Driven: what modern Lada cars are like behind the wheel

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The Vesta Cross is the latest version to be launched, and expected to help make the saloon appeal to more a slightly more affluent audience. Our test car featured the same 1.8-litre engine as in the X-Ray, with identical 120bhp and 125lb ft outputs. In the Vesta Cross, the claimed top speed is 112mph, although the 0-62mph time is trimmed to 10.5secs.

Thankfully, the Vesta Cross was fitted with Lada’s five-speed manual gearbox, allowing us to exploit the engine far more than we could with the X-Ray. Gear changes were smooth, and the throw was direct: trust us, if you’re speccing a Lada, go for the manual.

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Handling-wise, the Vesta Cross was solid if not spectacular: it didn’t exactly enjoy being chucked into corners, but it was prepared to go along for the ride with little complaint. That slightly elevated stance didn’t seem to have excessively compromised the handling, and it rode well over the bumps that could be easily found in parts of the Togliatti test track.

Most importantly, there is much to recommend about the Vesta Cross as a family car: the interior was a little more luxury than in the X-Ray we tried – although we hasten to add that’s a relative term, and it’s still relatively utilitarian compared to current UK market standards. But everything was well laid-out, and felt solid and built to last, which is as you’d want from a family car.

Notably, interior space was excellent, particularly in the rear. And there’s a substantial 480-litre boot.

So what are modern Lada models really like?

You can definitely stop laughing at Lada for producing rubbish cars: both the X-Ray and Vesta Cross are pretty decent. That said, they’re hardly at the cutting-edge and it’s hard to imagine they’d fare well when directly compared against most machines you’ll find on UK forecourts.

But where Lada really scores is on price. Head to your nearest Lada dealer (which, admittedly, will likely involve a trip to Russia), and you’ll be able to buy the X-Ray 1.8 from £7500 or so, with a Vesta Cross 1.8 costing around £8700. So even if they’re not exactly cutting-edge models to rival top European machines, it’s no joke to say that they’re excellent value for money.

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