By on November 15, 2013

1 GAZ logo

Over the next few weeks I will be taking you on a trip through the 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 Omsk in Siberia, we are now moving 940km North East to… Tomsk (hard to not confuse the two but I will do my best). And I am happy to report that at last, the Tomsk car landscape is looking pretty much like what one would expect from Russia… Jump in for the full report!

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

2 Renault Logan Lada ClassicRenault Logan, Lada 4×4 and Zhiguli in front of the Tomsk “Voksal” (train station)

By this I mean a full blanket of Zhiguli, reinforced by many Lada 110 and Kalina welcomed me as I came out of the train station. Reassuring to see all the Zhigulis are not on the verge of extinction.

1 Lada GrantaLada Granta

In the same vein, the Lada Granta is clearly the best-selling new car here, it has been vastly adopted by taxi companies and the police, which says it all. I saw many new-looking Lada Priora, a tough achievement in a city where most cars seem to get instantly covered by mud, which could still mean a Top 3 ranking for the model which has gone down drastically nationally in 2013.

3 Chevrolet NivaChevrolet Niva

4 Hyundai SolarisHyundai Solaris and VW Touareg

The remaining podium step should be a tough fight between the Chevrolet Niva, seemingly at its best in Siberia, the Ford Focus which has a strong heritage here looking at the many previous gen models in the streets, the ever-present Hyundai Solaris, very consistently successful everywhere I’ve been, and the Renault Logan which if it does indeed manages a Top 3 ranking should send a big ‘Spasiba’ (Russian for ‘thank you’) letter to all the taxi drivers in the city that have chosen this model.

4b Izh OdaIzh Oda

6 GAZ Volga1967 GAZ Volga

6c GAZ Volga2004 GAZ Volga

It has become clearer and clearer as I have gone East that Toyota should be the  #2 brand here behind Lada. The Toyota Camry is everywhere in Tomsk, as are the Prado, Land Cruiser and Highlander. Plus I have seen two new generation Toyota Corolla which always stops me in my tracks with my mouth wide open as I have only seen this model in Russia – and also the reason why I wasn’t quick enough to take a few pics…

5 Toyota Land Cruiser Lada 4x4Toyota Land Cruiser and Lada 4×4

9 Subaru XVSubaru XV

The other brand clearly more successful here than in the other cities I passed is Subaru, with the XV already noticeable and a broad range of models spanning a few generations. That Subaru and Toyota get more successful as we ‘approach’ Japan (still 6,500 km away mind you) should not come as a surprise but it’s fascinating to actually see it happen before my eyes.

8 UAZ adGood old me in front of a UAZ Bukhanka billboard.Yep, you can still buy them new here!

The SUVs are back in force in Tomsk (compared to Omsk), perhaps because we have now entered ‘true’ Siberia and once you leave the city there doesn’t seem to be any sealed roads in sight. And believe me, even though we’re at the end of summer here, it’s already wet and I could see massive ruts on those roads all the way from the train, so a 4WD wouldn’t go amiss here.

7 UAZ PatriotUAZ Patriot

The Renault Duster, new generation Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage and Nissan Juke (even though technically not a 4WD) are the most popular. Tomsk drivers also seem to have completely fallen in love with the Kia Soul: I saw way more of them than any other city I have passed. I’m also seeing more and more UAZ Patriot, Hunter and Lada 4×4 as I go East, including brand-new ones.

10 Lexus RX Infiniti FXInfiniti FX and Lexus RX

10b Infiniti QX56Infiniti QX56

Among luxury vehicles, a very special mention goes to the Lexus RX: I literally saw the current generation at every street corner, a ratio to the overall traffic potentially higher to St Petersburg or Moscow which in itself is extremely impressive. I now got used to the ‘resident’ Infiniti FX and Tomsk follows the trend. Other models I saw more often than in the previous cities I passed include the new generation Chevrolet Aveo sedan, Hyundai Elantra and Skoda Fabia.

11 Jinbei GranseJinbei Granse

Virtually no Chinese cars were spotted in Tomsk, which is a surprise as I thought I would see an increase the further East I went. I saw my first Jinbei Granse here, but the other 4 lonely models (in 36 hours!) were the unexotic Lifan Solano, Chery Cielo, QQ6 and Indis. Still an odd American trait to the Tomsk car landscape with two made in US Toyota Tundra and one Chevrolet Camaro spotted.

12 Toyota Will CyphaTwo birds unfazed by the outrageous fluorescent orange robe of this Toyota Will Cypha

Last but not least, on to the Japanese imports. To be honest I was half-expecting the entire Tomsk traffic to be driving on the other side of the road, but not so. If anything I believe the Japanese imports ratio may have slightly declined compared to Omsk but then again I may just be getting used to it by now. Most popular are the Toyota Ist, Japanese spec Corolla, Funcargo and Nissan Primera. Other frequent JDM imports include the Toyota Probox, Spacio, Opa, Noah, Will VS, and I spotted one Nissan Lafesta, one Mitsubishi Delica and… get this: not one, not two but three Toyota Will Cypha, including one in a flashy fluorescent orange robe! I don’t think I could have picked that many in the whole of Japan itself!

Tomsk – September 2013 rough estimate:

Pos Model
1 Lada Granta
2 Lada Priora
3 Chevrolet Niva
4 Ford Focus
5 Renault Logan
6 Hyundai Solaris
7 Toyota Camry
8 Renault Duster
9 Toyota RAV4
10 Kia Sportage

13 Kia SoulKia Soul

13 Toyota IstUnder the mud, it’s a Toyota Ist!

13b Toyota HighlanderToyota Highlander

13c Toyota Camry Lexus RXLexus RX and Toyota Camry

14 Toyota Corolla Lada SamaraJapanese spec Toyota Corolla and Lada Samara

15 Nissan LafestaNissan Lafesta

16 Mitsubishi Mirage DingoMitsubishi Mirage Dingo

17 Hyundai ElantraHyundai Elantra

18 Renault DusterRenault Duster

19 Lada Granta Kia Ceed Lada SamaraKia Cee’d, Lada Granta and Lada Samara

20 Lada 110Lada 110

21 Renault LoganRenault Logan

22 Chevrolet NivaChevrolet Niva

23 Daewoo NexiaDaewoo Nexia

24 Lada GrantaLada Granta

25 Infiniti FX Kia RioKia Rio and Infiniti FX

26 Kia Sportage Lada ZhiguliKia Sportage and Zhiguli

29 MoskvitchMoskvitch

31 Lada GrantaA Lada Granta spotted from the train before arriving in Tomsk

That was Tomsk for you, hope the trip was pleasant enough. Next stop: Krasnoyarsk!

Matt is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a blog called BestSellingCarsBlog, dedicated to counting cars around the world.

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27 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans-Siberian Series Part 6: Tomsk, Siberia...”

  • avatar

    OMG these Chevy and Buick ads just keep getting taller and taller at the bottom of each photo. And the Buick one is an Autoplay if you hover too long.

    Also, to have a QX56 over there you must have BIG MONEY. For the MSRP and the fuel costs.

  • avatar

    Interesting architecture!

    The 1967 GAZ Volga was for sale? How much? There you have a dream car of mine.

    Isn’t the UAZ Patriot the old shape UAZ Jeep?

  • avatar

    I would just like to say that I hate you, and I’d give my left big toe to be on that trip with you.

  • avatar

    How many of those Infiniti and Lexus cars do you think started their life in North America, were stolen in New Jersey, then sold on the black market in Russia?

    • 0 avatar

      Call the NSA for a definite number and a pie chart.

    • 0 avatar

      Most were actually bought at various auctions in US. Some were salvage titles, some not. They do have stolen car databases there too and while stolen cars used to be pretty popular (mostly from Europe though) it’s been going down in the last years.

      I recall coming through some back streets in St. Petersburg and seeing a second gen Nissan Altima that looked pretty abandoned. Little dealer sticker on the back said it was from Maryland or Ohio (don’t recall exactly). Since this model was never sold there it was weird to see it. There were few USDM cars I saw, very few. They’re not very popular there.

  • avatar

    My impression (and this could be dead wrong) is that most of Russia lacks paved roads, or even properly engineered dirt roads. So Subaru and SUVs being popular is, ah, understandable.

    Mind blown that the UAZ Bukhanka is still on sale.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on the area. The cities are okay roadwise and paved. There are mostly paved federal highways to the various population centers.

      Some of the federal highway in Siberia isn’t paved from what I’ve heard.

      But, villages, and towns. Yeah good luck finding a paved road. The town I’m familiar has a paved road going into it but, all the roads in the town are dirt. Villages and small are also in decline so i imagine the government feels little need to improve roads.

      There is this saying “In Russia there are no roads, only directions.” I think that sums it up.

      In the winter they don’t plow the roads so you get this mass of compacted snow on the road and it ends up making ruts like on a old wagon road or something. Snow tires are a must and Russian’s don’t go without them.

    • 0 avatar

      “My impression (and this could be dead wrong) is that most of Russia lacks paved roads, or even properly engineered dirt roads”

      “Mind blown that the UAZ Bukhanka is still on sale.”

      My guess is that your first sentance explains the other. Like Soviet military aircraft, I would imagine the UAZ Bukhanka plays well on dirt roads, is very rugged, and can be maintained in the field with a minimum of tools. In more remote locations; these attributes probably more than make up for their crudeness.

      The 2004 GAZ Volga looks like a 1980s Mercedes with a crude aftermarket grill in place.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like the kind of territory for which a vehicle like the good ole Mercedes Unimog was designed.

        • 0 avatar

          The Russians have plenty of Unimogs, they’re called GAZ66, ZIL 131, Ural 375/4320, Kamaz. As capable as the ‘mog at a fraction of the cost, and you can fix them with a stick welder.

          Next to Russian (Soviet) rigs, I’d say older JDM imported diesel SUVs are well liked in remote areas. A 70 series Land Cruiser with a naturally aspirated mechanical diesel sure is tough to kill, but parts are probably a bit harder to find and knowledge of roadside repairs is a bit more limited. I recently learned that a popular modification made to imported Japanese 4x4s is to take the a/c compressor and turn it into an air compressor to pump up tires after airing down. The extreme vibrations from driving around Siberian roads renders A/C systems unusable due to leaks so they make the most of an otherwise broken accessory.

  • avatar

    While I enjoyed seeing the cars you found; the buildings are what kept getting my attention. Those bright colors must be difficult to keep clean and free from fading; yet most of the buildings appear to be in good shape.

  • avatar

    The old Volga and old even when new Ladas look rather fetching with those wheel covers…

  • avatar

    I’m enjoying both the older vehicles and the architecture .

    Your writing skills are fine , keep it up please .


  • avatar

    That “Moskvitch” in the second-to-last picture is actually an Izh.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s true, but I think it isn’t incorrect to generally refer to the series of cars (whether AZLK or Izh) as Moskvitches. Same way IzhAvto actually made a variety of Ladas (2104,2106,2107, 21099) but you’d still call all of those cars Ladas.

      I’m liking Moskvitches more and more as time goes on, I think the BMW-1500 derived engine and more indigenous roots (as opposed to a direct copy) are appealing. That and I have nothing but the fondest memories of riding in Izh 412s and 2125s.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    The ’67 GAZ Volga reminds me of a ’60s Plymouth Valiant. especially the grill and headlights. I’m really suprised by the variety of vehicles…far more than I would have expected.

  • avatar

    Love those Niva’s. Special little “goes anywhere you point it” car. It’s a shame the Chevy Niva didn’t get far out of Russia.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one that finds it amusing that they sell a car called the Funcargo?

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