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by James Ward

Everyone’s favourite pioneering Russian SUV, the Lada Niva, turns 40 years old this year – making it just about ready for an update.

Reports this week suggest that Lada’s parent company, AutoVAZ, is finally looking to move the ‘darling of the field’ (Russian translation for Lada Niva) to a new and more modern platform, for launch in 2018.

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Although, it is expected that the current vehicle (now known simply as the Lada 4×4) will continue to be produced along side a new one, for some time to come

The specifics of the ‘new’ Niva aren’t known at this stage, but the rugged little SUV is the latest in a line of planned, reborn iconic four-wheel drive vehicles.

A new Ford Bronco was announced at the 2017 Detroit auto show, and a successor to the aging Suzuki Jimny was also recently confirmed. These join the iconic Land Rover Defender which is set to see a new beginning in 2018.

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This isn’t the first time a new Niva has been discussed, either.

Following an investment in AutoVaz by the Renault Nissan Alliance in 2012, a revised Niva was proposed, and expected to use the underpinnings of the Duster SUV from Renault’s cut-price Dacia brand.

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Plus a joint-venture between AutoVaz and GM produced a more urban-friendly, five-door ‘Chevrolet Niva’ in 2002. This car is scheduled to be superseded by a second-generation car which, incidentally, was prepared as a prototype by the General Motors design studio at Holden’s HQ in Melbourne.

Neither the Dacia Niva nor the new Chevy Niva have been fully realised, though, most likely due to the struggling domestic car sales market in Russia, which plummeted at the start of 2015 and dropped even further at the beginning of 2016.

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Things are looking up, though, and Renault has increased its share holding in AutoVaz to 47 per cent (part of a total of 65 per cent when pooled with holding company partners Nissan and Rostec), signifying ongoing support for the Russian auto maker.

With well over two million examples built to date, a new Niva, purportedly planned with both a five-door and classic three-door format, could be just the thing to help boost a recovering Russian economy.

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But if you’ve got the hankering for some pre-Glasnost history and don’t mind turning a spanner stamped with a hammer and sickle (here comes the ad… – Ed), my 1988 Niva is up for grabs on Gumtree right now. So get in early on the retro 4×4 craze, with the original, retro 4×4.




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