1998 Lada Niva 1.7i from Australia and New Zealand


Basic but dependable


Water pump failure (twice), but you get plenty of warning, and it's cheap to buy and easy to install.

A non-standard alternator was fitted by the previous owner, and I've had several issues with charging and belt tension.

Rear brake lockup and vibration - solved by replacing the brake shoes, which were well short of worn out.

Bad driveline vibration - solved by greasing the splines on the tail and intermediate shafts.

Bad oil leak from transfer case - needed new seals.

Diff lock disengages itself and needs to be held on. I've heard this problem goes away if you use it more.

Driver's seat padding has shifted. It's not bad enough to make me fix it.

LH window winder is stiff, and the handle consequently broke.

General Comments:

This car has been a gem. It was cheap to buy and it's cheap to own. The fuel economy is not great (averages 10 l/100km), but every other aspect of owning it is cheap.

I do most of my own servicing, because it's so simple and easy. You don't even have to jack it up to change the oil.

While some things have worn out, it's never broken down and left me stranded. Barring battery issues, it starts first time, every time.

I haven't taken it off road a great deal, but when I have, it's obviously very capable.

It's not very powerful, but generally keeps up with around town traffic. Compared to some small 4WDs (with leaf springs), it's quite comfortable and handles well.

Except for the heavy steering and cramped footwell, it's easy to drive. I even taught my sons to drive in it.

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

Review Date: 2nd April, 2012

1998 Lada Niva Cossack from North America


This is a tank, a hell of a good little tank


The only real thing that went wrong is that the motor explods at 134234Km.

Everything else work all right during all those years.

General Comments:

This is the kind of car that you buy not because you need a car to drive around, but because you just felt in love with it. It's not comfortable, it doesn't go fast, but it always start and destroy any wall of snow.

The cabin is very noisy and it is hard to ear the passenger in the back.

I never put more than 200$ a year to repair mainly the brake pads or a oil check-up. That's probably why the motor explode, but having pay 2500$ and having it for 5 years I guess this is what you call a good deal.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 26th December, 2007

1998 Lada Niva 1.7i from Greece


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.