Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Trans-Siberian Series Part 9: Lake Baikal

Matt Gasnier
by Matt Gasnier
FAW V5 and UAZ Bukhanka

We continue on our Trans-Siberian railway adventure: the last stop was Irkutsk in Siberia, this time we are doing a tiny little hop 80 km South East to the shores of Lake Baikal, more precisely in the Litsvyanka village. Granted, there are not many cars here and the vehicle landscape is surely not representative of the region as Litsvyanka is mostly visited by Russian tourists, but the mix of cars I saw was so striking once again than I thought it should warrant an update on its own. 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.

UAZ Bukhanka
Hyundai Solaris

If any of you have had the chance of visiting the Japanese countryside (I haven’t, only saw it in movies), it is probably what it would look like… Blink and you will miss the only vehicles that let me know we were not in Japan: the ever-present Hyundai Solaris, a couple of SsangYongs, Hyundais and Kia and one FAW V5 (featured above), a few Lada Zhiguli hidden in the backyards of some lovely Siberian log cabins, three UAZ Bukhanka and one lonely Renault Logan/UAZ Hunter/ZAZ Tavria/Lada 4×4/Oka and GAZ Volga. That’s it. Apart from those, you would swear you are in Japan as almost every single vehicle here is a right-hand drive Japanese import… And there were hundreds of them around.

Toyota Probox x2

It’s simple: I saw way more Toyota Probox than Lada/Zhiguli on the shores of Lake Baikal, and when you take into account the fact that the Probox has only been on sale in Japan for 10 years whereas the Zhiguli’s career started 43 years ago all the way back in 1970 – let alone dominated Russian sales charts for a good 30 of these 43 years, you can appreciate how much of a feat that is.

Nissan Serena
Toyota Voxy

The Toyota Ist, Ractis, Voxy, Alphard and Nissan Serena (all generations) are also popular here, along with the odd (unrelated to Japan although it is successful there too as an import) Mercedes E-Class coupe a few cashed-up Russians in need of Baikal bliss have brought here.

Toyota Venza
Nissan Bassara

On the way from Irkutsk to the Lake Baikal, the only Ladas I saw where the couple of police Samaras posted along the road at every village we passed… I even improved my Japanese models recognition skills in Litsyanka: welcome to the Nissan Bassara and Toyota Vista! As I mentioned above, even though there is an FAW V5 featured in the top picture of this article, that’s the only one I saw in Litsvyanka and it’s only up there because it was so brand-new it didn’t even have any license plates yet! – which by the way is rather frequent in Russia, but unthinkable in many other countries in the world.

UAZ Bukhanka in front of the Litsvyanka Post Office

But wait there are more interesting Baikal facts: not only are Russian car buyers this side of Russia completely in love with used Japanese models, I have now started to spot used Korean imports, which in a way make more sense as they are left-hand drive – as they should be in Russia! This was a little harder to pick when you are focused on checking right-hand drive Japanese models but I did spot one Daewoo Winstorm, and the only country where the Chevrolet Captiva is called that way is South Korea…

Daewoo Winstorm

Let’s see if this trend gets confirmed in Ulan Ude, on the other side of Lake Baikal and 455 km East of Irkustk, my last stop in Russia before I pass the Mongolian border.

Litsvyanka car (and Lake Baikal) landscape

Toyota Alphard
Hyundai Solaris
Toyota Allion
Litsvyanka car landscape
Toyota Probox
Honda Stream

SsangYong Actyon Sports and Toyota Ipsum

Nissan Note and GAZ Volga
Toyota Raum
Nissan Patrol
UAZ Hunter
Nissan Serena
ZAZ Tavria and Toyota Allion
SsangYong Actyon and Nissan Serena

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars Blog, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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Matt Gasnier

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  • Luvmyv8 Luvmyv8 on Dec 13, 2013

    In the car landscape photo, the greenish car closest to the photographer would be a Nissan Cefiro A31. A lovely RWD 4 door sedan that is coveted by drifters, tuners and JDM fans. These were powered by RB engines, including the turbo RB20DET.

  • -Nate -Nate on Dec 14, 2013

    This series , cars and photography , is just stunning . Of _course_ we like it , we're all (mostly anyway) die hard GearHeads here . I give up and admit , I'm old & WAAYYYYyyyyy over the hill ~ I look at those wierd & wonderful Domestic vehicles (NOT the Asian imports) and sigh , they're *so* beautiful and stylish , designed to a purpose . I'd love one of those odd little sedans or maybe a truck..... Please keep on writing these threads for us who don't travel enough . -Nate

  • Jeff Good review but the XLT although not a luxury interior is still a nice place to be. The seats are comfortable and there is plenty of headroom. The main downside is the limited availability resulting in dealer markups above MSRP. I have a 2022 hybrid Maverick XLT for over 2 years and it has more than met my expectations. I believe for many who do not need a truck most of the time but want one the Maverick will meet their needs.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I use a now discontinued Kuhmo AT tire that is surprisingly good in the snow, even in 2WD. However since most of my driving is on road, I'm going to look for a more highway friendly tire for smoother quiet. I'm sure it can still handle the forest roads leading to my fishing spots.
  • MaintenanceCosts So this is really just a restyled VW Fox. Craptacular tin can but fun to drive in a "makes ordinary traffic seem like a NASCAR race" kind of way.
  • THX1136 While reading the article a thought crossed my mind. Does Mexico have a fairly good charging infrastructure in place? Knowing that it is a bit poorer economy than the US relatively speaking, that thought along with who's buying came to mind.
  • Lou_BC Maybe if I ever buy a new car or CUV