No frills, just capability.
The Lada car company is mostly the butt of jokes for its extremely utilitarian cars built during the Soviet era. Surprisingly, the Russian automaker is still in business, now owned by the French Groupe Renault. Lada has a complicated history that once included a joint partnership with General Motors in 1998. This partnership yielded a car called the VAZ-2123, which was also sold as the Chevrolet Niva starting in 2003. The Niva was a tiny little SUV, much like the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer sold in the United States.
It may seem hard to believe but the Niva is still in production today and it just received a major update. No longer using the AvtoVAZ or Chevrolet names after GM pulled out of the joint venture, the car is now called the 2021 Lada Niva Travel, not to be confused with the outgoing 2020 Lada Niva.
Lada improved the Niva Travel's styling for 2021, adding a new hood with stamped lines, a large-mesh grille, and new headlights. The design reminds us of the current Toyota RAV4. There's also a special off-road version, which adds a standard snorkel, off-road tires, and unpainted plastic body kit.
Much like another fan-favorite off-roader that isn't sold in the US, the Suzuki Jimny, the Niva Travel offers an extremely bare-bones approach to off-road on a shockingly low budget. There are very few interior features, although it does include A/C, a small screen, and even heated seats. We doubt it would pass any US safety regulations though.
Don't expect the Niva Travel to outmatch any Jeeps on power, with a tiny 1.7-liter gasoline engine producing only 80 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque. At least drivers can squeeze out every ounce of power using the standard five-speed manual transmission. All trims, including the base model, come with a permanent all-wheel-drive system with an available locking center differential.
Lada didn't announce pricing for the new Niva Travel but based on the cost of the outgoing Niva, it will be much cheaper than any off-roaders that we can buy here in the US. The last Niva started at just 726,000 rubles (around $9,500) while the top model capped out at 869,000 rubles (around $11,400).