The Lada Niva has long been a favorite here at Jalopnik. Despite being born into the Soviet Union where cars weren’t just basic, they were boring, the Niva managed to impress us as both capable and full of character. The little 4x4 kept impressing buyers long after the Iron Curtain fell, at least until this year.
Lada’s biggest market in Western Europe is Germany, where both the venerable Niva and the newer but far less interesting Vesta sedan and wagon have been on offer in recent years. The Niva has long been the star of the show, though, with its utilitarian late-‘70s silhouette hiding some really impressive off-road chops in a package that can fit in the tightest parking spots European cities have on offer. But now, a report from German outlet Autonotizen explains that the Niva’s time has come. After more than forty years, a final shipment has arrived in Germany and the little SUV will leave the Western European market behind once that last batch is sold.
That’s too bad because there is a lot to love about the Niva, starting with price-point. In Russia, at least, you can pick up a new Niva, called a Bronto these days, for less than $9000 right now. That’s not quite Changli territory, but it’s awful reasonable for a car that can pull double duty as an off-road adventure machine and a city car.
But while some buyers outside of Russia might have been enticed by the Niva’s practicality, the car isn’t without some clear downsides. The interior has not seen much of an update since H.W. Bush and Gorbachev sat across from one another at arms reduction talks, aside from an AUX input and some cupholders of course. When the Soviet Union collapsed, a few creature comforts were bound to creep in. But the car is still pretty spartan, even after a refresh for 2020.
Despite those changes, the Niva has remained true to its original mandate. Just ask Jalopnik contributor Misha Lanin, who took a new Niva on a Russian adventure last summer and caught up with another, obviously older one on the streets of Brooklyn not long after.
Though the Niva and the newer Vesta have remained on sale in Western Europe, they face stiff competition from more established budget brands from Korea and elsewhere whose offerings are more suited to consumers’ needs. Renault, which has recently pumped some cash into Lada parent AvtoVAZ, owns Dacia as well, a brand that would love to eat up sales from Lada. They build another cheap little SUV, the Dacia Duster. Maybe you know it. It’s also pretty cool.
Renault would rather buyers in Western Europe find themselves in a Duster than the old Niva and I suppose that makes sense. If anyone does hold out though, Lada Germany will continue to provide parts support to current Niva owners.
That’s very good news because the ones most recently sold will likely have long lives ahead of them, whether they’re being pressed into forest service, doing donuts in snow, or just driven around town making people smile with their Groucho Marx looks. That’s good by me because I’d like to be able to see some Nivas for a long time to come.