The new Chevrolet Niva SUV revealed today ahead of its world debut at the Moscow motor show this week represents the reincarnation of a Russian icon — one that also revives an extant Australian connection.
Pitched as the patriotic choice for Russian buyers with a keen sense of adventure, the Chevrolet Niva is the second-generation of the vehicle produced under a joint venture between General Motors and AvtoVAZ, parent company of the Niva’s original maker Lada.
The mean-looking concept you see here, published ahead of embargo by Russian publication Auto Review, previews the 2016 production model that will tackle the likes of the Dacia/Renault Duster in developing markets throughout Eastern Europe.
This concept version is radicalised, sporting a lift kit, 235/70 R16 mud-plugging tyres and an off-road package with a winch, spot-lights, a snorkle and roof racks. Reports indicate it will feature a PSA-made 100kW/170Nm 1.8-litre petrol engine shared with the Citroen C4 L in China.
The current Niva is now 12 years old and models such as the Duster have chopped the Niva’s sales by almost 25 per cent. Remarkably, the famed original Niva is also till available as it enters its 37th year.
This original ‘classic’ Niva was sold in Australia via a third-party distributor until 1998, but it is unclear if this model could come to Australia. GM Russia told us it is considering whether to sell the car beyond Russia/CIS, though whether it could sell here alongside the Trax appears tenuous.
Still, even if the production model doesn’t arrive here, there is still an Australian connection. As is now clear, while this concept was designed and engineered by GM International Operations and GM-AvtoVAZ, it was penned by ex-Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz in China and the show concept was fabricated in Melbourne at Holden’s facility, one of only two global GM studios that make show cars, and shipped to Russia.
As we know, GM has recast Holden’s design brief within the wider empire now that it will no longer make homegrown vehicles beyond 2017. Holden will no longer lead the development and design of global vehicles, but will contribute to projects and — importantly here — make concept cars.
"I think we have a really well-respected design studio and I think GM values the talent we've got and certainly one of our areas of expertise is building show cars... the guys are really busy," Holden national manager of product communications Kate Lonsdale told us this week.
It is the second such rugged, developing-market SUV Holden’s team has fabricated in recent times, having also created the Adra for the Delhi motor show earlier this year. With that car, Holden played a Godfather role overseeing the subcontinental design studio’s work.
It is a nice piece of historical synchronicity. In the late 1980s, famed Holden racer Peter Brock’s Australian engineering company made convertible versions of the Samara and Niva, a ute version of the Niva and a sporty version of the Samara.
Lada production image courtesy of James Ward.