Lada 4×4 Urban – Test Drive In Jordan

A living legend, Russia’s rugged Lada 4x4 Urban off-roader remains relevant in developing markets. Driven on rough, narrow and mountainous Jordanian roads, the affordable and uncomplicated Lada 4x4’s forgiving ride, nimbly agile maneuverability and extensive off-road ability proved invaluable.

Photos by Ghaith Madadha, on location in Jordan

Back as a regional player and resurgent world power in recent years, Russia is has also been making an automotive comeback with new models and a return to old markets. Returning to regional markets including the UAE and Jordan in recent months, Russian automaker Lada’s small, iconic off-roader remains the star player in its portfolio.

Forgoing its best known Niva nameplate, the recently re-named 4×4 has been little altered. Bar a mild cosmetic refresh and light concessions to comfort and convenience in road-biased Urban guise, the 4×4 is as authentic, affordable and able as ever.

Uncomplicated, unpretentious and rugged, the Lada 4×4 was ahead of its time when launched in 1978. Engineered for a high degree of off-road capability and compact car-like comfort and maneuverability in an easily maintained and accessible package for harsh rural Russian conditions and city streets, it was like a Land Rover or Jeep crossed with a compact hatchback.

A product of the Soviet era that remains relevant, the 4×4 may lacks the luxury and much of the convenience of more modern but less capable crossover SUVs, but is among the most affordable and maneuverable cars.

An attainable daily driver for many during such chaste economic times, the Lada 4×4 is for more solvent others, an affordable second or third runaround car or occasional-use off-roader costing a fraction of more ‘precious’ luxury SUV.

A design icon with boxy, un-fussed and honest dimensions, surfacing and styling the 4×4 features distinctive low-slung headlights, and modern integrated bumper and 16-inch alloy in Urban specification. Highly customizable, mechanically and aesthetically, the 4×4 also makes an ideal and dedicated off-road plaything, equivalent to what Caterham or Harley-Davidson are to weekend track day racers and bikers, respectively.

Uncomplicated and comparatively low-revving but effective and proven, the 4×4’s 1.7-liter naturally-aspirated 8-valve 4-cylinder engine develops 83HP at 5000rpm and 95lb/ft at 4000rpm. Eager to rev and mated aggressive gearing, the 4×4 is perky at lower speeds and in town, and pulls hard from idle to redline, and keeps up well with traffic.

Capable of 0-100km/h in 17-seconds, the 4×4 sounds slightly strained – with little insulation – as it reaches for its redline. Confidently accumulating pace at motorway speeds before trailing off as it nears its 142km/h top speed, the 4×4’s delivery is progressive, with accurate throttle control.

Driving rear wheels – under normal conditions – through a five-speed manual gearbox, the Lada’s gear lever snicks with satisfyingly firm, mechanical and precise movements, while clutch biting point is intuitive. Small and light at 1210kg, the 4×4 is engagingly fun when pushed hard.

With slim 185/75R16 tires, natural feeling steering, short wheelbase, big footprint and balanced chassis and weighting, it is agile and maneuverable, weaving confidently through narrow winding switchbacks. Turning on the proverbial dime into corners, the 4×4 leans somewhat, but is committed, grippy and is virtually immune from under- and over-steer in most circumstances.

With unibody construction and  independent double wishbone front and live-axle coil-spring rear suspension for comfort and capability, the 4×4 rides with forgiving fluency over rugged roads and the narrowest dirt routes alike, dispatching bumps and lumps with suppleness and buttoned down rebound control more sophisticated than many a modern car.

Engineered for high off-road abilities, it rugged lever-activated four-wheel-drive, low gear ratio transfer and locking rear differential keep it moving over steep inclines, low traction surfaces and through water and snow. Meanwhile, 213mm ground clearance and short overhangs provide generous approach, break-over and departure angles for difficult terrain.

Unimpeachable off-road, maneuverable in tight confines at just 3640mm long and 1680mm wide and affordable at JD13,500, the 4×4 is a triumph of engineering minimalism over excess. Stable at speed and well-packaged, the 4×4’s boxy design provides good space utilization for passengers and cargo, including good headroom and minimum/maximum 263-/982-litre luggage volume.

Comparatively Spartan inside, the its comfortable cabin uses tough hard plastics and clear instrumentation, but now features electric windows and two-speed A/C. Seating is upright and visibility excellent, but better driver’s seat support, steering reach adjustment and rear headrests would be welcome additions.

Specifications: Lada 4×4 Urban

  • Engine: 1.7-litre, 8-valves, 4-cylinders
  • Gearbox: 5-speed manual, four-wheel-drive
  • Driveline: low gear transfer, locking rear differential
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 82 (83) [61] @5000rpm
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 95 (129) @4000rpm
  • 0-100km/h: 17-seconds
  • Top speed: 142km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 9.9-litres/100km
  • Length: 3640mm
  • Width: 1680mm
  • Height: 1640mm
  • Wheelbase: 2200mm
  • Ground clearance: 213mm
  • Luggage: 263-/982-litres
  • Weight: 1210kg
  • Suspension, F/R: Double wishbones / trailing arms, panhard rod
  • Turning circle: 11-meters
  • Tires: 185/75R16
  • Price, on-the-road: JD13,500

Previous articleNissan Kicks: Keen Compact Crossover
Next articleNissan e-NV200 Evalia: Spacious, Silent Seven-Seater