Heard the latest Lada joke? It’s a classic brand!

Lada Niva

WHAT do you call a convertible Lada? A skip.

Yes, the humble Lada was the butt of all motoring jokes in the 80s. Along with Skoda of course.

However, just a handful of years ago Russian president Vladimir Putin picked up his brand new Lada Granta.

At the time it was rumoured that Lada could be making a return to our shores after a 14-year break.

That never materialised and now it seems like the laughing stock motoring brand of the 80s could be regarded as a CLASSIC brand.

It’s been reported that UK Lada owner Ed Hughes snapped up a Riva model, once dubbed as the worst car of all-time, for £50 but now it’s worth £2,000.

Lada Riva
Lada Riva

Sales have certainly been no joke for Lada – they sold 20MILLION in 30 years. Sixty per cent of Russian-built Ladas were sold outside of the country  it even became one of main ways to raise foreign currency for the hard-up old Soviet Union.

In Britain, the Lada was not a huge success.

Just 350,000 were sold between 1977 and 1997.

I drove the Niva 4×4 a few years back from an importer. It was once dubbed the “coolest Lada”  but that wasn’t saying much to be fair.

It doesn’t look any different to when it went on sale in 1978. It comes only in lefthand drive, with a 1.7litre petrol engine.

The interior is basic but the seats are fairly comfortable, while there are three simple levers sprouting from the transmission tunnel to control low/high ratios, the diff lock and the five-speed box.

The engine is refined, but the steering is vague and low-geared, while the non-ABS brakes don’t inspire confidence. Performance is 0-60mph in 17.5 seconds. Its off-road ability is decent.

It’s a bit bouncy and haphazard at times, but it does the job.

The Lada is a novelty but surely never a classic.

By Phil Lanning

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