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The Lada Niva is an old-school 4×4 SUV that is not sold in the United States. It is a vehicle that has been in production since 1977, and for the Legend model, not much has changed since this SUV was first built. Notable about the Niva is that it was the first mass-produced off-road vehicle that was built using unibody construction. The Lada Niva is primarily targeted at the Russian market. But, internationally, it does compete with other popular small 4x4s like the Suzuki Jimny. So, just what makes this Russian SUV so old-school?

Is the Lada Niva good?

A red Lada Niva navigates a rugged dirt terrain. Showing off its capability as a 4x4 SUV.
Lada Niva | Игоревич

The Lada Niva is a good SUV, it boasts simplistic design and rugged characteristics. Despite being written off by some as a cheap SUV, the Niva proves again and again that there are perks that come from being so old-school. 

One of the biggest perks is the fact that this Russian SUV is easy to work on. Simplicity is key with the Lada Niva, because it was built to handle the harsh conditions that Russia is known for. While off-road vehicles in America become increasingly complicated, like the Jeep Wrangler, the Niva Legend aims to be a car for the people. That is reflected in things like pricing, the Niva has a starting cost of around $10,000. And that is seriously cheap. 

Can you buy the Lada Niva in the United States?

Unfortunately, the new Lada Niva is not sold in the United States. That makes sense considering how simple and basic this SUV is, it’s unlikely it could meet U.S. standards and regulations. That said, the Niva was sold for a short period of time in Canada. So, if you can find a model that is over 25 years old, it would be possible to import it. 

According to Motor1, there aren’t any companies that are upfitting the Lada Niva for American roads. And to us, that feels like a slight disappointment. The same kind we feel about Suzuki not selling the Jimny stateside. 

Why is this 4×4 SUV so cheap?

A Russian Lada Niva with a snorkel navigates a dirt trail as people watch in the background.
Lada Niva | Игоревич

There are a number of reasons that the Lada Niva is a cheap 4×4 vehicle, this starts from its simple build and lack of modern refinement. It is built to be a tool, handling rural areas and rough terrains with ease. So, while the Niva may feel barren when compared to other modern 4×4 options, you would be hard-pressed to find something that has the rugged simplicity of this model. 

Something confusing about the new Lada Niva, is that it comes in multiple configurations. The Legend model is the basic version of this SUV. In fact, it’s so basic that air conditioning is an option. We can’t think of the last time American buyers had to check a box to option in climate control for a new vehicle.

While Soviet cars and now Russian cars may not have the best reputations, there is something to say about an old-school 4×4 SUV. And that is exactly what the Lada Niva is, everything you need, nothing you don’t.


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