1998 Lada Niva 1.7i


Always half broken - never breaks down


Gearbox broken.

Fuel pump failed.

Seats broke.

Steering wheel broke.

A variety of electric failures.

General Comments:

This is a truly very honest car: Exactly what you pay for!! Maybe even a bit more!

A very capable off-roader, especially good for long cross-country, trail road, trips, and still quite safe on the road. Full-time 4wd proves very convenient for long trips on mud or ice/snow and also helps quite a lot on wet tarmac.

The car is always half-broken, but still most of its problems are of minor importance, while service and spare-parts are very cheap. Actually you can fix most of the problems yourself with few mechanical skills! Of all the problems described above, only the broken gearbox and the electric faults are typical - the rest are due to (very) rough use from my side.

On the road the car's comfort depends heavily on your travel speed: It can cruise for ever at around 90kmh, but becomes extremely noisy and uncomfortable at speeds over 110kmh. Handling is fair and the brakes are quite sufficient, although handling becomes unpredictable if you push the brake pedal to the floor. Fuel consumption is arround 10.5litres/km at the highway which is very good for an offroader.

I would keep mine for ever if only it could travel a bit faster (and more comfortably) on the highway. This comes from someone who really travels a lot, though.

In general, this is truly a unique car: competent, ruged, quite reliable (at least it doesn't break down) and very cheap, but still stylish. I would recommend it to anyone who in need of a true off-roader, who doesn't want to pay a fortune and who is willing to leave with its small (yet constant) problems.

If you have second thoughts, though, you will regret trying it!!

Advice for those who want to buy one:

- Only buy one if you are sure you want sth like that... Mind you this is not an SUV it is a true workhorse - with all pros and cons that come with it.

-If you can find a good used one (say 5 years old) prefer it to a new one. Most of the cars problems show up in the first 50000km (all mechanics agree on that) so an older car will have most of its problems solved.

- New NIVAs come with power steering and AC. Given the built quality and the reliability of LADAs I would say that the less accessories the car has, the better.... If you can handle the non-power steering (it will save you the gym expences), go for the very basic edition.

- Always take good care of the car and be meticulous with its maintenance. Especially be very careful to often check and change the gearbox and diff oil. If you take good care of it, it will never let you down.

- The car is constantly presenting small failures (esp. electrics) that often need the mechanic to take initiative and change standard equipment - often using non-LADA spares (the most LADA spares you can change to non-LADA onew, the better). That means that you should find a competent mechanic and stick with him so that he knows the car's history and follows-up on it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 25th March, 2006

2nd Apr 2006, 18:29

An accurate and well written review. Some of the shortcomings mentioned can be easily rectified or prevented. I have soundproofed my 1997 Niva, and it is very quiet at cruising speeds. It is important to soundproof the transmission tunnel and the firewall (both inside and outside the car) to get best results. Use felt material, with an inner bituminous layer, and cut to size. The material is approx. 1.5 cm. thick. As far as the electricals are concerned, often all that is needed is for the points of contact to be "dressed" with fine abrasive (sand) paper. Once the layer of oxidation is polished off, the electrics work well - this is particularly relevant to things like the various light bulbs (tail and indicator lights etc.), and other electrical components in the engine bay. Five speed gearboxes require extra lubrication - 1.6 to 1.8 L is recommended. The 5th gear is an overdrive gear and should not be engaged at speeds under 80 - 90 kms/hr. I agree with the reviewer, that the Niva requires diligent maintenance - such as regular oil changes, adjustment of timing chain etc. to keep it roadworthy - but then I suppose the same applies to any vehicle. The big advantage with the Niva however, is that it is so simple and easy to work on - that you can do most of the maintenance and adjustments yourself. A big saving in costs. Regards.

8th Jul 2006, 07:37

Most modern electrical contacts have a coating on the surface to facilitate making and breaking the contact - it isn't just bare metal.

If you scrub the contacts with abrasive paper then you will take this layer off. It might work better initially, but will soon oxidise and fail.

Of course if Lada don't bother with this coating you've got nothing to lose.

9th Jun 2011, 00:59

Fuel consumptions seems very, very high. It consumes fuel like a jet engine. 10L/km. Not affordable.

24th Mar 2014, 00:33

Whilst the fuel economy is not good, make sure your carburettor settings and emissions are correct, and you should get about 23 miles to the gallon or 10 km to the litre. I hardly ever use petrol, having a factory fitted gas conversion, and find the engine has slightly less power. I travel about 110 km on 10 euros of fuel.