One of the most famous and popular Russian car is certainly the VAZ-2121 or NIVA.
NIVA marks in 2017 40 years since its launch and is still being produced nowadays! Today, the legendary name NIVA now belongs to Chevrolet, and since 2006 the Russian vehicle is sold as the Lada 4x4.
The first prototypes of NIVA appeared in 1973, and the first batch of pre-production models, numbering 50 copies were built by hand in early 1976. Pre-production copies were tested for a year in different regions of Russia, under the strict control of the AutoVAZ engineers who wrote down all defects, to have them removed before the start of actual production.
On the 5th of April 1977 the first series NIVA models were produced.
NIVA was the second all-terrain vehicle in the world after the Range Rover equipped with permanent four-wheel drive, which provided better maneuverability and enhanced crossing capabilities. In its construction NIVA used the technical specifications of the VAZ-2106, including the rear axle, gearbox (manual with 4 or 5 speeds) and the engine with a displacement of 1.6 liters with carburetor, therefore making it possible to combine the comfort of a regular car with the abilities of an all-terrain model. NIVA can handle exceptionally in off-road conditions, being equipped with a torque scaler and lockable central differential.
Not having direct competitors at that time, NIVA was extremely popular in different countries, particularly in Germany, where it appeared in several limited series made by Deutsche Lada Automobile GmbH, including models with sunroof and other luxurious features, including convertible models!
Depending on the market, NIVA had different names such as Lada Sport in Iceland, Lada Taiga in Austria, Bognor Diva in Uruguay, or Lada Cossack in the UK.
Now, it is known as the Lada 4x4 in most countries, with the model being sold in over 100 countries around the world during the last 40 years, including in Japan, where the engine version with a displacement of 1.3 liters was particularly popular.
In 1992 NIVA underwent a facelift (VAZ-21213), which was largely aimed at its practical and stylistic aspect. The rear was redesigned, the horizontal optical blocks taken from the VAZ-2106 being replaced with the original ones in a portrait orientation, which made it possible to expand the trunk door near the rear bumper, facilitating luggage loading.
On the inside, there was a new board panel with watches made in the style of 2108 models, a new steering wheel and more comfortable seats. With the facelift, the engine displacement was increased from 1.6 to 1.7 liters. In some countries, NIVA was sold with a diesel engine from Peugeot, with a displacement of 1.9 liters. Over the years, NIVA has had different versions, including a models with increased wheelbase, with 3 or 5 doors, armored versions and modified versions to attack the Siberian swamps.
In 1998 AutoVAZ and General Motors created the Chevrolet NIVA on the NIVA platform, which had a more modern bodywork, but not as nice as the classic NIVA.
Since then, the history of NIVA went down two different routes, one belonging to Chevrolet which wanted to launch a successor to the project developed jointly with those from AutoVAZ, and another one for those at AutoVAZ, which recently announced that the legendary model will be followed by a new generation. We can only hope that the new generation will be as charismatic and capable as the classic NIVA.