Russia’s legendary Niva returns


Actually, it never really went away. Russia’s Avtovaz has been building the rugged little off-roader for 45 years but dropped the name in 2006 to call it simply “4×4.” For 2021 the Niva name is back and officially it’s a Legend as well.

To mark this milestone the car has been updated with “new exhaust ventilation pads on the rear pillars.” Translated into English that appears to mean improved sound deadening which, frankly, the Niva needed.

With its monocoque body and permanent four-wheel drive, including a locking center differential and low-range transfer case, the Niva has always been ruggedly capable and inexpensive transport for the proletariat. It’s been described as a Renault 5 on a Land Rover chassis, and it really is a go-anywhere machine, as long as you’re in no great hurry.

The 1.7-liter engine has hauled it to the Antarctic in 1989, the North Pole (after being dropped in by parachute in 1988), to Mount Everest base camp, and to a podium finish in the Paris-Dakar Rally. Vladimir Putin has one for when he wants to travel through the wilderness on something a little more luxurious than a bear.

The latest Niva Legend model comes in more than ten versions including a commercial version and can even be fitted with a Comfort package that includes such decadent Western luxuries as remote central locking, an alarm and a stereo with both USB and AUX connectors!

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