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:

Computer

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.

Nivacallouts

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. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

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