Lada Niva (1977-)

DEADWALKING

Last sold in Oz as the ’98 Bushman!

IN AN age of go-nowhere compact SUVs, it’s worth taking time out to remember the tundra-traversing Lada Niva – a properly tough, trailblazing wagonoid-hatch that outlasted the Cold War.

Shocked to learn it’s still available? So are we, but how good does it look today in the same chunky way as a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen?

There’s even an extended five-door version. Now under Renault stewardship, Lada ought to recommence importation into Australia.

The flipside, of course, is the crude suspension, vague steering, miserable fit and finish, cramped interior and almost complete lack of performance from its 65kW 1.7-litre lump. But then again, the Niva might still outrun a Ford EcoSport 1.5 auto… As testimony to the Lada’s longevity, a rebodied and refined version co-developed with GM in the late 1990s and sold as the Chevrolet Niva is about to be replaced, despite being 21 years newer than the original.

Its 2016 successor, for the record, is based on a concept by Holden designer Ondrej Koromhaz; the pen behind the current TM Barina.

38 YEARS

AGE IN HUMAN YEARS

277

AFTERLIFE

Mercedes Geländewagen for the masses

HIGHLIGHTS

Russian ingenuity literally knows no boundaries

LOWLIGHTS

The Cabriolet from the late ’80s wasn’t much chop