When we think of Lada we all probably think of the VAZ-2101 which was introduced in 1970, although the marketing faux-pas of a name that won’t be on the tip of anyone’s tongue might not ring any bells, the distinctive shape of the car itself most likely will.
Shaking the less than classy reputation that this Eastern European based brand has, is surely almost like trying to suggest that the much maligned Trebant is worth considering as your next classic car project. But Steve Mattin is tasked with exactly that.
Mattin as a British-born car designer and is now the chief designer at AvtoVAZ Lada. His past successes include a stint at Mercedes where he oversaw such projects as the Maybach Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Mattin joined the team at Lada last year and recently at the Moscow International Automobile Salon (MIAS) came to the fore with the revelation that is the Lada XRAY, a concept SUV designed by Mattin and his Milan based team.
The XRAY (the name comes from the front grille, which looks rather like an ‘X’) is a small SUV crossover vehicle, much in the same mould as the Nissan JUKE, which should not be too much of a surprise to anyone since it was announced back in May that the Renault-Nissan Alliance was to become the major shareholder in AvtoVAZ. It is hoped the XRAY will increase the market share that Lada currently has in Russia, which is already around 40%.
The general presumption is that production version of the XRAY will have a small 4-cylinder engine as Lada are pushing the model as an economy vehicle.
Part of the surprise factor in the reveal at MIAS was possibly due to the fact that nobody in the industry really saw this coming. There had been no spyshots or teaser leaks that I can recall at all. I guess part of this is down to where those that are employed to sniff out the latest concepts are likely to look, and Lada has never been on that list – until now.
I remember being at the launch of the Nissan JUKE. I thought the interior on the concept vehicle was impressive, with almost wipe-clean bucket seats more in line with a beach buggy (which was one of the vehicles design pointers) than a family car. It was clear where the designers wanted this vehicle to be sitting, and that was the beach rather than the school-run. Of course, we knew back then that what gets designed eventually gets watered down for public consumption, but I guess that art in designing a concept is to balance the wackiness with the visualisation of the vehicle in everyday life, so that when the production model finally appears, there is enough of the original concept still evident.
The XRAY interior is not quite as out-there as the interior of the JUKE concept, but it certainly is eye catching. The interior is finished in a rather fetching brown and tan leather combo that compliments the metallic, rustic Christmas tree bauble colour of the exterior. The soft colours are offset by the use of soft edged rectangular angles throughout. I like it, but I do wonder how much of this interior will find itself on the production model which is rumoured to be heading our way in 2015.
All-in-all, this will make other manufacturers in the ever-increasing compact SUV category sit up and take note, though with the alliance connections, it will worry the Nissan JUKE team less than the rest.
Images from www.autoevolution.com