Updated GM-derived SUV leaked on Russian social media with RAV4-like front end.
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Update, 23 December 2020: The 2021 Lada Niva Travel has been officially shown on the Lada website and social media channels. Production has commenced at the Togliatti factory, with the new car featuring a revised front end, and LED tail lamps on all variants. An off-road model includes a standard snorkel, unpainted body cladding and all-terrain tyres, where the mechanical underpinnings remain the same.

15 December 2020: Pre-production photos of the updated 2021 Lada Niva show its design to be more than a little bit influenced by the Toyota RAV4.

A pair of the facelifted SUVs were shown in a photo that surfaced on the Russian ‘Vkontakte’ social network in the past week, with the car featuring a wide plastic grille and slim, high-mounted headlamps, very much akin to the RAV4 styling (pictured below in US-spec guise).

VIDEO: Old v New: Suzuki Jimny v Lada Niva comparison

The cars are shown with extensive body cladding and a snorkel, hinting at being a high-specification off-road model.

However, the facelifted Niva leaked online is not an updated version of the iconic model we know and love – which is still being produced by Lada’s parent company, AutoVAZ, badged as the Lada 4x4 – but instead a restyled version of the 'new' Lada Niva 'II', based on GM-derived underpinnings dating back to the end of the last millennium.

In 1999, under a joint agreement with General Motors, a new, five-door SUV (which looked very similar to the Kia Sportage of the time) was produced and sold as the Chevy Niva.

Above: a leaked front and rear shot of the 2021 Lada Niva.

In July this year, having completed a re-purchase of GM’s stake in the business, an updated ‘new Niva’ was relaunched, as the Lada Niva.

The new Niva features a 1.7-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 59kW and 125Nm, mated to a five-speed manual transmission and a constant four-wheel drive system with low-range. It’s the same engine as first used in the Chevy Niva in 1999, and in fact has less power than the motor currently in the ‘classic Niva’ Lada 4x4, which develops 61kW.

Above: the GM-derived Lada Niva, first launched in 1999.

Priced from ₽708k rubles (AU$12,700), or ₽794k for the higher-spec off-road version (AU$14,300), the Niva is nearly a third of the price of an entry-level Toyota RAV4 in Russia (₽1,929k rubles, or around AU$35,000).

It is expected that the updated Lada Niva will make its official debut early in 2021.

Below: The original Lada Niva, now known as the 'Lada 4x4'