1997 Lada Niva 1.7 from Russia


A mountain goat on and off the road..


Windshield washer pumps failed, cost 8 dollars to replace.

2nd Differential rusted in place, no repair estimate yet.

Carburetor failed, cost 150 dollars to replace it and some starter pieces.

Exhaust system completely rusted out, unknown repair cost.

Left front ball joint cracked. Cost 20 dollars to replace.

General Comments:

Considering the car cost $200 I have no complaints. It handles Moscow weather with no problems, easily scooting up hills and through large slushy pot-holes. Having driven off-road (before the differential went south), I can say you cannot buy off-road performance like this anywhere else. It rocks!. Handling is predictable, albeit slow. Highway performance is passable, pick-up is mediocre. It is oriented towards off-road driving, and this is what you get. I would happily buy another one given the chance.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 28th December, 2003

1997 Lada Niva GL 1.6 carburettor petrol from Australia and New Zealand


A fully enclosed farm tractor with radio


The rear bench seat would unlock and fold forward if I braked too hard.

The car would smell strongly of petrol when entering the car.

The "fuel empty" light would light up when turning a corner.

The headlights would flood with water when crossing rivers.

General Comments:

The Lada Niva was a mountain goat off road. It's good ground clearance and attack/departure angles meant it could handle very rough ground easily.

On road comfort left a lot to be desired. The original off road tyres were extremely noisy at any speed over 20km/h.

Acceleration was below par when compared to most cars built in the 1990's.

This car may be OK for a second car purely for off-roading, but don't purchase it as a family car, as the rear seat issue would be a death trap for children even in a minor accident.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 27th June, 2003

16th Oct 2003, 04:26

A very accurate description of the Niva. Exactly the same experiences as I've had with mine.. But a great car for the money.. Thousands of dollars cheaper then any other "real" 4WD.

19th Mar 2004, 08:29

A very cheap 4WD, and a good off road car. That's the whole idea.

27th Jan 2005, 04:03

I had a Niva when my kids were teenagers. I never had a problem with the back seat, but the anchorages for the front seats were a bit flimsy. Yes, my headlights filled with water too.

I bought it for its off-road ability and I was constantly impressed. The low gearing, long suspension, large tyres and small overhangs were amazing in the rough stuff.

Its lack of power steering was a pain at parking speeds on the road, but I had two sets of wheels which worked well. I used the standard wheels and tyres for weekends away and wider wheels with street tyres during the week. With the wide rims it handled well on the road for a 4WD.

I look back on it as the most fun I ever had in a car despite its poor build quality when compared with Japanese offerings. I guess I appreciated the driving experience so much I put up with the build quality.