are produced by VIS-AVTO.
In August 2020, Lada took over production of the 2003 Chevrolet Niva, rebranding it as the 'new' Lada Niva. In December 2020 the new Lada Niva was further rebranded as Lada Niva Travel, while the old Lada Niva / 4×4, was rebranded as Lada Niva Legend in January 2021.
Нива (niva) is a Russian word, literally: "(corn) field", but also meaning "area of practice". The name Niva (НИВА) was formed as an acronym from the initials (first letters) of the names of the children of the Niva's chief designers, Pyotr Prusov's two daughters, and Solovyov's two sons.
The Lada Niva was formerly called Lada 4×4, or the VAZ-2121 in the domestic Russian market. The name change occurred after the Niva brand was transferred to General Motors, though AvtoVAZ retained the rights to the equivalent Cyrillic (Russian script) name: "Нива". It was also marketed as the Lada Sport in Iceland, Lada Taiga in Austria, Bognor Diva in Uruguay, and Lada Cossack in the United Kingdom. Since 2014, it has been sold as the LADA 4×4 in Russia, a name which is also beginning to replace "Niva" in export markets. Since 2021 it is called Lada Niva Legend in Russia.
It was also the first VAZ model, which is additional to the brand's classic export name and the engine displacement, also featured an export name of the model itself (Niva); previous models (the Zhiguli) only featured the brand's export name, Lada, followed by the engine displacement. Also, the Niva was the only VAZ model to use the same model name for both domestic and export markets (VAZ-2121 Niva for domestic, and Lada Niva 1600 for export); the other models had export names different from the names used in the domestic market (for example, the VAZ-2109 Sputnik was the Lada Samara 1500 for export, and the VAZ-2105 Zhiguli, was marked as the Lada Riva 1300 outside the USSR).
The Niva was described by its designers as a "Renault 5 put on a Land Rover chassis" Development began in 1971, after the 24th Congress of CPSU, where Alexei Kosygin (the then-Premier of the Soviet Union) gave the designers at VAZ and AZLK the task of creating a car suitable for rural areas – for the villagers and farmers of the Soviet Union – since the usual Zhiguli, Moskvitch and Zaporozhets, intended primarily for ordinary people, were not much of use in isolated areas, which made up a large part of the USSR. In the same year, a team of VAZ designers, under Vladimir Solovyev as a chief designer, began competing with AZLK to work on a "civilized" four-wheel drive vehicle. The new car was inspired in part by the IZh-14 prototype of 1974. It was VAZ's first model not based on Fiat, although much of its mechanics were carried over from the earlier Fiat 124- or 125-based Zhiguli models (mostly the VAZ-2103 and 2106). However, the body, four-wheel drive system, and front suspension were designed by VAZ. The first prototypes appeared quickly in 1971 and 1972, but were rejected as too utilitarian, so doors and a hardtop were added. This version debuted in 1973 and was a major step away from the off-road vehicles of the period, seeing as they used an ordinary car body, in this case a modern hatchback of the time. This took its inspiration from the prototype known as the VAZ-1101 (itself derived from the Fiat 127), and was created by designer Valery Pavlovitch. The influence of the Fiat 127 is obvious from the Niva's distinctive 'clamshell' hood design and its rear three-quarter section which has a strong resemblance to the 127. The 1974 prototype was finally derived from one of already existing models, in this case the VAZ-2103 (then the newest model in VAZ arsenal), by using its 1,452- cc engine, as well as sharing some of its features, like chrome-plated bumpers, as well as its headlights and taillights, instruments, seats, steering wheel, and other parts. The 1974 prototype was ready to be put into mass production in 1975; however, the appearance of new VAZ-2106 at the end of the same year resulted in its delay due to developing another prototype based on that model.
Until the beginning of its production, the Niva was in trials over a period of years by a team of VAZ testers under Vadim Kotlyarov in the most difficult terrain of former Soviet Union, such as the Ural Mountains and Siberia, as well as deserts of the Kazakh SSR and the Pamir Mountains in the Tajik SSR, where it was put up against its military counterpart the UAZ-469, and even against some Western off-road vehicles: the British-made Land Rover Series and the Range Rover Classic. In these places, it showed its outstanding off-road capabilities, which were mainly due to its effective (permanent) four-wheel drive system featuring a transfer case and central differential lock, together with the excellent combination of relatively low weight (just over a ton) and small dimensions, combined with high ground clearance (about 265 mm). Also, its large, narrow wheels (175/80-R16), originally featuring domestically designed Voltyre VLI-5 tires, offered relatively strong ground pressure, and thus had good performance in terms of slipping or getting bogged down off-road. For example, in trials during 1973 and 1974, the Niva showed it could climb a 58% slope, and ford 60 cm (24 in) of water and 100 cm (39 in) of mud or snow. Solovyev died the following year, and his place as a chief designer of the project was then taken by engineer Pyotr Prusov, who in the end took credit for creating the car.
In 1976, the final prototype appeared, with the engine changed to a 1,568 cc (95.7 cu in), the most powerful engine in VAZ range during Soviet era, taken from their newest model the VAZ-2106 (from which the production model of the first Niva generation was generally derived). It also featured permanent four-wheel drive and a transfer case with a lockable central differential. The VAZ prototype displayed better design and real-world performance than its AZLK counterpart, the Moskvitch 416, so was, after the 25th Congress of CPSU, approved for production in March of the same year. (The Moskvitch prototype was then rejected for serial production by the government.) It was the Niva 1600 (Field) for export, or VAZ-2121 (alternatively Niva 2121 or simply VAZ Niva) for the domestic market in the former Soviet Union. For domestic customers, it was described as: "A high-speed car with the improved capabilities and comfort of all VAZ models", and also as: "A combination of the speed and comfort of a Zhiguli with the capabilities of a UAZ". Actual production began in the following year on 5 April 1977, while the first export models appeared in 1978 at the Paris Motor Salon and rapidly captured at least 40% of Europe's market for four-wheel drive vehicles, making it Lada's top-selling export. Moreover, it became the only Soviet car that was ever sold in Japan, starting from early 1980s, inspiring their Suzuki Samurai. Because of export demand and the higher priority given to exports, domestic customers faced long waiting lists, despite the fact that the car was developed primarily for the Soviet people, as mentioned above.
Initially, the Niva had a normally aspirated 1.6-L overhead-cam four-cylinder petrol engine producing 56 kW (76 hp) and 126 N·m (93 lb·ft) at 5,000 rpm, a four-speed manual transmission (starting with new model from 1994, a five-speed), and a full-time four-wheel drive. The drive system employs three differentials (center, front, and rear). The transfer case involves a high/low range selector lever and a lever to lock the central differential. Low range can be selected with the center differential locked or unlocked. Like the usual gear shifting, both of the mentioned features naturally require the use of clutch to be properly used (selected). However, while the central differential can be usually locked while in motion, the transfer case cannot, requiring a complete halt. The original Niva had a maximum speed of 81 mph (130 km/h), and can cruise at 56 mph (90 km/h) while consuming petrol at 8.25 l/100 km (34.2 mpg‑imp; 28.5 mpg‑US). Its towing capacity is rated for up to 860 kg (1900 lb).
Coil springs are located at each of the four wheels, and suspension is independent in front, whereas the rear axle is a five-link live-type, with ratios between 3.90 and 4.30 depending on the model and market. Ground clearance is good at 235 mm (9.25 in) and water 510 mm (20 in) deep can be negotiated.
The brakes (disc front, drum rear) are servo-assisted dual-circuit style and the clutch is hydraulic. The turning circle is a relatively low 36.25 ft. Cargo space is 0.48 m³ (17 ft³), or 1.33 m³ (47 ft³) with the rear seats folded down and, like the classic Zhiguli, the front seats can be set up to make two berths (by removing headrests, shifting the seats into foremost position and setting the backrest in plane with the back seat – this feature later disappeared when the new model with different seats was introduced in 1994). A spare tyre is located in the engine bay under the bonnet. The latter feature is considered a useful and practical feature by off-road fans.
Additional equipment for the basic model was rather simple and was equal to other Lada and generally Eastern bloc cars of the period, as it included headlight wipers, rear fog lamp, right external mirror (right mirror for domestic models only, since the export ones had both by default, but at the end of 1980s, even domestic models of all Lada cars also received both mirrors), then rear seat belts, rear (tailgate) window wiper, rear window heater, and a radio set. On new model (Niva 1.7/VAZ-21213) starting from 1994, all those features except headlight wipers and rear fog lamp (which are discontinued) became default and optional is air conditioning, antilock braking system, and hydraulic servomotor for the steering column, which are now becoming parts of standard equipment on the newest models.
Foreign (usually Western) local Lada importers often also offered their own additional equipment (mainly for off-roading) prior to buying the car, such as front and rear bull bars and roll bars, side rocker rails, roof rails, winch, fender plastics, additional headlights for front bumper and for roof rails and even aftermarket (aluminium) rims, which can be often seen mounted on many Nivas.
The existing model was slightly restyled during first half of 1980s, when VAZ for the first time discontinued one of its models, the VAZ-2103 (which was slowly being replaced with VAZ-2106 since 1975). Some of the chromed elements have disappeared in all future models due to high price and complexity of production, such as, in Niva case, the chromed mask and rocker panel edges, which were removed, as well as external/side mirrors, which became black metallic. Chrome even disappeared from ashtrays and door panel edges. Also, background of front Lada badge was changed to white (later black; on new model) on all models instead of red as until then. Rear Niva 1600 tailgate label (which was originally located in the center of the tailgate) was relocated to its right corner due to rear window wiper, which was, on buyer request, installed onto its former place as additional equipment. Side rear retroreflectors (or turn signals on some models; depended on market) were replaced by Lada (left) and Niva (right) labels and the rear mudflaps received the brand logo on them. Interior was only minimally changed, along with some minor changes to the instrument panel, choke knob, and other details, probably the most notable differences are firstly in its VAZ-2106 steering wheel, which was now decorated with classic Russian ornaments featuring the Lada logo on its central (leather) part and slightly different leather pattern on seats.
Those pre-1985 models are visually best recognizable by mentioned details and are today extremely rare (in preserved condition almost nonexistent anymore), so are very valued by collectors.
The first generation (VAZ-2121 Niva, or Lada Niva 1600 as known commercially) was in production until 1993 (existing in parallel in production with new model until the end of the same year) when the new and more powerful (1.7 L, 80 horsepower) four-cylinder petrol engine (designed purposely for Niva, thus was not used by any other VAZ model until then) was introduced, replacing the previously used (1.6 L, 75 hp) VAZ-2106 engine and making the appearance of the new model (VAZ-21213/21214 or Lada Niva 1.7/1.7i), as was the carburetor replaced by single-point fuel injection supplied initially by General Motors on 21214/1.7i model and the usual Weber carburetor was replaced by improved Solex one on 21213/1.7 model. The transmission was changed from four to five speeds, mechanical ignition was replaced with electronic and suspension received some relatively minor changes. The exhaust system was also slightly redesigned, and on newer models, the drive shafts received homokinetic joints instead of usual universal ones. Also, the exterior rear section of the body was redesigned with the tailgate extended and license plate as a part of it (so it could have a lower opening, now bordering with the rear bumper), due to which it also received new, vertical taillights, replacing the former VAZ-2106 horizontal ones and VAZ-2102 chromed tailgate knob, which was replaced by a simple plastic handle (which now opens from interior; below the driver's seat, in contrast to previous which required a side doors key to be opened exclusively from the outside). On newest models, the old hand-adjustable, square black-metallic (previously chromed) side mirrors, which originated from 1970s VAZ-2103 were finally replaced with larger plastic ones featuring automatic adjustment. The previous front Lada badge was also replaced with the current and larger one of ellipsoid design. However, the aging Fiat 125 chromed doorknobs are still present, although they are not chromed anymore on newest models, but plastic. Although the rest of the exteriors remained generally unchanged to this day (except for LADA 4×4 URBAN and BRONTO), the interior was, however, almost completely redesigned and shares only a few interchangeable parts with the previous one; the archaic VAZ-2106 steering wheel with chrome elements was replaced with more modern and thicker one, firstly from VAZ-2107 and later even newer, as well as its VAZ-2103/2106 instruments, which were replaced with dashboard from VAZ-21099. The berth-foldable, black artificial leather seats, which were also originated from the VAZ-2106 were replaced by more modern and higher ones from the VAZ-2108 with the front surface made out of polyester (with which the berth feature disappeared), while the rear seat was improved to fold easier. The old Fiat 124 swivelling windows from side doors disappeared and were replaced with air conditioning for that role, which is on request, (together with ABS and servomotor for the steering column) installed as additional equipment, while headlight wipers and rear fog lamp disappeared. It also received completely new front and door panels (with interior door knobs relocated above the handrests instead of under like on previous generation), various plastics and even new floor mats. The hand opening of side-door windows was replaced with automatic on newest models (and on LADA 4×4 URBAN), starting from 2014. Multipoint fuel injection designed by Bosch is used since 2004, replacing the previously mentioned single-point injection from General Motors.
In 1993, the lengthened model of Niva appeared for the first time, known as VAZ-2129 and was being produced very briefly (only for about a year) due to which it is very rare and was also never exported. Although having a much longer wheelbase, it retained usual three doors like the basic hatchback model (it only featured additional square middle window added at the sides); however, in design it was actually a hybrid of old and new generations, since it featured the old VAZ-2121 (Niva 1600) body and interiors combined with new VAZ-21213 (Niva 1.7) 1680-cc engine and 5-speed transmission (although later, 1994 production models featured even new body and interiors).
In 1995, the lengthened estate model with longer wheelbase and five-door appeared, originally known as the VAZ-2131 Niva; commercially, it has no difference in name than standard (three-door) model, which is why it is often referred simply as Niva five- door. Due to its longer wheelbase and thus increased weight, it can use the even more powerful 1774-cc inline four petrol engine, producing 63kW/85 hp. Although still in production like the basic model, it had limited use and is also infrequently exported, mainly due to longer wheelbase and increased weight offering somewhat inferior off-road capabilities, as well as slightly higher price when compared to the standard model. In 2015, the five-door model also appeared for LADA 4×4 URBAN.
In 1999, a diesel-engine model of Niva appeared for the first time, known as the VAZ-21215 Niva or commercially as the Lada Niva 1.9, which was produced until 2007 and sold only in few markets. It was powered by a 1905-cc Peugeot XUD 9SD inline four diesel engine, delivering 55kW/75 hp, so was slightly less powerful than the standard VAZ-21213/21214 1680-cc petrol engine (it was roughly equal in power to 1568-cc VAZ-2106 engine used by the previous generation). However, the VAZ-21215 was a relatively short-lived model and is not available because, despite much lower fuel consumption, it was not very popular in domestic market (mainly due to harsh winter conditions, less power, lower reliability, higher price, and higher maintenance costs when compared to the petrol-engine model), as well as Peugeot stopping production of XUD engines back in 2001 (existing supplies were available until 2007, when the last VAZ-21215 came off the production line) and VAZ never made another contract for production of diesel engines for Niva.
In 2006, the model with carbureted engine of new generation (VAZ-21213/Lada Niva 1.7) was discontinued, and in the same year, the name Niva was formally dropped in favor to new official name LADA 4×4 (although the former name was still being used in export markets at least until 2009 and it is still informally used worldwide). This was done because General Motors (which first supplied an injection system to VAZ) got rights to the name Niva, which had to be discontinued in further production, together with old Soviet VAZ-2121 classification for the domestic market, which was loosely abandoned by the plant itself at the end of 1990s.
In 2014, the new, restyled model called LADA 4×4 URBAN appeared, with generally more modern looks resembling an ordinary SUV; new mask, plastic bumpers, new side mirrors, different (aluminium) rims (with the original Soviet Voltyre VLI-5 off-road tires replaced with classic road tires), central brake light, heated front seats, and slightly restyled interior. However, it did not replace the current LADA 4×4 , which remains in parallel production with it. A common misconception associated with the introduction of the 4x4 Urban is the introduction of Airbags. Despite the relatively modern look of the Urbans distinct steering wheel, it contains no Airbag for any market. As of 2019, no version of the Lada 4x4 features any Airbags.
In 2017, another model appeared, the LADA 4×4 BRONTO, intended mainly for off-road use. It features characteristic mask and plastic bumpers with integrated front and rear fog lamps, as well as plastic roof rails and larger wheels with new, black aluminium rims featuring new 235/75-R16 Bontyre Stalker domestically produced off-road tires, even higher ground clearance (increased for further 35 mm) and plastic rust-protected body edges (fenders and rocker panels). Internally, it is similar to the LADA 4×4 URBAN, also featuring heated front seats. Additional equipment includes a front winch, roof headlights, and additional fog lights on the front bumper. With all mentioned equipment included, the BRONTO is currently the most expensive LADA 4×4 model with a current price of 720 thousand RU in the domestic market (around €10,130). The slightly different pickup model designed by VIS was also revealed (featuring integrated metallic grille, different bumpers, and a snorkel), called LADA BRONTO AMC; however, according to LADA official website, it is not serially produced yet becauset it is not offered anywhere on sale.
On 5 April of the same year, at the car's 40th anniversary since the beginning of production, a special, limited edition of the classic LADA 4×4 was presented, called the LADA 4×4 40th-Anniversary, which was made in exactly 1977 copies (the year when Lada Niva appeared). It features new aluminium rims, (similar to the URBAN), as well as five new color schemes, "40th Anniversary" metallic labels on the fenders, tailgate, glove compartment cover, front-seat backrests, and floor mats. Also, it has slightly restyled interior featuring genuine leather seat upholstery and steering wheel cover, as well as sills made out of stainless steel. The model is available from June 2017 in both domestic and export markets.
A soft-top version appeared back in 1983, but it was neither serially produced nor designed by its native VAZ, but was actually just a modification of the original Niva 1600 (2121) bodied by French coachbuilder Wassermann for the local market. This was known as the Niva Plein Soleil (Sunlight) and was just one of many Niva modifications made by local importers for their markets. (Lada Cossack, Hussar, and Lada Taiga as examples, were modifications for British and West German markets).
In recent years, there have been better lights, more comfortable seats, an instrument panels with LCD displays, alloy wheels, electric windows and mirrors, heated seats and air conditioning.
Cossack and other importer special editions
During the 1980s, local Lada importers in various markets made their own upgrades to help compete with more modern SUVs. In the UK, the Cossack model featured large body decals, roof rails, running boards, 15-in alloy wheels, and on some versions, a sunroof, steel bullbars, spotlights, a rear-mounted spare tyre, and semibucket seats. Other markets' importers made similar upgrades and many were also called Cossack.
In 1995, Lada UK introduced a face-lifted version of the Niva Cossack and renamed the basic model as the Hussar. Whereas the Hussar had the original 1977 trim, the new UK Cossack featured a new Rover-designed grille and other body kit items, and gained soft nudge-bars at the front in deference to public opinion against bullbars. Both models received the same new 1.7-litre engine and a new deeper tailgate which extended the rear opening to the level of the bumper – a vast improvement over the original model's high lip. Official Niva imports to the UK ceased in 1997 due to the importers having difficulty in sourcing the GM fuel injection unit required to satisfy ever-tightening UK emissions regulations.
Several attempts were made to reintroduce Ladas into the UK. In May 2010, the basic Niva became available again, through an independent importer. Aimed largely at the agricultural market, three models were made available (all left-hand drive), the three-door, four-seat hatchback at £10,000, a two-seat commercial van at £8000, and a two-door, four-seat pickup for £12,000. All meet the current UK Vehicle Certification Agency standards. The only engine available is the 1.7-litre petrol, but this can be provided with or without a liquefied petroleum gas conversion.
Although VAZ were meant exclusively for production of passenger cars, thus the Niva was intended to be a strictly civilian vehicle, the Soviet military was truly astonished by its fascinating off-road capabilities, so it ordered a military version to be created from VAZ, which could replace the currently used UAZ-469 as standard military 4×4 vehicle. In 1976, when VAZ-2121 development was almost finished, engineers from Tolyatti began working on an amphibian off-roader, which became known as VAZ-2122 Reka (River), using completely different, and naturally tougher body of a usual military vehicle (with a classic feature of the spare wheel located on the back of the body instead in the engine compartment like on a classic Niva) in combination with ordinary Niva chassis and wheels, together with its permanent four-wheel drive system (transfer case and locking differential and mechanics in general, which was intended to be sold to the Soviet Ministry of Defense. Despite having a more rugged body, it weighted about the same as the usual Niva, but instead of the 1600-cc (55kW/75 hp) VAZ-2106 engine, which the Niva had, it used an older and less powerful 60 hp (45 kW; 61 PS) 1300-cc engine derived from the VAZ-2101, instead, with a lower top speed of 71 mph (114 km/h) on road or 5 kn (5.8 mph; 9.3 km/h) in water. Internally, it featured a different, metallic front panel, although it used the same Niva instruments along with the same steering wheel and artificial leather seats.
Six different evolution prototypes were built, and much of development work was done. The car was tested in an experimental military unit, on the proving grounds of the Ministry of Defense, and in the Turkmenistan Karakum Desert. The VAZ-2122 showed better results than then currently used UAZ-469, (especially the fact that it featured amphibious capabilities, which UAZ did not have) and received very positive feedback; the military was satisfied with its capabilities and its reliability, firmness, and durability. By 1987, VAZ had finished all development work, and the car was ready for mass production and military service.
However, at the end of the 1980s, the Ministry of Defense did not have the financial resources necessary for large-scale purchases of the VAZ-2122 because it also had some other higher priority projects in which to invest, such as the Tor mobile antiaircraft system, T-80U battle tank, BMP-3 infantry combat vehicle, BM-30 Smerch multiple rocket launcher, 2S19 Msta self-propelled artillery, and others. As a result, the Reka was never put into mass production and remained only in a prototype stage, despite more than 10 years invested in its development.
Longer wheelbase versions – the five-door VAZ-2131, three-door VAZ-2129, and VAZ-2329 pickup were also produced from the 1990s, but not generally exported.
The Lada Niva was formally renamed LADA 4×4 back in 2006 and it is continued to be offered with a low-range gearbox, differential lock, ABS, airbags, heated front seats, air conditioning, servomotor for the steering column, underbody protection, and more. Prices for the model started at €10,990. It is available in five body styles; three- and five-door hatchbacks, two- and four-door pickups, and a two-door van. Two petrol engines are available for the model – the standard 1.7-litre and the 1.8-litre (only for five-door model) along with a five-speed manual transmission.
Starting with the 2014 model year, the "Niva" nameplate was discontinued for the Russian market, and the vehicle is currently branded as LADA 4×4 for both short and long wheelbases. This was done to make way for the upcoming restart of the Chevrolet Niva series, which was slated to start production by March 2015. However, due to the current economic situation in Russia-West relations, AvtoVAZ analysts have suggested that the production of Chevrolet Niva may indeed get delayed further into 2015, especially considering any upcoming automotive sanctions packages against Russia. AvtoVAZ currently plans on keeping the LADA 4×4/Niva for its domestic market, branding it as an economy-class SUV.
Safety by modern standards
In 2002, the Lada Niva was awarded zero stars out of a possible four by the modern Russian ARCAP safety-assessment program. The reviewer noted the very rugged body of the car as the only positive aspect in terms of safety. During the safety test, the passenger dummy was hit by the glove compartment hard enough to risk traumatic brain injury.
The reviewers noted that they did not expect a high rating and that the result was natural, as "it would be naive to believe that a 30-year-old design complies with modern requirements for passive safety". They added it would require the car to be completely modernized to meet modern safety standards.
Uses of the Niva
In Russia and Europe, the Niva has been used as an ambulance, a military vehicle, and by various police forces and utility companies. It also served for a time as a vehicle for lifeguards on beaches in the Netherlands. The Croatian Army was notable as being the only army that used Nivas (taken from civilians during the wartime) as their standard military 4×4 vehicle due to serious lack of proper military vehicles, such as UAZ-469 or GAZ-69 (which were also in use), until it was later replaced by British Land Rover Defender and Austrian Puch G, which are still being used today.
Transmanche-Link, the commercial consortium that built the Channel Tunnel between England and France, used a fleet of 45 Nivas to aid in the enormous project. Each Niva accumulated in excess of 70,000 kilometres (43,000 mi) off-road during its employment, and after construction had been completed in 1993, the fleet was sold off to a local dealer.
In Brazil, the Niva was the best-selling off-road vehicle during the early 1990s. In fact, the Niva was so cheap that even with the 85% importation value tax, it was less expensive than Brazilian competitors such as the Envemo or Gurgel. It sold so much more than the Gurgel Carajás, that Gurgel discontinued production in January 1991. The Niva was the first imported 4×4 in the Brazilian market, following then-Brazilian president Fernando Collor's decision to permit the importation of foreign vehicles in 1990. In the Brazilian market, a used 1991 Niva in good condition costs about R$11,000. Competition and higher importation value taxes forced the Niva to be retired from the Brazilian market. Even so, thousands of Nivas remain in use in Brazil.
Nivas have been driven on land, up mountains, through mud, and even under water.
It was the first wheeled vehicle to spend more than 10 years in Antarctica, where the classic VAZ-2121 Niva (Lada Niva 1600) was used by the Russian (formerly Soviet) Antarctic Expedition for transportation of personnel and goods, communication between Antarctic stations, towing boats, and where it covered more than 40,000 km (24,855 miles) in 1990–2001, thus operating at temperatures down to −54°. Niva also conquered the North Pole in 1998, when the lengthened VAZ-2131 Niva (five-door model) was dropped by parachute on ice and successfully completed its route operating at an average temperature of −30°, thus becoming the first wheeled vehicle to spend time there. Also, it had set the world record of highest point ever reached by a motorized vehicle when another VAZ-2131 climbed to the 5200-m-high base camp on Mount Everest in 1998 and even higher just a year later, on 16 September 1999, when the similar Niva belonging to Saint Petersburg extreme expedition team reached a height of 5725 m on a Tibet mountain during off-roading.
Assembly outside Russia
The Lada Niva was also assembled in Ecuador by Aymesa between December 2000 and 2004. During 2000 and 2001 the vehicles were fitted with the 1700 cc. engine and a central fuel injection system from General Motors. Since 2002, they started to use a multi-point fuel injection system. Aymesa released a standard and a "deluxe" version. The latter included an aftermarket air conditioning system, plastic bumpers and overfenders, and a plastic grille with fog lights.
Second generation (1998 – Present)
|Also called||VAZ-2123 (1998 - 2002)|
Chevrolet Niva (2003 - 2020)
Lada Niva (2020)
Lada Niva Travel (2021 - Present)
2002–2019 (under the Chevrolet brand)
|Assembly||Tolyatti, Samara Oblast, Russia|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||5-door wagon|
|Engine||1.7 L I4 (petrol)|
|Wheelbase||2,450 mm (96.5 in)|
|Length||3,900 mm (153.5 in)|
|Width||1,700 mm (66.9 in)|
|Height||1,640 mm (64.6 in)|
1998 – 2002
Domestic version of the new generation was using a lot of units from the first generation, the engine was also from original Niva, but now adapted for the new car. The car had a different versions for carburetor engine and a 2-litre injector engine. Now spare wheel was set on a rear door and a steering wheel got an electric power. Other available bodystyles were pickup (2323) and van (2723).
The prototype VAZ 2123 Niva (or Niva II) was introduced in 1998. Small series production did not replace the original Niva, but was produced alongside it. After 2002, the car with minor modifications is not sold under the Lada brand, but under the Chevrolet brand.
2003 – 2019
GM-AvtoVAZ, a joint venture between AvtoVAZ and General Motors, produces the Chevrolet Niva. It features an updated body and 1.7-litre gasoline engine with fuel injection. Although the body and the interiors are new, it is still based on the old VAZ-2121 engine, transmission, and most mechanicals. Its off-road ability is exemplary compared with many modern budget SUVs, having been designed for tough tundra territory. In August 2020 Lada took over production of the Chevy Niva rebranding it as the Lada Niva.
2020 – Present
In 2019 Lada acquired General Motors' stake in GM-AvtoVAZ and then announced that the Chevrolet Niva would be produced under Lada's name. The rebranded Lada Niva was revealed by AvtoVAZ in July 2020, with the firm saying that there was still strong demand for the 20 year old car. The 2020 model is produced at the Togliatti factory with minor design updates (but no technical changes) and joins the Lada 4×4 in the firm's range.
Chevrolet Niva Concept (2014)
In August 2014 at the Moscow International Automobile Salon GM-AvtoVAZ introduced the next generation Niva. The car had a longitudinal mounted engine, full-time four-wheel-drive, two-gear transfer case and rigid-axle rear suspension. The production model was supposed to get a 1.8-liter PSA Peugeot Citroën EC8 engine (135 hp) paired with a 5-speed manual gearbox. The production's start was expected in 2016, but GM had no interest in the model.
Lada 4x4 Vision Concept (2018)
In May 2018 AvtoVAZ patented the new concept car look, called Lada 4x4 Vision. In August 2018 on a Moscow International Automobile Salon AvtoVAZ presented the real life car, built in honour of the original Niva's 40th anniversary. The car got a traditional X design and an unusual 'masked' rear doors, they are only opening alongside the front ones. According to preliminary information, the car will be based on Renault Duster, expected start of production is 2022 or later.
- VAZ-2121 Niva (export name: Lada 4×4 Niva): A basic three-door hatchback model with the engine VAZ-2121 (1.6 L, 75 hp, 116 Nm). Several prototypes of the VAZ-E2121 were created in 1972–1975. At the end of 1976, they released a pilot batch. All the cars in this series are painted in the color "Gold Ochre" and headlamp wiper is in a different location – sticking out from the front and not from the grill, as in mass-produced cars. This model was produced from April 1977 to the end of 1993, existing on the line parallel with the new model 21213 for six months.
- VAZ-21211 (Lada Niva 1.3): The export version of the engine 21211 (adapted engine VAZ-21011 1.3-l, 69 hp, 92 N · m). was made since 1978 for countries with higher taxes on engines of more than 1.5 L (mainly the Benelux countries and Southern Europe). It only had limited demand due to lower power and torque.
- VAZ-21212 (Lada Niva 4×4): This is the right-hand drive export modification, made in limited quantities, especially for the British market, and also sold in Australia, New Zealand, and as the "Neve" in Japan.
- VAZ-2122.600 "The River": This Army amphibious vehicle uses aggregates of the VAZ-2121 in the 1976–1985 years. VAZ developed several prototypes of amphibians with a utilitarian, open-sealed, two-door body. In 1987, the revised model VAZ-2122.600 "The River" was in state tests, but the standard was not made because of amphibian conversion.
- VAZ-21213 (the original name of "Taiga" did not stick) was a restyled model "Niva" in 1993, with the revised rear end with a low loading height (another form of the rear doors and rear lights), more powerful and high-torque engine VAZ-21213 (1.7 L, 81.8 hp, 125 Nm) with a Solex carburetor and contactless ignition system on the microcontroller (and that both reduces fuel consumption and improves the flow of oil), Silumin radiator, and many other changes. In 1993, the transition version was released with a standard engine VAZ-2121.
- VAZ-21214 (LADA 4×4): A modification of the model 21213 with the engine VAZ-21214 (1.7 L, 81.8 hp, 127.5 N · m) it was equipped with central fuel injection. Since 2002, this model uses engine VAZ-21214-10 (Euro-0) with fuel injection, upgraded in 2006, under the norms of Euro-2 (21214-20), in 2008 under the Euro-3 (21214-30), and finally, in 2011, under the norms of Euro-5 (for export) and Euro-4 (for home use). C 2006, in accordance with the agreement on the joint venture GM-AvtoVAZ renamed LADA 4×4 3-dv. At the end of 2008, the first rumors about the next updated LADA 4×4 – LADA 4×4m. Changes were protracted. The first steps were taken in early 2009, and finally the development of upgrades was completed in late 2011. Changes to the interior and exterior lighting devices, upholstery, and transmission units were made as part of the components were unified with the project Chevrolet Niva.
- VAZ-21215: An export version with the Peugeot XUD 9SD diesel engine, it was originally produced in 1999–2007. This version was fairly short-lived.
- VAZ-21216: An export version of the model 21213 with right-wheel drive and carbureted engine VAZ-21213
- VAZ-21217: An export version of the model 21213, with the engine VAZ-2121 (1.6 L)
- VAZ-21219: A reduction combined with body modification and suspension of the VAZ-2121 and 1.7 L engine and the transmission of the VAZ-21213, made in 1993–1994
- VAZ-2121B: An armored car based on the VAZ-2121, it was created in 1992 by the expert VAZ subsidiary company of JSC Special Production Cars Bronte It was produced in a limited edition from 1992 to 1993, and served as a starting point for creating a family of armored vehicles, "Bronte Force".
- VAZ-2121F: An export commercial version of model-based VAZ-2121 and 21213
- Lada 4×4 Urban – A version of the base three-door car, it has new bumpers, grille, steering wheel, and some addition to the options list: power and heated mirrors, power windows, air conditioning, and alloy wheels. The car was produced by VIS-Auto since October 2014.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2018)
- VAZ-21218 "Fora": Extended by 300 mm, it is a version of the model 21213. A short run was produced from 1996 to 2011 by "PSA Bronto" (code "X7G"). It differs from the basic model its increased width of doors and doorways, raised by the add-back of the plastic part of the roof, and a wider rear triple seat type 2108. The standard equipment of "odds" enable automatic fire extinguishing system in the engine compartment of an armored car "Force", and for a fee – power steering, air conditioning, and a plastic bull bar in front of the radiator grille. Due to the use of larger-diameter wheels (alloy wheels Togliatti by "Slick" with "Nokian HRC" tyres) "reserve" taken out of the engine compartment and is secured over the rear bumper.
- VAZ-212182 "Force": An armoured version of the model VAZ-21218 produced by PSA Bronto, in addition to the booking system is additionally equipped with an automatic fire extinguishing system in the engine compartment, fuel tank explosion and fire, extra battery, air conditioning, remote-control door lock, right from the driver seat. As additional equipment offered is an armored floor and warning beacons, etc. Since the "Force" is 430 kg heavier than the "odds" are applied suspension springs of larger diameter rod and reinforced shock absorbers;
- VAZ-212183 "Landole": An outdoor beach buggy SUV based on the "odds", it has a body like "Lando" or "landole", and was produced by PSA Bronto to individual orders since 1997. The lack of a roof and door pillars offset original power roll cage, which, if necessary, fixed a light tent or mounted brackets for transportation of bulky sports equipment. The tailgate swings to horizontal loops. The easy-to-wash interior has seats upholstered in imitation leather, and the floor is covered with a soft linoleum. The exterior is complemented by an original plastic "underweight" and two-tone colouring.
- VAZ-2129 (Cedar): This extended by 500 mm model is based on a standard VAZ-21213. Cedar was created in the early '90s as the carrier units for a proposed minivan VAZ-2120, but in 1992–1994 was produced in a small series for OPP AvtoVAZ. The body was lengthened at the expense of the central insert, and it served as the basis for a five-door model VAZ-2131.
- VAZ 2129 "Utiliter": A commercial modification of the Cedar, it differs from the basic model by the lack of a rear seat and barred-from-the-inside rear side windows. The piece was manufactured under an order for OPP AvtoVAZ and distribution was not received.
- VAZ-2130 (Cedar): A modification of VAZ-2129, it has a reorganized interior. The three-seat bench-type 2108 is shifted forward. According to unconfirmed information, then the index of the model was changed to 2129–01. The VAZ-2130 was made in small batches in 1993 and 1994, and it served as the basis for a five-door model VAZ-2131-01.
- VAZ-2131 (LADA 4×4 five-door): Extended by 500 mm, the five-door model was based on the VAZ-21213. Available in the pilot production of AvtoVAZ (OPP AvtoVAZ) since 1993. The VAZ-2131 is based on the model 2129 Cedar by adding a pair of rear doors. By February 2009, VAZ has already produced 100 thousand VAZ-2131s, making this the second-most popular model in the family of the old "Field". Lengthening the body is produced by the central 500-mm insertion into a standard body model 21213. Accordingly, this changes the wheelbase and length of the car. On the 2131 version, the distance between the front and rear seats is increased by 125 mm, and applied to the 2131-01 three-seat bench type 2108. The fuel tank is enlarged to 65 L. With the development of PPO production engines of VAZ-2130 (1.8 L, 84 hp, 132 Nm), the 21312 version is made with this engine. Because of the typical use of green in the VAZ-2131, the people got the nickname: crocodile.
- VAZ-2131 SP (213105/213145): This model is manufactured as the OPP VAZ ambulance based on the VAZ-2131. It is increased by 300 mm of rear overhang and a high plastic roof. A characteristic feature of the exterior of this car is that two doors are on the right side and one is on the left. Due to the increased volume, the luggage compartment allows you to carry a patient on a stretcher and two accompanying physicians with a set of equipment. The VAZ-2131-45 is the version produced by OSC Motility, an AutoVAZ subsidiary, which has a stepped roof.
- VAZ-213102: This model is manufactured at the OPP VAZ as the "civil" five-door version of the health model VAZ-213105. It has the same 300-mm rear overhang and high plastic roof, but was equipped as a conventional five-seat saloon. Its luggage compartment increased to 1900 liters, allowing two extra seats that turned the car in the seven-seater (and moves it into a class of medium-sized SUVs). VAZ-213102 produced them on demand in 1999–2003.
- VAZ-2121 sugar – "Niva" designers were forced to think about lengthening the machine so at the end of the 80s made. Later in 1991, six elongated "Niva" were made with a higher roof. Part of the production machinery was registered as homemade and fell into private hands. This machinery was acquired by "Lada-bank" who developed further versions under the "Sahara" name.
Vehicles based on the Niva
- VAZ-2120: «Фора» Hope Minivan based on LWB Niva The Hope is a three- or four-door minivan first shown in 1996. Production began in 1998, and two years later began a steady release of1500 cars a year.
- VAZ-21204: A three- or four-door minivan as an updated version of the front optics of the VAZ-2110; it was first introduced in 2000, but small-scale production began only two years later. Also it is known as WHA 2120M. The total from 1998 to 2005 was 8570 minivans (according to other sources – about 7000).
- VAZ-2123: A Russian compact SUV, it is a second-generation made in pilot batches, which were produced by the WHA in 2001–2002. It preserved the continuity of the old "Niva" in aggregates and after considerable modernization was launched in mass production in September 2002, at the facilities of the joint venture GM-AvtoVAZ as the Chevrolet Niva. Part of the units of Chevrolet Niva (e.g. WTP firm ZF) eventually moved to LADA 4×4;
- VAZ-2129: A two-door model with a long wheelbase, the 2129 was built in small numbers since 1993. A variation is the 212901 1800s with a carbureted engine and two 42-l tanks.
- VAZ-2328 "Wolf": A pick-up with a short, two-person cabin based on the model VAZ-2131. The pick-up was built in parallel with the production of VAZ-2329, but due to low demand of the LADA-Toole, it was released only in the initial batch of "Wolves".
- VAZ-2329 "Bear", "Niva Pick-up", LADA 4×4 Pickup: A pick-up with an extended five-passenger cab model based on VAZ-2131, it was short-run manufactured by OPP VAZ. The car retained the bearing body (wheelbase 2700 mm) with a reinforced base and was increased by 300 mm of rear overhang. Load capacity is 650 lbs. The VAZ-2329 retained the mechanical part of the VAZ-2129/2131. Under order, instead of the engine VAZ-21213, installing the engine VAZ-2130 (1.8 L, 84 hp) was possible. An additional fuel tank, bringing their total capacity to 84 L, was used. The rear seat in the cockpit of the original, when folded flat, formed the cargo area. The first issues of this pickup truck were called the "Bear".
- VIS-2346: This family of pickup trucks had semi-framed chassis based on the Togliatti production. VAZInterService produced them from 1996 to the present, in short-run releases of two versions: VIS-2346 with a short two-seat cockpit and VIS-23461 with an extended five-seat version – the local unit. It was formerly produced as pickup VIS-23464 with a queen-sized four-seater cabin and a pickup VIS-2348 with the cab of the LADA Samara 2. Reinforced rear suspension spring is used.
- VAZ-1922 Bronto "March-1": An all-terrain vehicle on ultra-large-diameter pneumatic wheels. A production is being made by the PSA Bronto in Tolyatti since 1997. In the first 8 years of production, about 350 cars were produced.
- APAL-21541 "Stalker": A modification based on the VAZ-21214, it was planned for series production at the plant "Pishchemash" in the city of Argun, Chechen Republic. This short run is made by LLC "APAL" since 2003.
- CCF-2302 "Bison": A pick-up chassis with frame based on the Niva, it has a double cab and a short wooden platform, produced on a short-run Togliatti produced by "Eastern Ring" in 1993–1995. The reinforced rear suspension "Buffalo" was used.
Versions by AvtoVAZ subsidiaries
LLC "motility" versions:
- Minivan: Track front and rear wheels – as in "Niva", but the wheelbase has increased by half a meter. Vehicle length reaches 4.3 m, which allows fitting three rows of seats inside. Equipped with a carburetted gasoline engine: VAZ-2130 with a displacement of 1.8 liters, 80 hp In the future it is planned to equip a new minivan with a two-liter engine, which is now being tested.
- "Van": for the transportation of various large-sized cargo;
- "Service": the organization on the basis of the vehicle mobile workshops;
- "Manager": a special car for business travel business leaders;
- "Taxi": 4-seater with a spacious cargo area.
- Wagon: with a high roof and trunk increased by 500 millimeters compared to VAZ-2131
- Ambulance: For regional and rural hospitals. Spacious and high interior due to the increased rear overhang and roof gives you the freedom to place the patient, health professionals and accompanying. The car body metal bearing, with four hinged doors, sidewalls and tailgate (CX-1). Beauty body is equipped with a platform for the installation of sanitary litter and as seats for the doctor and the accompanying passenger. Beauty body is equipped with an additional heater, located under the floor of sanitary stretchers. The driver and passenger are isolated from the rest of the interior of the car a solid wall with clear glass.
- Patrol: law enforcement and inspection version
- ECP: extended cab pickup
PSA Bronto versions:
- Two-door Landole: outdoor beach buggy SUV The lack of a roof and door pillars offset original power roll cage, which, if necessary, fixed light tent or mounted brackets for transportation of bulky sports equipment. Tailgate swings to horizontal loops.
- Marsh series: swamp, snow and marsh buggies:
- Marsh 1: three door
- Long Marsh: 5 door
- Marsh pickup: extended cab pickup
- Marsh Rescuer: 4 door ambulance
- Marsh Combi: 5 door with fiberglass raised roof
- Marsh Fire: 2 door (fire and rescue)
- Lynx SUV: set screw type limited slip differentials in the front and rear axles, increased travel front and rear suspension wheels. On Niwa-LYNX installed reinforced front springs for increased ride height and reduce the dynamic loads from the blows. Strengthened rear axle NIVA-trot to prevent bending and raised rear support of the spring on 40mm to increase ground clearance. Arches wheel NIVA-LYNX modified for motion in the enlarged passages hangers, rubber arch extensions installed.
- Lynx 1: three door
- Lynx 2: five door
- Lynx 3: five door with fiberglass raised roof.
- Force: Armored Series
- LADA-BRONTO 213102 "FORCE CASH": five door with fiberglass raised roof.
- LADA-BRONTO 213102 "FORCE LONG": five door with flat roof.
- LADA-BRONTO 212 142 "Force K": three door with flat roof
- LADA-BRONTO 213102-771-40 "Force Divisional Commander": tactical version of five door with fiberglass raised roof.
- Ambulance: 4 door, one left, two right and back, with fiberglass raised roof.
- LADA 4×4 Pickup
- LADA 4×4 Pickup DPS
- LADA 4×4 Ambulance: based on the extended five-door LADA 4×4 and improved possibilities for medical applications. The car body, compared to the usual long-base LADA 4×4 is increased in length by another 280 mm, which allowed the interior divided by a partition into the driver's cab and the medical department. The partition has a sliding glass window that allows the driver to communicate with the doctor or the patient in the medical cabin. The medical department may be equipped with a comfortable seat doctor folding table and chair stretcher (which loosely fits the patient in a prone position). It is possible to accommodate medical equipment (infusion bottles holder, gear-oxygen inhaler, medical ventilator, medical assistant set, set of tires transport folding). The roof of the car has a stepped design, increases smoothly from the driver's cabin to medsalonu.
The car can be equipped with a voltage converter 12 -> 220, to supply various medical equipment; additional electric heater in the mid salon.
- LADA 4×4 MVD: police version
- LADA 4×4 VIS-234600: 2 door with tray with cover
- LADA 4×4 VIS-234610: 4 door with tray with cover
- LADA 4×4 VIS-294 600: 2 door (fire and rescue)
- LADA 4×4 VIS-294 610: 4 door (fire and rescue)
- LADA 4×4 VIS-294 601: 2 door (SAR)
- LADA 4×4 VIS-294 611: 4 door (SAR)
A notable Niva buyer in May 2009 was Russia's then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He flaunted his camouflage-painted Opel-engined offroader in the Russian media, allegedly to support domestic car producers despite the financial crisis.
VAZ-2121 customized to cabriolet (side view)
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- Six years ahead of the 1983 (for the 1984 model year) American Jeep Cherokee (XJ).
- Thompson, p.238.
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The first competitor of (the) Niva appeared only ten years after its release. It was a Japanese Suzuki Vitara. Completely slick car!
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lada Niva.|
- Official Lada Niva page at Lada.ru
- UK and Ireland dealer website
- Chevrolet Niva website
- Lada Niva technical manuals
- Baxter's Temple of Niva, a large collection of resources for Lada Niva owners
- Bronto PSA official page
|Compact car||1200 / 1300|
|Riva / Nova||Largus|
|Samara / Sputnik||Samara|
|110 / 111 / 112|
|Off-road||Lada Niva Legend / Niva / 4x4|
|SUV||Lada Niva Travel|