Can you guess what Jamaican taxi-drivers, French women, Formula-1 racers, Dutch farmers, Chilean football players and Japanese teenagers have in common? Who would have thought but 20 years ago they all were sitting behind the wheel of Lada automobiles. People all around the world were real fans of this brand and you could bump in one of Lada car models pretty much in any country. Has the way people think of Lada automotive production changed since then? Let’s see.
A bit of history
The elder generation remembers that the very first Russian Lada car, which is VAZ-2101 “Zhiguli”, was surprisingly affordable for the Soviet market as it was considered low-powered with a 4 valve engine, displacement size of only 1.2 liters, 62 hp at 5600 rpm and 140 km/h top speed. In contrast to its prototype Fiat-124, old Russian Lada VAZ-2101 “Zhiguli” had drum brakes instead of disk ones, which were considered more efficient and dirtproof. Having been adjusted to the peculiarities of Soviet roads, the VAZ-2101 Lada car featured bigger clearance, stronger car body and brighter lights. Sure, VAZ-2101 “Zhiguli” was developed and modified a tot of times later on changing its configuration, but nonetheless the original version production only stopped in 1982 and by that time it had certainly become one of the most loved and recognized cars in the country.
The first export batch of VAZ-2021 Lada car from Russia found its destination in such countries as Yugoslavia, Belgium, Netherlands and Finland. The same year Lada VAZ-2101, which had been nicknamed “kopeika” (the smallest monetary unit in Russia like penny or cent), has been presented at auto expos in Brno, Leipzig and Zagreb. Can you believe that during the first year of manufacturing of this model of Lada one third of the production was exported overseas and that makes about 58200 car units in just one year.
When this Lada automobile was first introduced in Britain at the Motor Show expo in 1973 people couldn’t hide their fascination: not just with the changes the car had gone through in comparison with Fiat-124, but with its extremely low price as well, as it was stated in the event report by Haynes Manual. Since “cheap” always trumps “affordable”, there were no problems with exporting cars by Lada to Britain, where the cost of the Lada vehicle was about £1575. Just to make it clear: you wouldn’t have bought a similar sedan car by another company cheaper than at about £2000.
Why would Lada Russian car manufacturer want to sell such a big share of cars at such a low price? The USSR’s need for convertible currency to buy from foreign markets actually forced Lada factory to do so. Consequently, export and foreign currency influx organization became their first priority, which came at the cost of commercializing. Buying a Lada motor car at that time people knew they’d be able to pay by installments over 7 years, save about 30% as opposed to similar rival models and sometimes even get it for free: socialist friend countries didn’t have to pay for rus Lada as long as it was the only brand available there and competition was completely eliminated. But that’s rather politics than auto production, isn’t it.
“Zhiguli” vs Lada
In the beginning of the 70’s the first issue on the agenda for Lada factory in Russia was exporting its cars to foreign markets, but the problem was that the word “Zhiguli” in a lot of languages resembles the word “Gigolo”, which doesn’t sound nice, and in some languages it also resembles swear words. That’s exactly why they had to come up with another name for exported models and “Lada” was what they finally decided on. All the cars used within Soviet Union were still called “Zhiguli” though, and the name for domestic production wasn’t changed.
VAZ-2102 “Zhiguli” production pushed the development of auto Lada further on. Despite it had little difference from the previous model this yet another classic Lada became extremely popular with Russian farmers, gardeners and countryside cottage owners. Why? Well the car body was transformed from sedan to vagon, as you can see from these Lada car pictures, so not only could they get there themselves but also take a lot of stuff with them. And even though the payload only increased by 30 kilos which made a total of 430 kilos, what made the difference was the spacious trunk you could fit a lot of things in.
In 1972 Lada motors released VAZ-2103, which was meant to be a better and more powerful version of “Zhiguli” with 71hp at 5600rpm and 1.5 liter displacement size engine. As for the top speed, this Lada auto could reach 100 kmph in just 17 seconds, which at that time made it attractive enough to compete with other cars on the European market.
Volzhskiy automotive factory engineers (which is what VAZ stands for, by the way) had been constantly developing the cars which were produced until the second rear-wheel drive generation was ready for production in 1980. In comparison with old Lada cars VAZ-2105 featured 63hp and 1.3 liter displacement size engine. VAZ-2101 was no longer produced by that time and the new modification was supposed to replace it.
One of the most important dates in Lada history is 1976 when the most popular out of all Lada models was constructed. VAZ-2106 was supposed to replace VAZ-2103, which was no longer produced by that time. And it did, being manufactured for 3 decades until – can you even imagine that – 2006! Sure, in order to keep the model demanded a number of modifications had to be introduced, but that only allowed it to last longer on the market.
VAZ-2107 based on preceding VAZ-2105 is considered to be the last classic model of Lada company, which the factory started manufacturing in 1982.
In 1984 classic old Lada cars were replaced by rather dart like shaped front-wheel drive ones starting with VAZ-2108 “Samara”. This 3-door hatchback set off a real revolution in Lada design, became one of the most popular models and started a new era of front-wheel drive cars.
Three years later in 1987 a 5-door modification of “Samara” was put on the production line. It was called “Sputnic” and the car shot to popularity really quickly as a 5-door car was seen by many people as definitely more convenient and even more presentable than the preceding model.
Better aerodynamic qualities, increased top speed limit, bigger bumpers and improved control system on any kind of roads were obvious advantages of “Samara” and “Sputnik” cars. As for the drawbacks: in contrast to classic VAZ models the pedals became less ergonomic, it became harder to fix the car quickly, the oil-receiver and the crankcase became more vulnerable.
The last model manufactured in the USSR was the 4-door sedan modification of VAZ-2109 – VAS-21099 “Sputnik/Samara Forma”.
VAZ-1111/VAZ-11113 3-door hatchback
Oka is the cheapest Russian car ever produced: in 2007 depending on the configuration you could easily buy one at 123000 roubles, which is extremely cheap. Most of the cars became part of social programs and were distributed among the handicapped and other people in need.
- VAZ-1111 is the basic model with a 2-valve 0.65 liter engine.
- VAZ-11113 is another 2-valve engine model with 0.75 liter displacement size.
- SeAZ-11116 is a modification produces at another factory in Serpuhov with a 3-valve injection engine imported from China.
- “Oka-Astro” is a model manufactured in small batches at ZMA factory in Moscow with 1.1 liter Ukranian MeMZ engine from Melitipol. The spare tire was moved into the trunk and the distance between the front wheels was increased. This model turned out to be underworked since low-quality parts were used for the assembling.
- “Pickup” and “Furgon” are models produced in small batches by both factories.
VAZ-2110 (LADA 110)
The story of VAZ-2110 making it to the market is worth mentioning, because it was supposed to become the first truly Russian car Lada produced. But since first post-soviet years drove the country into deep crisis, the car, which was designed in 1989, only appeared on the line 3 years later in 1992, and it’s not until 1995 that the model production was finally settled and well-organized. After that Lada manufacturer started to increase the volumes of production finally getting back to the sales rate they had before the USSR collapsed.
Lada 110 could come with two types of engines: it was either an 8-valve 1.5 liter 79hp engine or a 16-valve 1.6 liter 92hp one. That gave it an opportunity to compete with such foreign cars as Audi 80, Daewoo Nexia and Opel Astra of the first generation.
Apart from that the family also included 2VAZ-2112, 3VAZ-2111 and 4-VAZ-2112 Coupe. And by the way, if you can’t figure out if Lada means anything in Russian, just look at the Lada logo. It’s a sort of a ship and that’s exactly the way it translates.
Samara 2 family
This model is a 3-door front-wheel drive hatchback, which was based on Lada old model VAZ-21083. In order to modernize the car a couple of changes were introduced both with design and technical characteristics, yet the best features of the original version, like sensitive brakes and engine power, stayed intact.
This 5-door front-wheel drive hatchback was created for getting around the city and it was and continues to be pretty popular with families. Lada 2114 is based on the preceding VAZ-2109 model, which had by then become one of the most frequently seen cars on the streets of Russian cities. A complex of modernization steps and Lada tests were applied to it before we could see it the way it is now. As you can tell from this Lada pictures the design changed a lot: just look at the new shape of the lights, bumpers, boot and grille cover.
In 1997 rus Lada began to manufacture a 4-door sedan VAZ-2115 model, which inherited a lot from its predecessor VAZ-21099. The new model could boast more comfortable and cozy interior, new rare lights, door moldings, a trunk lid with additional stop lights, car body colored bumpers and a spoiler.
We would call this car by Lada special: it’s the first all-wheel drive 7-seat minivan. It was created on the basis of chassis of a long Niva version VAZ-2131, but has a different kind of car body and a slider backdoor. The second row of seats consists of 3 places and the third one – of 2. Both seats and backs can be flipped back, which allows to transform the car from 7-seat into up to 2-seat if you wish to. It will also soon be available in 2 liter engine edition and there’s a “Manager” configuration, which is supposed to become an office on wheels.
Lada Kalina family
The sales of Lada Kalina started in 2006 and you can see from the new Lada photos that the design is pretty fresh. It all started with a sedan and a hatchback, but a little bit later a vagon was also added to the family. After multiple tests Lada reached the quality they were satisfied with, making it live up to the Euro3 standard. The car also became more economical.
For the first time in VAZ history a special edition of Lada was designed – Lada Kalina GTI, which was meant to appeal to speed lovers and sport car fans since it had better aerodynamics and maneuverability. Unfortunately, it was pretty far from other manufacturers’ GTI models, but the try was worth it.
Lada Priora family
This model is still one of the most popular models of VAZ in Russia, being called a good car at that time by a lot of automagazines, which didn’t really expect anything outstanding from Lada. This car is available in sedan, vagon, 3-door hatchback and 5-door hatchback modifications.
All models of Lada
Since the first “Kopeika” VAZ has produced dozens of models under various brand names, all of which you’ll be able to find on the list below.
- Zhiguli 2101 1970-1988.
- Zhiguli 2102 1972-1985.
- Zhiguli 2103 1972-1984.
- Zhiguli/Lada 2104 1984-2012.
- Zhiguli/Lada 2105 1980-2010.
- Zhiguli 2106 1976-2004.
- Zhiguli/Lada 2107 1982-2012.
- Lada Sputnik/Samara 1 2108 1984-2003.
- Lada Sputnik/Samara 1 2109 1987-2004.
- Lada Sputnik/Samara 1 21099 1990-2004.
- Lada 110 1996-2007.
- Lada 111 1998-2009.
- Lada 112 1999-2008.
- Lada Samara 2 2113 2005-2014.
- Lada Samara 2 2114 2001-2014.
- Lada samara 2 2115 1997-2012.
- Oka 1111 1988-1994.
- Lada Kalina 1 1117 2007-2013.
- Lada Kalina 1 1118 2004-2012.
- Lada Kalina 1 1119 2006-2013.
- Lada Kalina 1 11198 2008-2013.
- Lada EL Lada 2013-present.
- Lada Kalina 2 2194 20013-present.
- Lada Kalina 2 2192 2013-present.
- Lada Priora 2170 2007-present.
- Lada Priora 2171 2009-present.
- Lada Priora 2172 2008-present.
- Lada Priora 21728 2010-present.
- Lada Priora 21708 2009-present.
- Lada Nadezhda 2120 1998-2007.
- Zhiguli/Lada Niva 2121 1977-present.
- Zhiguli/Lada Niva 2131 1993-present.
- Zhiguli/Lada Niva 2 2123 1998-2002.
- Chevrolet Niva 2002-present.
- Lada Granta 2190 2011-present.
- Lada Granta hatchback 2014-present.
- Lada Largus 2011-present.
New Lada models
Currently Lada model range includes 5 families of cars: vagon Largus, sedan and liftback Granta, sedan, hatchback and vagon Priora, hatchback and vagon Kalina and 3-door and 5-door 4X4 model. Also we can’t but mention 2014-2015 Lada cross versions of popular at that time Kalina and Largus models and the adapted for the city 4X4 Urban. Also in 2016 Lada finally introduced the long-waited Lada XRAY, which is only about to start pushing the limits.
All the cars manufactured in Russia by Lada are made according to Euro 4 standards, and those which are exported to Europe – according to Euro 5 standards.
There’re several ways to carry out a crash-test at the moment and you can trust the results of any of them. Want to see how safe or fast Lada is? Check out these videos with the most curious moment of Lada crash and drive tests.
Lada brand development
VAZ claims there’re huge changes to come soon and they’re already at the threshold with the new Lada X-RAY designed by Steve Mattin and his team, who were engaged in Mercedes and Volvo production processes. They have already stopped manufacturing old-fashioned classic models giving way to more modern ones.
Also more efforts are being put into promotion campaign which includes Lada car logo rebranding, better TV commercials and ads and presentations. And that promises us a lot of better Ladas yet to come!