What is the hipster car

The Lada Niva is the hipster's car

Berlin - Modern Talking is still felt to be our most important German export product in Russia. Even if you don't want to hear it. The pop duo gave a legendary concert in Moscow in 1987 - just a few years before the entire Eastern Bloc imploded. Half a million people cheered Dieter Bohlen and Thomas Anders on Red Square. More honor is not possible. And the duo's hits still haunt the heads of former Soviet citizens today. My Russian tailor Gala Greine, for example, listens to them in her studio in Wilmersdorf. Lately ran Cheri Cheri Lady. Ms. Greine looked at me and smiled eerily.

The nice thing about it: Not only we Germans have exported a cult with a dubious reputation to Russia. The Soviets also bequeathed us a similar product. It weighs 1.3 tons, has 83 hp, has a design reminiscent of a basketball shoe and goes by the erotic name Niva. The Niva is a simple off-road vehicle the size of a Renault Twingo, has been produced in the Lada plant in Tolyatti on the lower reaches of the Volga since 1976 and is now the hipster car in Berlin. Young families and start-ups rumble with him through Mitte and Kreuzberg and always look totally happy.

Sympathetic kissing ball

Why? First of all, because the car with a base price of 12,990 euros only costs about a tenth of a Mercedes G-Class (the car of the Neukölln clan bosses). A pleasant kissing ball, the success of which the Berliner Zeitung wants to get to the bottom of at the weekend with a test drive through the Brandenburg canola fields and forests (which, with their high proportion of coniferous wood, are most similar to the Russian taiga).

On the way to Lutz Schabanowski's car salon in Ahrensfelde - one of two Lada dealers in Berlin - it is worth studying the ADAC test. It says humorlessly: the Lada's missing safety systems are no longer tolerable in today's road traffic. Poor test result.

The latest model that Mr. Schabanowski shows us on his farm doesn't look dangerous at all. It's called Taiga 4x4 Urban, has light alloy wheels and instead of a steel bumper, one made of plastic with LED headlights. The full equipment is now called "Black Edition Cool & More", says the dealer. That sounds noble, but nothing has changed on the car for 45 years, says the dealer. "Cool" only stands for air conditioning and "More" for seat heating: "That's all."

We begin the test drive with Schabanowski's eight-year-old Niva. “It should be the right Lada experience,” says the man and hands us the keys. And so it starts over the village street towards the city limits, we let the engine howl for a moment - little bear, big - and turn into the forest path next to the S-Bahn line behind the Soviet military cemetery. An ideal terrain for this little Russian monster.

Symphonic force

We quickly notice that it feels much more comfortable on frozen rivers east of the Urals or in the Altai Mountains than on a clean asphalt road. The soft-sprung steel frame copes well with rough blows. In the grounds, the Niva unfolds the force of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony.

In the interior, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is more the theme. Because the Niva is a real Russian, but he also has a very vulnerable, soft soul. And so the sensitive driver of the Lada has to carefully and gently poke the long gear stick into the correct gears.

And this love used, rubs off and ensures the driver is always in a better mood. A circumstance that the rational ADAC tester did not want to arise: "If you apply tensile force to the gearshift lever, it breaks down into several parts - it is no longer possible to continue your journey without manual skill."

We don't want to do that to Mr Schabanowski's Lada. We turn back on the Ahrensfelder Chaussee towards urbanity, accelerate gently from zero to 100 in 32 seconds. We roll down the windows. Also because we subconsciously remember the ADAC: “Nothing can be glossed over in the interior. Here, ugly, cheap-looking plastic dominates, which creates very unpleasant smells in the passenger compartment. ”We didn't notice anything, but a cigarette will drive away all unpleasant smells. It ensures a round, robust picture. That was fun.

Back at the motor show, Mr. Schabanowski greets us with a broad grin for the debriefing. He wants to tell us something very general about the vehicle and the new customer, he says. In general, one could say: “In the past, only losers and those who drove a Lada forever drove a Lada.” In GDR times and in the early 1990s, it was a car for stingy party men with red piping. An unpleasant "dingy clientele" who wanted everything to be repaired with clothespins.

"Today that has changed completely," says Schabanowski. He now has new customers: hipsters from Mitte, lawyers with a passion for hunting, doctors, golfers or women with horse farms. "Today the car is pretty chic," he says, "I can always make a better living from it."

The reason: Even if the corrosion process were to start in the factory in Russia, that's almost what customers want, says Schabanowski. And for 17,490 euros with the full equipment, almost everyone can afford this unreasonableness, right?

Test result: Full marks. 5 out of 5 points.

Lutz Schabanowski, Auto Service Falkenberg, Dorfstrasse 14, 13057 Berlin.