A decade in production is considered pretty good for most cars; seldom few hit the 20 year mark by comparison. The Lada Niva, on the other hand, is close to racking up its Golden Jubilee of 50 years in production. As it nears the mark, it's getting a few new upgrades to boot.
As reported by Drive.com.au, the first Niva rolled off the line on April 5, 1977. AutoVAZ, the company behind the no-frills off-roader, has now confirmed that the model will be in production for some time yet. Speaking to Russian outlet Kommersant, AutoVAZ CEO Maxim Sokolov said the “Niva will definitely reach its half-century anniversary,” due to occur in 2027.
The Niva still sells in healthy numbers in Russia, with 3135 examples sold in June 2023 alone. Just don't confuse the classic Niva Legend model with the Niva Travel, a more modern design that Lada sells in similar numbers.
The Niva will get some welcome upgrades as it chalks up the half-century. "We are not only doing external restyling, but next year we will put a new, modern engine, more powerful, high-torque," said Sokolov. Don't expect major changes or modern creature comforts, though, as the Niva will remain true to its bare-bones 1970s ethos. “It is clear that we will not produce Niva Legend with an automatic transmission,” the AutoVAZ CEO noted.
Presently, the Niva is available with a 1.7-liter gasoline engine good for 81 horsepower and 95 lb-ft of torque. Reports are that a more powerful 1.6-liter engine is on the way. The most likely candidate is the engine from the Lada Vesta city car, good for 104 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque. That lines up with reports stating the Niva's engine will be "turned around" from its previous application, with the Vesta having a transversely-mounted engine for its front-wheel-drive application.
There's even talk of a sports model coming down the line. Details are scant, but Sokolov made mention of a potential 16-valve engine with 122 horsepower. It's not much by modern standards, but a major gain compared to the 75 horsepower engine that first graced the Niva back in 1977. It's a near-enough 50 percent gain compared to present models, too, and should make all the difference both on- and off-road.
Like much of Russian industry, Niva production has been rocked by stoppages in the wake of sanctions due to the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian automotive industry was never exactly sophisticated, but AutoVAZ is leaning on simple, classic models more than ever as it tries to keep lines moving amidst supply chain issues.
If anything, the turmoil has perhaps made a stronger case than ever to keep the Niva in production until its fiftieth birthday and beyond. It's still got a long way to go to match the Volkswagen Beetle's legendary 65-year-run, but who knows what the future has in store?
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