With help from Renault and Dacia, this could be special.
The Jeep Wrangler, which began as a bare-bones off-roader, is now quite expensive. Prices start at $28,315, and the upcoming Rubicon 392 model is expected to approach $80,000. So, where does an off-road enthusiast turn to if they want a simple, utilitarian SUV for cheap? Surprisingly, they turn to Russia.
Russian automaker Lada still produces several affordable and off-road capable SUVs for its home market, including the recently-revealed 2021 Lada Niva Travel. This pint-sized off-roader, if it were sold in US dollars, would only cost $9,500.
If the Niva Travel is somehow too modern and plush, Lada also offers a simpler version called the Niva Legend, which has been in production for 45 years. Lada's vehicles are too basic for the majority of Americans but the Russian automaker just teased a new production model that looks like it will finally join the 21st century.
Lada showed off a concept car called the 4x4 Vision at the 2018 Moscow International Auto Show. Almost three years later, the Russian automaker promises that a production version will arrive in 2024, six years after the concept made its debut. Lada believes this new model, which is tentatively named the Niva Vision, will "open new horizons for the brand" outside of the Russian market. The Lada brand currently leads the Russian car market with over a 20% share, and the company plans to introduce four all-new "state of the art" vehicles by 2025, including the new Niva.
Here's where this news gets interesting. Lada is part of Groupe Renault, the same company that also operates Dacia and has a partnership with Nissan. The new Niva will borrow Renault's CMF-B platform, which underpins models like the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke. Though no US-spec models use CMF-B, the Nissan Sentra uses a very similar CMF-C platform.
Lada and Dacia plan to build one million CMF-B-based cars annually, simplifying four platforms down to one and from 18 body types to 11. This move will help transform Lada and Dacia into global brands with appeal outside of Russia. While we doubt that either will make their way to the US, it's possible that some of these cars could be repurposed as Nissan models.
The Renault connection also has us excited since the French brand just announced an electric revival of its iconic Renault 5, also known as Le Car in the US market. We may be stretching a bit here, but the prospect of an affordable electric off-roader from Lada would pique our interest. With the recent news of Russian automaker UAZ importing an SUV and pickup truck to the US, anything is possible.