New SUV from Lada is surprisingly handsome and very, very cheap
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Yes, they still exist!
It's been many a decade since Ladas were sold on New Zealand shores (often through their cult-classic Niva SUV), but the Russian manufacturer still goes strong in other parts of the world.
That's generally not included Europe (outside of Russia and a few other markets), but with that market now developing a taste for truly cheap motoring thanks to the likes of Dacia (a bed buddy of Renault), Lada have elected to return to the continent with force via two new models for certain new markets on top of existing ones.
They are the Vesta SW and Vesta SW Cross, and they both look rather fetching. Both models follow this profitable new trend of taking hatchback and estate platforms and putting them on stilts. Both are five-door wagons based on the already existing Vesta sedan but with added ride-height and (in the case of the Cross) various bits of positively off-roadish cladding.
Styling is inoffensive and derivative at worst, and 'oh yeah, not bad' at best. There's clearly elements from other vehicles at play here. Strong wheel-arch gauges look similar to that of the new SsangYong Rexton or any of Peugeot's SUVs. The utilitarian interior looks bleak in base-model form, but in Cross form it benefits from big body-coloured inserts.
This big bit worth noting is price. The pairing start at a mere €11,990. That's a smidge over NZ$20,000, and stupendously cheap for a vehicle of this size. A few grand of discount, and it'd knock on the door of some of the cheapest cars we sell here — things like the Suzuki Celerio and Holden Spark.
Of course, the chance of Lada coming to the New Zealand market is ... low. Not to say that it hasn't happened before, however. Back in the early 1980s, the Soviet Union and the Dairy Board of New Zealand signed off a deal to trade Kiwi dairy products for Lada cars and tractors, as well as vodka (obviously).
Where is money saved? Well, look under the bonnet and you'll get a healthy hint. The Vesta SW and SW Cross are powered by a 1.6-litre engine that creates 78kW of power and 148Nm of torque. It's also fitted with an antique 5-speed manual gearbox. The 100km/h mark comes in an agonising 12.4 seconds (funnily enough, the spunkier Cross model is two tenths of a second slower to 100km/h).
These models have already been rolled out in Austria, Hungary, and Germany. Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Serbia are still to come.
While they might seem far fetched from our Kiwi perspective, these things will have a very clear European rival in Dacia's Duster off-roader — a no-frills, gruff-looking SUV with heaps of room for even less money than what's quoted here for the Lada pretender.
Perhaps the weirdest model is yet to come, via the strange Lada Vesta Cross Sedan — a model revealed earlier this month [pictured below] that is currently slated to be a Russia-only model.
New Zealand's privileged geographical position sees us get most of the world's motoring morsels. And, handsome as they may be, I doubt many are losing sleep over a lack of Vestas on our roads.