Lada Is Building Dumbed-Down “Classic ’22” Nivas Now, Thanks To Russia’s Stupid War

Niva Top

I suspect that there is a universal set of thoughts that go through the minds of everyone who has ever driven and appreciated a Lada Niva: How can this car be both constantly about to fall apart and simultaneously so rugged? Why does the heat just sort of ooze out of the dash cracks instead of coming out of the vents? Is that a weld or can cars grow tumors? I also suspect that one thought that has never entered the minds of Niva drivers is “I sure wish this thing had fewer electronics and technological refinements,” but that’s the wish that Lada parent company AVTOVAZ is currently answering with the new Niva Classic ’22 edition. Oh good.

The Niva Classic ’22 looks like Nivas have looked for, well, decades, but there’s less there than meets the eye. Niva production was forced to stop due to economic sanctions back in March, as a number of key imported components were no longer available. Components like Bosch ABS brake systems and Russia’s version of satellite accident-location and alert systems and any kind of radio head unit or even speakers. You still get power steering, power windows up front, and, um, that’s about it.

An “on-board computer” is mentioned, but it just seems to refer to this in the gauge cluster:


So, a digital clock? A trip odometer? Maybe a distance-to-empty meter, though I wouldn’t necessarily get my hopes up. Does this count as infotainment?

Niva Model

This is a new 4×4 SUV one could buy in 2022 that makes a whopping six horsepower less than a 2017 Smart ForTwo. All for the genuinely low price of 818,900 rubles, or $14,525 US.

The Lada website still shows other Niva trim options, but it’s not clear if any are available other than the downgraded Classic ’22 edition.


Still, if you’re into your seat inserts being “brown” and your bumpers plastic, maybe you can still specify those things.

Also, recently relaxed regulations from the Russian government have freed the Niva from needing to have airbags, electronic seat belt pre-tensioners, front-impact crash tests — pretty much any pretense of making a safe car by modern standards. Because it isn’t. I mean, the Niva didn’t have far to fall, but it’s still something that’s practically unheard of today.

Here’s what Lada’s parent company AVTOVAZ has to say about this new-old special regression-edition Niva:

AVTOVAZ resumes production of the three-door SUV LADA NIVA Legend in a new configuration for the 2022 model year. The first will be the Classic’22 version, designed to ensure the maximum possible localization of the car, eliminating the impact of a shortage of imported components.

Maxim Sokolov, President of JSC AVTOVAZ: “The resumption of production of the second LADA model and the launch of another conveyor line in the current difficult conditions is a real victory for the entire AVTOVAZ team. As early as this week, affordable and most popular Russian SUVs NIVA Legend will again be delivered to dealerships in a special configuration, the cost of which will be reduced. I am sure that the car will be in steady demand. The company continues to make every effort to resume production of all cars of the LADA model range, actively working with suppliers from Russia and friendly countries.”


I’ll admit, I genuinely love the old Niva, and think we could really use a manual, $15,000 workhorse like this in America. [Editor’s Note: I myself would love an airbagless, basic five-speed off-road hatchback like the Niva. -DT]. But, none of that changes the reason why this very strange downgrade is happening: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which, if you’ll permit me editorializing, I hope they lose and the whole stupid mess ends as soon as possible. Yes, my heritage is Ukrainian (my last name comes from the place that makes this ketchup and BBQ sauce) but I’m pretty certain I’d see this idiotic war as the senseless murderous mess it is no matter where my family hailed from.

The Niva didn’t start this war, and it is a testimony to the simplicity of the basic Niva design, largely unchanged since it launched in 1977, that it is able to be still built essentially just as well without modern components. That said, fuck Putin and I hope this war ends soon.

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72 Responses

  1. It’s my compulsion to point out New Zealand connections wherever I can, so I’ll note that one of my very first television memories from the early 1990s is watching the (still-running) farming series “Country Calendar” which was “brought to you by the Lada Niva, Cossack and Taiga”.

    This came about because the New Zealand Dairy Board, a monopsony which handled all exports of butter etc, decided to get creative in expanding new markets and ended up on the rough end of contracts with immediately post-Soviet Russia when the buyers became desperately short on hard currency. The workaround was that Ladas were traded for butter and milk powder and our national dairy board briefly became a motor vehicle importer and distributor.

    From my limited knowledge the Ladas were gratefully received as NZ still had tariffs which made most imported vehicles very expensive, and any new 4×4 was popular for farm use. They basically all vanished within a decade however as the tariffs came off (gone by 1998) and used Japanese vehicles flooded in.

    We needed a new car for Dad to get to work in 1997 and in desperation he test drove a Lada sedan before settling on a 1982 Civic wagon which promptly halved in value the next year when those import tariffs were removed.

    Country Calendar is now sponsored by Hyundai.

  2. First fuck Putin, I’m sure we sell agree. I love the looks so who cares how outdated it is? I mean really the first Mustang was glorious but the must have change mindset brought us the 70s Mustang which was really just an uglier Pinto with no redeeming qualities. The original Thunderbird was great only to be ruined when they changed it to a land yacht. The Wrangler was a great small little 4×4 now its a suburban with a removable top. Not bad but worse than the original. I mean you could do a slideshow, please don’t, of reintroduced models and a poll which is better and I’m willing to bet an entire dollar old school original DESIGN beats out reintroduced DESIGN by a mile. Yes the new tech for the most part is good, but the design is worse. IMHO reintroduced models are the new tv shows that come on at 830 and 930 after the best shows at 8 and 9.

  3. What gives? The link about driving & appreciating a Lada Niva takes one to an article that’s missing all of its pictures?? Tried a different browser with the same results. The only images are just ads. Is there a way to find the pictures? The Wayback Machine? (Surely not the same time machine referenced in said article?)

    1. I can’t remember if that was dubbed into English (with the most Canadian-sounding accents since the dawn of time) and shown under Nickelodeon’s “Special Delivery” block sometime in the mid/late ’80s, or just the sort of thing that would’ve been.

  4. I test drove a Niva in the 1980’s when they were for sale in Canada. I can still remember the overwhelming stench of the interior, a weird combination of resin and uncured plastic. It was fun to drive in the same way that a flathead jeep would be fun to drive – great for an hour on city streets or on a trail but scary as hell on the highway.

    It’s a bit like a Ural motorcycle, you have to really love it to own one. Oh, and Ural just announced that they are moving out of Russia and relocating to Kazakhstan. Too bad Autovaz can’t do the same.

    1. I’ve actually met someone who rolled his Ural with sidecar attached. Even funnier, it happened rolling *backwards* down a driveway XD
      This has nothing to do with anything but how could i not share such a story?

      1. There was a Russian troll on there for a few days after the invasion started. He hit all the Putin talking points – Ukraine wanted Russia to take over, there were Nazis in Ukraine, that sort of BS. It didn’t last long though. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got banned at some point.

    1. I was hoping we’d get some base level options in the USA from the chip shortage. I like crash protection, airbags and all that. I could do without the 8 year old iPad in the dash of every car and don’t care about power windows, keyless entry, and a bunch of cheap LED’s crammed everywhere. It’d be cool to get a manual Tacoma or Silverado or whatever with manual transfer case and manual hubs again.

      1. Yeah. I say lots of automakers complaining about the “Chip Shortage” and I kept thinking to myself ‘You guys did this to yourself by designing automobiles that have to use chips for stuff that don’t require chips like hand crank windows, seat adjustment, mirror adjustment, sunroofs, door latches (as in electrically actuated only ones), etc.’

        Then I learned it was worse than that. You can still buy a new F-150 Today with hand crank windows. Instead of Ford incentivizing optioning your F-150 with hand cranl windows so they can save on chips they just kept moaning, kept delaying, kept releasing cars that were missing chips, etc.

        I agree with you about infotainment systems, power windows, keyless entry, non manual transfer cases, and non manual hubs.

        The Pandemic was literally the best time to make basic, cheap, cars. Keep the production lines running, design future cars to use both manual and electric options so if you have a shortage of one or the other you have a backup option instead of just being left with parking lots full of running and driving cars that are missing chips so now when you get your “new” car it comes from the factory with undercarriage rust because it’s been sitting out in a Michigan parking lot for months (looking at you Ford!).

        These are the cars that enthusiasts want, That old people want, that minimalists want, that cyber security aware people want, they’re the cars that more people can afford because they’re cheaper.

        I’m fully willing to pay EXTRA for manual windows, manual seats, manual mirrors, manual climate control controls, manual door handles, manual trunk/frunk/rear hatch releases, a manual fuel filler door latch, a manual parking brake, a manual gearbox, a manual transfer case, steel wheels, no infotainment system, etc.

        Since the chip shortage is still going on we’re seeing some more low tech options (like the 4G LTE Wifi Hotspot removal on the new Ford Maverick Pickup) but there are not nearly enough low tech options.

        Honestly as much as I don’t need a full size pickup if I could get a base model F-150 Lightning but with a single cab 3 seat interior with the manual windows and at least a 6ft bed I think I’d be pretty content though I still wish they’d have a manual frunk release option (I’d probably jerry rig one if need be). I honest don’t think we’ll get any more basic vehicles in the near future and we’ll just keep moving towards the technophilic end of the spectrum so that F-150 lightning is probably my best hope for a basic new car.

    2. The cheap Niva seems like a good idea, but I wouldn’t buy it. I like cheap, simple vehicles, and I have always thought the Niva was cool. However, I have seen a few crash test videos of modern Nivas, and they are terrible. Even with a typical front impact crash test, the passenger compartment deforms which could cause severe or fatal injuries to a driver. I can’t imagine how poorly this would do on an overlapping impact or side impact tests. For a new vehicle sold in the US, a 35 mph impact might ruin your car, but you are likely to walk away from that accident. In any Niva (much less one without airbags), that simply isn’t the case. I don’t think it is worth the risk.

    1. IMHO the 2 Amigos here introduce political issues here appropriately as it relates to autos. Other unnamed sites simply did rants of their political beliefs with not a car in site and banished the nonwoken to the greys for having their own opinions. Cars and politics are Siamese Twins, sorry if that is inappropriate, you can’t totally separate them.

      1. I don’t mind a bit of politics here and there, but the German Lighting Site got ridiculous. Toward the end (I guess technically it still exists, but I don’t read it), it seemed like 75% of articles were social justice rants with no real connection to cars or car culture. I didn’t necessarily disagree with their views, but I didn’t enjoy reading those posts. I stopped visiting that site because it was no longer fun to read.

        I agree it was reasonable to bring up politics in this post. Realistically, you can’t discuss a decontented Niva and completely ignore putin’s war (incidentally, I still can’t believe putin is destroying a peaceful, prosperous country for no apparent reason).

        1. I’ve mentioned this before so apologies if I’m repeating myself, but two or three authors were the primary offenders in terms of content-less (and often factually incorrect) political rants. I started skipping any article with their name on it and I started to enjoy the site a lot more.

          That said, since Mercedes jumped ship I’ve rarely visited the Jello Picnic. I get enough car content here and there’s no one left over there that is a must-read for me. After years of trying, they finally chased off every author that was keeping me there.

        2. Pootin has his reasons. 1) Ukraine, as a former Soviet occupied country, is economically making the Russian Federation look bad after deciding to hitch their wagon to the EU. 2) Pootin has his mindset stuck in USSR/KGB mode and now that he has the chance to stand in the shoes of Stalin and Khrushchev, he wants his turn at the top. 2.5) He sees any country near the Russian border that is not wanting to play the part of a good Warsaw Pact country as a direct threat.

          In a nutshell, where Pootin should be kept, he is a power hungry asshole wanting to relive the glory days now that he is at the top.

          …..and fk Pootin. Nuff said.
          [world politics mode = OFF, lock engaged]

  5. Honestly, it would be cool if the US could relax some of their regs so something like this could be built. I mean, if you are going to allow SxS’s to cruise around my streets all day and night, why not a roxor or something? Why the hell can’t I register a Surron? anyway, screw Putin and the horse he rode in on.

      1. Correct, however, they were reinforced in several areas to make them survive the Soviet road infrastructure better. The Niva, was not a Fiat design, in fact it was designed with engineering input from Porsche. Recent Ladas have been codeveloped with Renault that owned a chunk of the company, but if I’m not mistaken, there was even a hand me down Chevy in the line up at one time.

        1. @andyindividual

          The original Lada models were indeed derived from Fiat. The Niva was an in-house design though. From Wiki:

          “..Automaker AvtoVAZ was formed from a collaboration between Fiat and the Soviet Vneshtorg (Department of Foreign Trade), and based in the city of Tolyatti on the Volga River. Both sides discussed the proposal in Moscow, where Gianni Agnelli, the owner and nephew of the founder of Fiat, and Vittorio Valletta, the president of the company, had arrived from Italy. The first preliminary agreement was signed on 1 July 1965. On 4 May 1966, the Soviet minister of automotive industry Alexander Tarasov and Vittorio Valletta put their signatures on a protocol on the scientific and technical cooperation between Fiat and the Soviet ministry. Eventually, a general agreement between the two sides was signed in Moscow on 15 August 1966.

          The company began producing the VAZ-2101 in 1970, which was a more rugged version of the Fiat 124 sedan. The car was given heavier steel body panels and strengthened components, which improved reliability on the bumpy roads and in the harsh winters of the Soviet Union.

          The first cars manufactured by AvtoVAZ with technical assistance from Fiat were marketed under the Zhiguli designation, allegedly chosen after it was suggested by designer, A. M. Cherny. When the cars began to be exported on foreign markets, the Zhiguli designation was found to be inappropriate, as it was hard to pronounce for non-Russian speakers, and it was said to resemble the word gigolo too closely. Lada become the brand for export markets. Due to the scarcity of auto-repair shops in the Soviet Union, Ladas were designed to be easily maintained by their owners. The rugged Lada was popular in Europe, Canada, and South America for customers looking for more affordable alternatives to local brands, and sales of the new cars were extremely successful, reaching as far as New Zealand. In the West, their construction was frequently described as cheap, and that inspired jokes at the car’s expense; nonetheless, Lada ‘gained a reputation as a maker of solid, unpretentious, and reliable cars for motorists who wanted to drive on a budget.’ The Lada brand appeared in 1973, and it has since become the main brand for AvtoVAZ vehicles.

          Since the original Fiat engine did not have any space for modernization, it was replaced with a new overhead camshaft engine. The car was equipped with rugged drum brakes, as the latter proved to be more reliable on poor roads. More reliable and up-to-date front and rear suspension with increased ground clearance, a modernized transmission, and recessed door handles were also fitted. The work on the new car was conducted by joint groups of NAMI and Fiat engineers, who worked together in Turin and Tolyatti. By the spring of 1970, AvtoVAZ had formed its own team of designers and engineers and worked independently.

          Lada Niva
          After having built a number of prototypes and experimental vehicles, AvtoVAZ designers launched the first car entirely of their own design, the VAZ-2121 Niva, in 1977…”

  6. Ukrainian heritage is an oxymoron

    I’m glad your family made it out, though. You’re badly built and ill equipped to dig the trench those NATO trained neonazies would have conscripted your flabby ass to die in anyway

    Upgrade yourself in order to perform a more complex take than “stupid mess and eff putin”. Quit dumbing down and start contributing to end wars sooner by educating yourself and help others do the same

    Nivas are great. They don’t need to larp as something they’re not

    1. It’s tragic that your comment is the first, thus most likely to catch eyeballs, as it’s a complete sh*t take on the Russian atrocities being committed in Ukraine. There’s literally no defense for what Putin has done to this peaceful nation, and you can’t say ‘BUT NATO’ or I’ll punt you in the gooch as we now all see the benefits to NATO membership when you share a border with a garbage nation like Russia.

      And the Nazi excuses were over a month ago when Putin pivoted to his new excuse of reunifying the old USSR state as nobody with a brain was falling for that BS excuse of Nazis in Ukraine.

      1. It’s not the first comment so you don’t have to cry tragedy about it

        Russians in general are quite good at defending themselves, those in the Donbas in particular as they’ve shown us all since 2014. So I see no need to do any defending on their behalf. Western, Europe loving Ukranians on the other hand… They don’t seem to be doing so well even with all that sweet money you guys keep throwing at them

        Be grateful Putin is at the helm. Both the Russian right and the left would have already given those “peaceful” nations something other to truly call atrocities. Educate yourself on the subject, don’t just go parading around your claim to be a nobody with a brain. Show everybody you can actually give it some use

        Thanks for your reply, though. For someone so worried about visibility and engagement, you don’t seem to understand how it works

  7. Everyone else already covered most of my possible comments, so I’ll cut to the chase: where can I buy Torchyn condiments?
    And, I hope Jason noted the watched counter on that video. Visions of their Social Media intern going, “WTH, guys?”

    But seriously, if anyone can point me to a site with currency I recognize I’d appreciate it: buying shit made in Ukraine right now is important. They’ve lost a lot of infrastructure, and support for businesses still existing is as important as giving $ to aid organizations — at least to me.

  8. When I found this site a few days ago, I thought “oh cool, this is just like Jalopnik before it went to shit!” Great stuff. Loving it.

    The editoriliazing is what made Jalopnik go to shit, however. It’s one thing to write about how the war is impacting Russia’s automotive industry, but no one needs another damn site blasting unrelated opinions.

  9. Since the war has been mentioned i have to comment.
    I dont want to see Russia win, but i also cant see how Ukraine can win either.Some areas have long been Russian so there’s no point to Ukraine trying to control those areas.
    As for the oil and gas resources,those will be problems for both sides- but in the end russia will ‘win’ by denying Ukraine access.Russia has plenty elsewhere.
    Russia can easily destroy the dam that used to supply the Crimean peninsular.The ‘if we cant have it neither will you’ solution.

    The gas in the far west of Ukraine may be the one thing Ukraine can legitimately win.There are almost no Russians in that area so there’s good reason for western nations to intervene more strongly.
    But even there any facilities are vulnerable to long range strikes.We can supply sufficient protection and retaliation should Russia try to take the area.
    The thing is- will we?Are we prepared to fight the same as Russia? They might have no problems bombing civilian areas in cities.Are we prepared to do the same?

  10. I spent some time in Mother Russia back in the summer of 2019. Absolutely fell in love with the Lada Niva! I desperately wanted to bring one home. I’ve looked into getting one from Canada, but I don’t think I can justify the time and expense. I saw one with a canoe on the roof, one with mud caked up to the window sills, and every rural utility crew had one along with their big trucks (supervisor’s car?). I also saw that mall-crawling rednecks are a worldwide thing. Saw a camo-wrapped F-150 4×4 in the Moscow hotel parking lot!

  11. I had one in Canada as well as a 1500 no need to go to the gym for arms as the steering would take care of that for you- saw a Niva once with a tiny 10″ steering wheel, I have no idea how they could park that thing

  12. Absolutely agree with everyone on the war. Ukraine needs to win.
    Apologies if this is a dumb question, but what does “1.718 cells” mean? At first I read it as a reference to an electric motor, but that’s clearly wrong.

      1. Actually, almost certainly “valves” – in Russian, that would be “8 klapanov”, abbreviated “8 kl.”, which probably got translated by someone unfamiliar with the terminology into “8 cl.” (because kl. can be a common abbreviation for “class”) and then expanded by someone slightly more familiar with the jargon into “8 cells”.

  13. Speaking of rugged-yet-sketchy Russian SUVs and Putin’s egomania being the reason we can’t have nice things – remember how we were supposed to get the UAZ Patriot as the Bremach 4×4 (originally Taos) in the United States, starting at $26,000? Needless to say, that’s also not happening now. Путін — хуйло!

  14. “Yes, my heritage is Ukrainian (my last name comes from the place that makes this ketchup and BBQ sauce) but I’m pretty certain I’d see this idiotic war as the senseless murderous mess it is no matter where my family hailed from.”

    I’m pretty sure anyone whose ancestry is not “Russian oligarch” thinks Putin is an asshole.

    1. And, frankly, quite a few of them are likely tired of his BS at this point, they just can’t say or do anything, or else their assets within Russia will go the same way all their international ones already have

  15. I’m NOT one of those who was bothered by the political bent that the-previous-automotive-site tended to show. Our world is interconnected. It seemed to me that people bothered by it tended to not want to be confronted with inequalities or injustice in the context of their daily entertaining reading. Just a schmo on the internet, but I’d say don’t shy away from connecting cars to bigger global and cultural issues.

    All that said, what this makes me want is for someone to restomod a Fiat Panda 4×4.

    1. Agreed on all of the above – and I don’t even particularly need a restomod. My wife and I rented a 2015 Panda Cross 4×4 for a week in Iceland a few years ago. I’m sure I enjoyed it slightly more because it was a rental but that thing was a ton (probably literally) of fun on both the standard roads and going over passes on some relatively mild F-roads.

    2. A Gen 1 (Mk1/Mk2)? I agree – for good measure, stick electric motors on both axles and call it the Nuova Panda Elettra, in homage to the 1990 EV version.

      That said, the Gen 3 (Mk4) 4×4 exists and can still be bought new; it’s an adorable (and dirt cheap) little off-road toy.

  16. An acquaintance of mine lived on a farm in the far north of England called”Moscow” (it has to do with french prisoners of war and Napoleon), he had two cars, a Lada Niva, painted olive drab with a big red star on the bonnet andthe UK registration plate KGB1 and a paraffin burning Chaika limousine reg no. KGB2. The Lada had a permanently broken taillight, policemen for the baiting of. “Excuse me sir, could I see your license and registration please” “And your address, sir?”
    Oh, what japes!

  17. I agree that I would like to see simpler smaller cars available here, but I also think that modern tech has done amazing things for cars…..a nice blend of modern powertrain, suspension and brakes in a smaller, lighter car would suit me. Oh and a 2 dr pickup the size of 70’s small trucks too please!

    1. Me too, every day I check in with my comrades in Ukraine hoping to see more artillery land on the atrocity committing invaders. I’ve never felt this kind of loathing for a war, it’s worse than my disgust at the GOP’s concocted and debunked excuses for waging a pointless and brutal war in Iraq.

  18. Here for the editorializing. More of this sort of thing, always.

    Since I already would like to live in a fantasyland where small manual wagons were the default transportation choice, allow me to join the chorus for wildly decontented modern vehicles. Obviously no manufacturer would bother since they hate selling lower margin models at the best of times, and I’m not sure they’d actually sell even if available, but I’d love to see models that have modern crash safety and basically nothing else. Bluetooth audio connection for your phone or even just a USB port and a place to stick your portable speaker. Heated seats as an option.

  19. I bet we will see them restarting production of the 2105 or 2107 soon too, as they gradually run out of supplies of anything that’s post-2010s.
    There is already a significant parts commonality between the 2121 (Niva) and the 2105/07.

    1. What grabbed my attention on Lada’s Niva (now “4×4” after GM got hold of the name) is it does have a centre diff. So when you need traction on some hard-rock surface, you can still rely on 4wd drive to make your way through curves and not bother about steering without ruining some tires/pinsons as when shifting in 4wd and experiencing same rotations on both axles.
      Add to this only 3000 pounds to drag when stuck in sand/mud/snow/marsh/slope and you’ve got a $12K capable mule.
      As for Ukraine… it takes two to tango (if not some “Fuck the EU” 3rd party).
      We need to cross-check information just like when pondering IOS/Apple or Chevrolet vs. Ford or… Doubt? Sure.
      Then comes “Bad Doubt”. As in WTC7.
      Censorhip. Yep: you are not allowed to make your own mind.
      High suspicion there.

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