By on October 30, 2013

1 Opel AstraThe Opel Astra is extremely popular in Yekaterinburg.

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 Kazan in Tatarstan, and we are now travelling a further 940 km East to Yekaterinburg in the Ural region.

The Yekaterinburg car landscape is once again very different from the cities I’ve explored before. It’s a mix of less Ladas, more sedans, some brand new models I had not seen yet in the country (not even in Moscow) and the big novelty: used right-hand drive Japanese imports… Jump in for the full report!

If you can’t wait for the next report, you can follow my trip in real time here. Check out 174 other car markets on my blog.

2 Peugeot 301Peugeot 301

A couple of friends in the industry had told me that the more I would get East, the more Japanese the car landscape would become in Russia. Well Yekaterinburg is literally at the border of Europe and Asia and this phenomenon has already started, which is quite amazing when you look at a map of Russia: even though Yekaterinburg is some 1.800 km (1.100 miles) East of Moscow, it is still way closer to the capital than it is to Vladivostok where these Japanese models hit Russian shores, an enormous 7.300 km (4.500 miles) away!

3 Toyota Corolla

4 Toyota Corolla 2This was my very first immobile new generation Toyota Corolla! Got to take a few pics.

Vladimir from the #1 Russian magazine Za Rulem even told me this fascinating story when I met him in Moscow: in Eastern Russia, it used to be much cheaper and easier to import used Japanese cars (with the steering wheel on the wrong side!) than transfer Russian cars from Moscow or St Petersburg. Even the police drove right-hand drive cars, and a move to driving on the left of the road was considered for a while given there were more right-hand drive Japanese cars than left-hand drive Russian cars in the streets! This never occurred and the government has now made it easier to transfer cars around he country and is trying to encourage consumers to buy local with the opening of Mazda and SsangYong assembly plants in Vladivostok.

5 Kia Rio Lada 4x4Lada 4×4 and Kia Rio

There is no one used Japanese import model that is particularly popular, it is simply another layer that is inserting itself into the daily traffic. Most of these imports are mini MPVs, used as taxis or passenger cars – cars like the Honda Spike or Toyota Ist. But there was one model that left me speechless (yep, that happens) as I had absolutely no idea what it was. It’s called the Toyota Will Cypha, a short-lived attempt at a youth-oriented range in Japan that formed the basis of the Scion brand adventure in the US.

15 Toyota Will CyphaToyota Will Cypha

14 Yekaterinburg traffic 2Yekaterinburg traffic

Which new cars are the most successful in Yekaterinburg? The big surprise here is the popularity of the current generation Opel Astra, in 3 formats: coupe, hatchback and notchback. They are literally everywhere which is all the more surprising given there doesn’t seem to be a heritage of strong sales for the nameplate, not many older generations remain on the streets. Granted, the Astra may not be #1 in Yekaterinburg but I would definitely place it on the podium along with the Hyundai Solaris, probable leader, and the Kia Rio, both much more frequent in their sedan variant here. The Renault Logan is not far off these 3 leaders.

6 Lada GrantaLada Granta and Samara

Yes you have read well, the Lada Granta is not on the podium. Don’t get me wrong, it shouldn’t be too far off but it was much less ubiquitous than in Kazan. The Largus has had a good start here, in line with the national Top 10 ranking it is claiming at the moment. Which are the older Ladas I saw most often in Yekaterinburg? Definitely the Priora and 110 with the Samara a close third, and the Zhiguli and Kalina following at a distance. This is a surprising observation as I thought the more I would go East, the more Ladas I would see. Again this may be biased by the fact that I stayed in the centre of the city.

9 Lada KalinaLada Kalina II

So far, Yekaterinburg is the city I saw the most novelties, sometimes for the first time in the country. I saw three new generation Skoda Octavia, one Citroen C-Elysee and three VW Golf VII, all being the firsts in the country so far, two Peugeot 301 and two Peugeot 208 vs. only one of each in St Petersburg prior to this, two Lada Kalina II vs. one in Kazan before that and two new generation Toyota Corolla, the same as in Kazan while I saw none in St Petersburg nor Moscow… Would the Russian dealership network put a priority on smaller Russian cities before delivering their all-new models to the capital? Or is broader Russia more fond of novelties? If you know something I don’t please comment on this article!

22 Mitsubishi OutlanderMitsubishi Outlander

Like in the rest of the country so far, Yekaterinburgers are very fond of small SUV: the Kia Sportage seems to be a favourite, with the Opel Mokka and new generations Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander already very well installed in the Yekaterinburg traffic along with the Renault Duster, Hyundai ix35, new gen Santa Fe, Nissan Qashqai, Juke, SsangYong Actyon, new gen Honda CR-V and Pilot.

8 Daewoo NexiaDaewoo Nexia

25 UAZ BukhankaUAZ Bukhanka

Apart from the Opel Astra, the models I definitely saw more often here than in the cities I visited before are the Daewoo Nexia in its current generation, potentially due to its production centre Uzbekistan becoming closer, the Peugeot 408, a true success in Yekaterinburg, new gen Mazda6, Toyota Camry, Venza and Hyundai Elantra, as well as the ante-diluvian UAZ “Bukhanka”, originally from 1965 and still very much in use thank you.

21 Infiniti FXLada Classic and Infiniti FX

I thought by leaving Moscow I would have to say goodbye to big luxury SUVs. Not so. The new generation Range Rover has already made many Yekaterinburgers very happy, along with the Infiniti FX, almost at every street corner in the city centre, the Lexus RX, LX, Mercedes GL and Nissan Patrol.

12 Geely MKGeely MK

Another thing I thought is that I would progressively see more Chinese models as we get closer to that country, but not (yet?). If anything I saw less of them than in Kazan. Two stand out: the Great Wall Hover and Lifan X60, not surprisingly both SUVs. For once there were more Lifan Solano as passenger cars than taxis, I saw a few Lifan Smiley, Chery Cielo, Very and Bonus, two FAW Besturn B50 (the firsts I saw in the country), one new generation Chery Tiggo, one Lifan Breez (aka 520) and one Chery QQ6. Passing by chance near a Great Wall dealership I saw one FAW V5 which means FAW and Great Wall have the same distributor.

That’s it for Yekaterinburg! I hope you enjoyed the trip. Next stop: Omsk in Siberia.

Yekaterinburg, Russia – September 2013 rough estimate:

Pos Model
1 Hyundai Solaris
2 Kia Rio
3 Opel Astra
4 Renault Logan
5 Lada Granta
6 Kia Sportage
7 Daewoo Nexia
8 Mitsubishi Outlander
9 Toyota RAV4
10 Lada Largus

7 Hyundai SolarisHyundai Solaris

10 Renault LoganRenault Logan

11 Lifan Solano X60Lifan Solano and X60

11 Toyota CamryToyota Camry and GAZ Gazelle


16 Toyota Will Cypha 2Toyota Will Cypha

17 Daewoo Nexia LeninDaewoo Nexia

18 Geely MK Lada LargusLada Priora, Geely MK and Lada Largus

19 Mazda6Mazda6

20 Range RoverRange Rover

23 Renault Logan Mitsubishi DionRenault Logan and Mitsubushi Dion

24 Peugeot 408Peugeot 408 and Renault Logan

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13 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans-Siberian Series Part 4: Yekaterinburg, Ural, Russia...”

  • avatar

    The good thing about Russia. You can import whatever you want regarding cars it seems. After you pay the 20+ % import tariff and 20% vat.

    Being a part of ece you would expect them to require all cars to comply. But, American cars are well excepted.

    A few years back they tried to ban red turn signals ( American cars ), and RHD but, there was a big stink and both never happened.

    I have to look into Chinese cars more. Some use very good abit old western platforms. Can’t go wrong with that when you can buy the car for less than 10 grand.

    I’m surprised on the popularity of new Toyota’s. They cost a ton as Toyota has no local production (on corolla, they do produce the rav4 and Camry ). The corolla is 1,500,000 rub iirc. When you can get a Lada, Chinese cars, Fords, and Chevy’s that are all locally produced its a hard decision to make.

  • avatar

    Did you see UAZ Patriot?

  • avatar

    So far, I don’t believe I have seen a single convertible on your trip, nor have read a single comment concerning one.

    For that matter, I haven’t seen a single Chevy Impala either!

    (… Yeah, I know, I HAD to add that just for grins!)

    • 0 avatar

      No mention of ANY Chevy, Chrysler or Ford. Are there still Cold War hard feelings?

      • 0 avatar

        In earlier editions of this segment the author showed some US-branded cars. The global 2nd gen Ford Focus has local assembly in St. Petersburg and is extremely popular, Chevy branded Nivas (nothing to do with American engineering) are the single most popular small SUV. Chevy Cruze is a well respected c segment car. No real Chrysler presence per say. Lots of US cars from auctions, although people generally avoid these. It’s universally assumed that cars coming from the US (not just American makes, but all) have had absolutely no maintenance done to them. It’s unthinkable for a Russian car owner to not stay on top of ATF flushes, timing belt changes, etc. so the lax maintenance schedules people follow over here are seen as very odd. Plus the hassle of getting parts for US-specific models. Something like a crown vic or a Concorde is seen as an exotic oddity. It’s like driving a French car here in the US.

  • avatar

    Please make an effort to go off the beaten path and go somewhere besides city centers! That’s where it gets real interesting :) Old Ural motorcycles with sidecars, ZAZ, IZH, Moskvitch, ZIL, Old Volga M21s hauling hay and potatoes on the roof, etc.

  • avatar

    Is it odd that – as a person who has never owned anything but a GM and just by nature prefers domestics over anything else – would absolutely go completely out of my way to include a Russian car in my driveway? Something about them is just so exotic and alluring. Maybe its the fact that – save the very late-model ones – they’re some of the very few cars left that haven’t been really ‘globalized’

    P.S. In the late 70s/early 80s, my father worked on the construction of an ammonia plant in Togliatti which is apparently the Detroit of Russia, home of Zhiguli, and now some sort of kick-ass outdoor military museum.

    • 0 avatar

      Check out Run Google translate on it first it’s all in Russian. Select a region and go. It’s like the craigslist of russia.

      You don’t have to go out of your way to find, or own one.

      I’ll put that museum in my book even though its a bit out of the way on my text trip this January.

    • 0 avatar

      There is definitely an honesty about the older Russian stuff, the same sort of vibe you might get from an old Dodge Dart or a Volvo 240. The engineering requirements back then in the Soviet Union were for 1) durability 2)easy of maintenance. Everything else took a back seat. When the decision was made to use a Fiat 124 for the Soviet Union’s mainstream passenger car, some torture testing was done on a factory-fresh Italian 124. The sheetmetal on the chassis literally tore after less than a week. Soviet engineers went to work, beefing everything up, making the suspension have more travel, adding ground clearance, and a starting handle. Many Soviet citizens were skeptical to sign up to wait in line for a Zhiguli, they didn’t trust the “Italian tin can” to stand up to the abuse of Russian roads like the tried and true Moskvitches, with their leaf spring rear ends. The front ends on Ladas are notorious trouble spots, despite the Russification. Ball joints have a typical lifetime of just 30000km!! A lot of that is the poor quality of the parts, but a lot of it is the terrible quality of many Russian roads, especially in the countryside where rwd Ladas are popular.

      Many of my relatives have owned both Zhiguli (i’ve ridden in 2101, 2103, 2104, 2105, 2106, 2107) and Moskvitches (IZH 412 IZH 2125). My personal favorite is my grandpa’s Izh 2125 Kombi. It uses a slant 4 derived (copied) from BMW’s 1600 motor, and has some cool features like a removable radio that you can carry around and listen to, say at a picnic. my dad’s friend had a 1976 2103, a sporty variant of the original 2101 with a 1.6L engine. It had a much higher build quality than any of the other rwd Lada’s I’ve been in that were made in the 90s and 00s.

      Here’s a review (in Russian) of a IZh-2125 Kombi, my grandpa’s was the exact same color with that black grill, but his had chrome bumpers.

      • 0 avatar

        I think the honesty is how i view soviet remnants. They didn’t pretend to be something they were not. Apartments included. There is a sense of brutal honesty to it that one can appreciate.

        Cool to hear about the removable radio. After you mentioned that model last time I am really loving the styling.

        I’m totally going to buy one on my extended stay plan / idea. Imagine bringing it back home. Awesome.

        I remember top gear tested the sheet metal. They had a hard time denting the dang thing. Plus commenting how they ‘ruined’ the fiat.

      • 0 avatar

        The 2103 had a 1.5L motor, iirc. It was the 2106 that got the 1.6 with later variants (21061 and 21063) getting a 1.5 and a 1.3 respectively. My dad owned a blue 21063 for some time in the 80s before purchasing a new beige 2104 with a 1.3L circa 1985. It was rather fancy back in the day. I still saw quite a few of them on my trip to St. Petersburg a couple of months ago.

        • 0 avatar

          Right you are, 1.5! He later ended up buying a newer 2106, and swapped in the old school low-back maroon vinyl seats out of the 2103.

          My family rented a worn out 2004 2104, the non adjustable steering column moved up and down freely! LOL A few years later we rented a brand new 2006 2107 with less than 1000km on it, made by ROSLada (not AvtoVAZ). That car easily had 15 defects from the factory, some quite serious. One of the front seat belts did not retract (not that Russians buckle up anyways), there was an exhaust leak into the cabin, there was a strange clunk in the rear suspension.

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