Just over two decades have passed since the Lada Niva exited the Australian market. In Russia, it’s still going strong.
For 2020, the 42-year-old SUV has been treated to some modest changes.
They don’t disguise the Niva’s age, the little SUV looking much as it did when it first rolled off the Togliatti production line in 1977.
The only change to the exterior is the addition of fog lights to Urban models.
Inside, there’s a refreshed dashboard with much more modern climate control switchgear and larger air vents.
There are two new 12V sockets and cupholders on the centre console, while there are also new seats and changes to the cabin lighting and grab handles.
Oh, you’re looking for an infotainment system? That’s cute. No, there’s nothing of the sort in the Niva. Lada’s rugged four-wheel drive doesn't even have a driver's airbag.
There has been one safety modification for 2020, however. For the first time, the Niva now has rear seat headrests.
Efforts have been made to reduce noise and vibration from the Niva’s only powertrain, which carries over unchanged. It’s a naturally-aspirated 1.7-litre four-cylinder delivering 61kW and 129Nm to all four wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.
Shortly before the Niva was discontinued in Australia, a five-door variant was made available in other markets.
Above: 2019 Lada Niva
Today, the Niva is available in both three- and five-door body styles and in regular, Urban and off-road-focused Bronto variants.
In Russia, the Niva is sold as the Lada 4x4 as General Motors claimed the rights to the Niva name.
In 1998, GM introduced the Chevrolet Niva as part of a joint venture with AvtoVAZ, Lada’s parent company.
Beneath its modern styling were the same mechanicals as the original Niva.
Earlier this year, AvtoVAZ bought out GM’s stake in the two companies’ joint venture. Chevrolet has stopped selling the newer Niva, though Reuters reports it’ll move over to the Lada brand next year.
AvtoVAZ is now a subsidiary of Renault and the company previewed a Niva replacement last year.
It’s the second concept in recent years to preview a Niva replacement. GM debuted a second-generation Chevrolet Niva concept at the 2014 Moscow motor show.
With GM’s sale of its half of AvtoVAZ, the handsome concept has been left on the cutting room floor.
Given the Niva’s iconic status in Russia, it’s possible it’ll continue to be sold alongside the rechristened Chevrolet Niva. One wonders if Lada will ever stop making the rugged little 4x4.
MORE: Everything Lada