By on October 22, 2013

2 Lada SamaraLada Samara in Kazan, Tatarstan Russia – September 2013

Over the next few weeks I will be taking you on a trip through Trans-Siberian railway, stopping along the way in various Russia, Mongolian and Chinese cities to observe the vastly different car landscapes each time. The last stop was Moscow in Russia, we are now off to Kazan, 800 km East of Moscow in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia.

Russia, Mongolia and China not your thing? That’s fine, you can check out 174 other car markets on my blog.

Now that Russia’s biggest cities and their twisted car parks are out of the way, I figured Ladaland would start. And judging by the car landscape of the countryside I saw from the train approaching Kazan, it is definitely the case, with around 75% of vehicles being Ladas… To know more, jump in!

If you can’t wait for the next report, you can follow my trip in real time here.

1 Lada GrantaLada Granta

This ratio goes down significantly once in Kazan but there is now definitely a much higher proportion of Ladas than there were in St Petersburg or Moscow. This is an opportune moment to make one remark: I only ever had time to explore the centre of each city I will take you through which may weigh the car park a little towards foreign brands and less Ladas, keep this in mind when you read the next Reports and please do comment on each article if you live in the city I’m describing and have a different view of its car landscape.

3 Chevrolet CobaltChevrolet Cobalt

A few minutes walking around in Kazan and one thing is for sure: the Lada Granta is definitely the best-seller here, holding a much larger market share than its national 6.3% average so far in 2013, I would say between 12 and 15%. They are literally everywhere, as taxis or passenger cars, two, three, four in a row – no doubt about it Kazan loves the Granta. The Lada Largus has also had a fantastic start here and could possibly claim a spot on the Kazan podium. The words of Vladimir from the Russian #1 magazine Za Rulem: “the Russians have been waiting for a car like the Largus” cannot resonate better than here in Kazan.

4 Kia RioKia Rio and Lada Kalina station wagon

6 Hyundai Solaris Daewoo MatizDaewoo Matiz and Hyundai Solaris

The entire Lada range is still extremely well represented in this city, starting with droves of Kalina (especially the break variant as taxi), Samara, 110, Priora and Zhiguli in this order. I even saw my first Kalina II just next to the railway station. With the St Petersburg and Moscow markets I was starting to feel I was in a different country than Russia, so it’s good to finally see a car landscape that is much closer to the monthly national rankings I have been publishing!

5 Lada Granta Lada KalinaLada Granta and Kalina station wagon

The second striking element looking at Kazan streets is the strength of Chevrolet. Lots of Lacetti and Optra show Kazan’s love affair with the American carmaker is not new. As a logical consequence, this is by far the city where I saw the most Chevrolet Cobalt, a model I didn’t know was on sale in Russia until I spotted one in St Petersburg, but dozens of them in Kazan. It is actually manufactured in Uzbekistan. The Cruze is also very popular here, but interestingly and contrary to what is the norm in Russia for this segment, the hatchback variant seems to be more successful than the sedan. And the Niva is of course everywhere.

7 Renault DusterRenault Duster x 2

8 Lada SamaraLada Samara

The Kia Rio could claim the 2nd spot in Kazan’s sales charts, with the Hyundai Solaris and Renault Duster not far behind. If the French SUV was making itself sparse in St Petersburg and Moscow, it has definitely convinced Kazan car buyers, who appreciate smaller SUVs like the Opel Mokka, surprisingly frequent in spite of its very recent launch, SsangYong Actyon, Kia Sportage and new generation Toyota RAV4.

11 Kazan trafficKazan traffic

There are way more Daewoo Matiz and Nexia than in the two previous cities I visited and way less Ford Focus and VW Polo. Lots and lots of GAZ Gazelle LCV in all formats, and I saw the new generation (“Gazelle Next”) for the first time here. Luxury models are still around but limited to SUVs or bigger versions of sedans, typically the BMW 5 Series GT and Honda Accord Crosstour which I was surprised to spot.

9 Great Wall HoverGreat Wall Hover

Finally, it will be remembered that the city I saw my very first new generation Toyota Corolla, likely to be one of the two best-selling cars in the world in 2014, was Kazan in Tatarstan, Russia. Who would have thought?

Kazan September 2013 best-selling models – rough estimation:

Pos Model
1 Lada Granta
2 Kia Rio
3 Lada Largus
4 Hyundai Solaris
5 Renault Duster
6 Lada Kalina
7 Lada Priora
8 Chevrolet Cruze
9 GAZ Gazelle
10 Toyota RAV4

10 Geely Emgrand EC7 3Geely Emgrand EC7

12 Opel MokkaOpel Mokka

13 Lada SamaraLada Samara

14 Lada GrantaLada Granta

15 Lada Kalina IILada Kalina II (had to rush that pic a bit!)

16 Kia RioKia Rio

17 Nissan JukeNissan Juke

18 Lada 110Lada 110

19 Kazan trafficKazan traffic

20 Lada GrantaLada Granta x 2

21 GAZ Gazelle NextGAZ Gazelle Next

22 Lifan X60Lifan X60

23 Lada 4x4 4 doorsLada 4×4 4 doors

24 Lada Classic PickupLada Classic Pick-up

25 Lada KalinaLada Kalina (you can’t see it from here but it was a station wagon – again)

That was Kazan! I hope you enjoyed the coverage. Next stop: Yekaterinburg just beyond the Asian ‘border’…

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19 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans-Siberian Series Part 3: Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia...”

  • avatar

    “Za Rulem,” my friend. Not “Zarulev.” It is two words, meaning “Behind the Wheel.”

    Love these second-tier Russian cities. Moscow is too large and impersonal, like NYC.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the cities.

      The difference between them and moscow is great. You really have to get out to those cities. Small towns are the best and villages even better.

      Most tourists are not going to attempt that though. To figure out the real Russia is outside moscow.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s what I tell everyone when they say they’d like to visit some day. Moscow is a big smelly dirty city. You will not get a feel for Russia staying there, it’s much too international and expensive. Find a friend with family in a smaller city, or better yet, a village “derevnya.” The food is awesome, the people incredibly hospitable, language barriers be damned. Salt of the earth folks.

  • avatar

    Now where are all the Lada Rivas hiding?

    It’s the third best-selling vehicle platform of all time!

    • 0 avatar

      Oh the rwd Ladas are still out there in force, the author just didn’t include any pics for this particular segment.

      Here’s a thorough breakdown of Russia’s cars done by Za Rulem:


      The two most common cars still listed as registered as of 2012 are the VAZ-2106, with 1.8 million across the country, followed by the VAZ 2107 (Riva for export markets) with 1.7 million. Next are the VAZ-2121 Niva with over a million, and surprisingly, the VAZ 2101 that ended production back in 1988!

      Many people used to park their cars during the winter, so plenty of rust prone soviet stuff is still being driven about, and in surprisingly good shape. Plenty of auto parts places carry whole crate engines/axles/ you name it for reasonable prices. In rural villages, the old Lada/moskvitches will be kept going with parts cars, rewelded bodies ,etc. Given how simple they are to work on, and how little money many people have in these smaller villages, cars will be kept on the road almost indefinitely.

    • 0 avatar

      What was said below. You can’t walk outside more than a few meters without seeing one.

      One of my girlfriend’s friend’s dad is a taxi driver has something like 500,000km on the clock.

      • 0 avatar

        My cousin is currently swapping the drivetrain from my uncle’s 1990s 2106 (suffering from rust), into a clean late 70s 2101 roller with a clean body. The soviet built cars (70s and 80s) are generally regarded as having superior build quality, with the bottom of the barrel probably being late 90s-early 2000s cars. You can literally swap just about anything from one rwd Lada to another, with carburetors there isn’t much guesswork with wiring or anything like that.

        Onus, my grandparents’ neighbor is a taxi driver, he’s been driving an immaculate cherry red 2105 since I was a little kid. No idea how much mileage it has, I’ll ask him next time I visit. For all I know he may have just gotten another 2105 of the same color somewhere along the way! My grandfather retired his 1987 Izh 2125 Kombi a few years ago, it was worn out as heck from 20 years of rural dirt roads. A very comfy ride with a cushy leaf spring rear suspension (more durable than a Lada’s 5 link rear axle on coil springs).

        • 0 avatar

          Interesting. Didn’t even know much about the Kombi.

          Didn’t even know lada’s have a 5 link. Then again it doesn’t surprise me. A bunch of there stuff was ahead of the time. Like the Niva being unitbody, and have independent front suspension. Pretty much the first crossover. I’m trying to find a good one 25+ years old to bring back home.

          I always heard they would make the suspension stiffer in Russian cars. I still can’t figure out why. The roads are not very fun with stiff suspension. Who said you can’t make leafs ride nice.

          I’ll be curious to hear about that red 2105 and its story.

          • 0 avatar

            Actually I’d say the suspension is rather soft in Russian cars, with unbelievably long travel compared to just about anything we see here short of an SUV. Combined with a rear seat that feels like a worn out sofa that you sink into, Ladas are perfectly adapted to terrible roads in terms of passenger comfort, at the expense of anything resembling competent handling by modern standards. The Moskvitch leaf springs are even more compliant and better at resisting sag under load, as well as more durable. I remember my grandfather sticking little bits of rubber in between the rusty leaves to cut down on squeaks. The hatch was great for hauling potatoes, hay, and thistle for his chickens. We’d also take the Kombi on mushroom picking trips, making our way through the forest on what can be best described as jeep trails.

  • avatar

    People used to say that a factory fresh Lada had about 90 faults. That would be bolts and clamps to fasten, missing, non-aligned or wrong parts etc.

    Then Lada presented the 110.

  • avatar

    I find it amazing that there are so many beautiful buildings in Russia!

    Perhaps many of them were built before communist rule? I can’t see the soviets building anything nice-looking, but I could be and probably am wrong. After all, the US was inundated by its share of propaganda against the USSR, too, and I grew up smack in the middle of it!

    Long live the yellow “air raid” sirens…

    • 0 avatar

      Zackman, it’s a mix. Some pre soviet stuff, and honestly a lot of the stuff in the photos is actually modern post-soviet construction with a classic Russian twist. I especially like the wooden Orthodox churches that are springing up these days, oftentimes paid for by wealthy benefactors and the local communities. I was born in a “Khrushevka,” 4 story apartment building designed to be built cheaply and quickly to relocate the proletariat from communal living and wooden barracks. Many would call them ugly and look down on them, but I find these soviet relics quaint and cozy. The insides of these apartments are the definition of warm and inviting, people would hang rugs on the walls, kitchens are tiny but there’s always something the smells amazing in there.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a good mix. If you go outside the big city with the modern investment you will see more of it. The smaller towns / villages have wonderfully colorful wooden houses. I have never seen such bright colors painted on houses. Though some of the houses are just plain wood.

      In Vologda even the new apartments can seem bland in comparison to western ones but better than the soviet ones. Don’t let the outside or stair well / entrance way scare you. The newer apartments have these tiny elevators. Those are awesome if not scary.

      The inside is wonderful and filled with very inviting people. On the outside they may look cold and uninviting but, if your in their house totally different story. Everyone keeps asking when I’m coming back. I tell them soon.

      Going back in January can’t wait.

    • 0 avatar


      I have not been back to Ukraine for over 16 years, so I can’t comment on what was getting built since then, but looking at the architecture of majority of buildings in the pictures in the article, I would say that majority of buildings were built during Soviet time.

  • avatar

    So, why is there no picture of the mysterious “Largus”?

  • avatar

    BONUS: here’s a link to GAZ concept cars that wont ever be built in mass numbers, with a very few were built:

    I realize that most of people wont be able to read the text, but you could look at the pictures.

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