Originally launched in 1998 as the VAZ-2123, the small off-roader was rebadged as a Chevrolet Niva in 2003 as part of the joint venture between General Motors and AvtoVAZ. GM pulled out of the deal a few months ago, agreeing to sell its 50-percent stake to the Russian automaker. The capable little SUV is back for 2021, now with the Lada badge, Niva Travel name, and some styling tweaks.

Production of the Lada Niva Travel commenced this week in Russia where the more rugged Off-Road version was the first to hit the assembly line. Equipped with a standard snorkel, the workhorse gets unpainted plastic cladding and off-road tires, not to mention a standard permanent all-wheel-drive system for go-anywhere capabilities.

Start of production Lada Niva Travel
Lada Niva Travel Off-road в лесу

The front end design sends somewhat of a Toyota RAV4 vibe and now features more modern headlights and a redesigned hood with prominent creases. The grille is much larger than before and the wheel arches are more squared-off compared to the previous Chevrolet-badged Niva. At the back, those taillights are now of the full-LED variety and Lada also made some changes to the bumper.

Images of the interior have not been released, but we’re hearing it has been essentially carried over. We can say the same thing about the powertrain, a 1.7-liter gasoline engine with a mighty 80 horsepower and 127 Newton-meters (94 pound-feet) channeled to both axles through a five-speed manual gearbox. You’re certainly not going to break any SUV records at the Nurburgring as the Lada Niva takes 19 seconds to 62 mph (100 km/h) and tops out at 87 mph (140 km/h).

It’s worth mentioning the Niva actually switched to the Lada badge back in July in the wake of the GM’s decision to end the joint venture. Now, only a few months later, the facelifted version is coming out. Pricing details have not been disclosed, but the previous model kicked off at 726,000 rubles ($9,600), rising to 869,000 rubles ($11,500) for the flagship trim level.

The 2021 Lada Niva shouldn’t be confused with the classic off-roader that used to bear this moniker as the no-frills model is currently sold with the “4x4” nameplate and hasn’t changed much since its launch way back in 1977. An all-new Niva was previewed in 2018 at the Moscow Motor Show where AvtoVAZ unveiled the 4x4 Vision concept, but we’re still waiting for the production model.

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