One of the largest, most powerful countries in the world has a fascinating history of automobile production. In the past century, Russian automakers have created beastly 4x4s equipped to handle the harshest winter conditions, unique new sports cars, dangerously ill-equipped knockoffs, and even electric cars! As companies like Skoda and Lada begin to increase their international presence, it's time to start paying attention to the Soviet segment of the market. Here's a quick look at the best, the worst, and the strangest vehicles that Russia has to offer.
10 Lada XRAY
Made by Russian automaker AvtoVAZ, the Lada XRAY is a compact crossover with Renault heritage. Production of the XRAY began in 2015, and the car has become popular both inside and outside Russia. Contrary to the general public opinion that Lada produces low-quality cars, several reviewers have suggested that the company is no longer a name to be laughed at.
There's a lot to like about the XRAY, including its price tag, performance, and compact size. Buyers have their choice of a 1.6L 4-cylinder gasoline engine or a 1.8L diesel engine, and the car is available with both a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift. The XRAY isn't yet available in the UK or the EU; however, this little crossover's commercial success may still be the facelift that Lada's international reputation needs.
9 Volga GAZ-24
The Volga Gaz-24 is a classic Soviet-era car that was very popular in Russia and several international markets despite being fairly lackluster compared to other vehicles at the time. Similar in appearance to the Ford Falcon, the Gaz-24 was sold from 1970 to 1985 as a luxury saloon that quickly became a status symbol for Soviet families.
It wasn't just desirable as a sedan, either- the 24 had various incarnations, including taxi versions, station wagons, pickup trucks and even ambulances! Though production eventually ceased in 1985, the GAZ-24's legacy carried on with a successor, the GAZ-24-10, from 1986 to 1992.
8 Moskvitch 2140
If the Volga GAZ-24 was the luxury saloon of its time, the Moskvitch 2140 was at the opposite end of the 'posh' spectrum. This little sedan was produced by Soviet automaker AZLK. It was sold as an affordable family car from 1976 to 1988. One of the most popular "people's cars" at the time, the 2140 came in several variations to appeal to a wide variety of Russians.
While the 2140 might not win any awards based on its appearance, it's a popular choice among Russians for racing modifications even today (though perhaps not as popular as Lada sedans of a similar era). Like many other Russian vehicles, the 2140 had several incarnations- throughout its lifespan, it was also sold as a station wagon and a van for consumers requiring more utility of their car.
7 UAZ Hunter
Believe it or not, this is a brand-new car. UAZ is famous for its long history of producing tough military vehicles, and this model, the Hunter, showcases the best of the company's proud history and technological advances. The Hunter is a rugged SUV built to withstand anything rural Russia's extremely harsh climate can throw at it.
UAZ emphasized the focus on simplicity and functionality by styling the Hunter like its older Soviet military vehicles: the dashboard design and interior are about as bare-bones as vehicles come. What the Hunter lacks in upholstery, it makes up for with heavy-duty equipment. Though it may not be as luxurious as many other SUVs on the market, the Hunter is still a popular choice in Russia as well as most of Europe, Asia and Central America.
6 Lifan 320
No, it's not a MINI Cooper: The Lifan 320, also known as the Lifan Smily, is a Russian subcompact made to mimic the ever-popular MINI Cooper. Much to the rest of the world's dismay, Lifan has been producing the 320 since 2009. The car comes equipped with a tiny 1.3L 4-cylinder engine and can reach a blistering top speed of 96 miles per hour.
The Lifan 320 is notorious for being one of the lowest-rated cars on the Russian market in terms of safety- it earned a zero star safety rating in 2014 from the Latin NCAP, who cited the car's lack of airbags as an extremely concerning lack of basic safety equipment. Despite this, the Lifan 320 is sold in several countries besides Russia, including Brazil and several Caribbean nations.
5 Avtokam 2160
Also known as the Ranger, the Avtokam 2160 is another peculiar Russian utility vehicle with a dull name and spartan interior. Outside of Russia, not much is actually known about the 2160, but the vehicle was sold under many names including Velta-21631.
It was another Russian vehicle built to be tough, and it was very similar in style to an international favorite, the Suzuki Jimny. It was produced for only a few years, from 1991 to 1997, and for a short time in 1999. Short and long-wheelbase options were available to buyers, but there is little evidence available to suggest how popular (or unpopular) the 2160 really was.
4 Skoda Kodiaq
Though Skoda is not well-known in America, the Russian Automaker has been turning heads and establishing themselves in several Asian and European markets lately. They are quickly becoming a more popular choice worldwide thanks to unexpected but high-quality new releases like the Kodiaq, a well-priced SUV with a range of options and engines to offer.
The Kodiaq can be purchased with either a 1.5L gasoline engine or a 2.0L diesel engine, as well as an automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission. AutoExpress UK reviewed the Skoda Kodiaq and gave it an overall score of 4 out of 5 alongside such competitors as the Kia Sorento and the Hyundai Santa Fe.
3 Marussia B2
The Marussia B2 is a Batmobile-like sports car developed by the now-defunct Marussia Motors. Marussia was the first company in Russia to ever produce a sports car, and they debuted with both the B2 and a mechanically similar, but very odd-looking, model called the B1.
The mid-engine marvel made international news and even appeared in three different Need For Speed titles. The B2 was produced and sold briefly in 2012 and came equipped with either a 3.5L V6 or a 2.8L turbocharged V6. Only around 500 units were produced, and the eye-watering sticker price was just over $130,000. Sadly, Marussia Motors shut down in 2014, and the B2 is considered an exceptionally rare collector's car today.
2 Lada Niva
Few vehicles exemplify Russian craftsmanship as well as the Lada Niva. This car is a Soviet favorite that has been in production since 1977. It's an off-road vehicle designed to perform well in the farthest reaches of Russian wilderness, and has often been described as a cross between a Land Rover and a Renault 5.
The Niva has only ever been available as a 4-speed or a 5-speed manual transmission, and engine choices over the years have been limited to a 1.6L, 1.7L, or 1.8L gasoline engine- or a 1.9L diesel engine. It's simple, utilitarian and rugged- Russian engineering at its finest. The Niva, also known as the 4x4, is exceedingly popular in Russia as well as several other countries such as Brazil and New Zealand.
1 Kalashnikov CV-1
Russian gunmaker Kalashnikov, the same company that manufactured the AK-47, has been dabbling in the production of electric vehicles recently. In 2018, they introduced their prototype of a car called the CV-1 at the International Army Forum in Moscow. The color choice and styling evokes memories of Soviet classics from the 1970s while also incorporating modern design elements.
According to Kalashnikov's website, the strange "concept electric supercar" will go from 0 to 60 mph in just under six seconds, and its range is expected to be an impressive 217 miles. As of right now, the Kalashnikov CV-1 is just a concept car, but rumor has it the company is interested in breaking into the automotive scene and possibly even competing with Tesla.