The Niva was first conceived in the late 1960s as a dual role military jeep and rural service vehicle that could be built by the new civilian company AutoVaz.
The intention was to create a vehicle that would be successful in export markets as well as the USSR. Although born with a full compliment of 4x4 equipment, including both monocoque construction and rail chassis, the car was civilised enough to be a unique offering abroad – at the time beaten only in terms of interior comfort by the British Range Rover.
With the use of FIAT derived engine and various running gear, combined with a new, home grown body, AutoVaz launched the vehicle in the USSR in 1976. The car launched in Western Europe in 1979 and was highly praised by the press for its combination of off road ability and pleasant on road performance.
Ever since launch, it has demonstrated a fantastic ability to conquer the roughest terrain, in the harshest environments – from the sub-zero Siberian wastelands to the heat of the Sahara desert – while its development and improvement have been constant.
The latest European export cars are highly popular in many West European countries and are now available once again in the UK.
Providing maximum ability with maximum value, there are no standard accessories, such as a stereo or electric windows. The Niva is a pure, undiluted, utility machine.
With separate controls for gears, low range and differential lock, this is a professional machine, not to be confused with lighter weight Japanese competitors or ‘lifestyle’ cars.
It is true that in comparison to softer, modern off roaders that the Niva is basic in trim and fittings – but when compared to the Land Rover or Wrangler Jeep, the Niva can still hold its head high. Development has centred on functional upgrades (larger engine displacement, fuel injection, better instruments, bolstered seats etc) instead of stylistic whims.