Mechanically, the car is virtually identical to the first generation VAZ-2101 model, featuring the Fiat-derived engines and transmissions, coil spring suspension all round and aluminium drum brakes on the rear wheels. The major mechanical changes came in the 1990s when single point fuel injection and catalytic converters were specified in an attempt to keep up with emissions legislation.
Tightening safety and emissions legislation led to the Riva being withdrawn from most Western European markets by 1997, although it is still in production at the AvtoVAZ factory in Russia. In 2005, production of the estate model was taken over by Izh, before assembly was transferred to the Bogdan Group's LuAZ plant. The 2107 model is still in production, not only at AutoVAZ but also at the ZAZ factory in Ukraine, and at Suzuki's factory in Egypt.
In the United Kingdom, the Lada Riva was one of the most popular budget offerings on sale. Its spartan interiors, dated styling and outdated mechanicals meant that it was never actually aimed at buyers of market leaders' similar-sized products such as the Ford Sierra, Vauxhall Cavalier and Austin Montego. It was a competitor for fellow East European and Far Eastern cars from makes like Skoda, Yugo, FSO and Hyundai. Sales were initially very strong, with Lada passing the 20,000 mark in Britain's car sales charts for the first time in 1987. The Riva was still selling well in the early 1990s, but a lack of changes at a time when the rest of the competition was coming up with more modern designs counted against the Riva's fortunes and its sales fell. Combined with the need to adapt the car to stricter emissions regulations, this led to it being withdrawn from Britain (along with the rest of the Lada range) in 1997.
The Lada Riva differed from typical western cars in a few respects:
- tough abuse resistant construction
- thick steel bodywork
- rubber secondary suspension blocks, enabling long distance driving with over a ton of load and the suspension sitting on its end stops
- high seating position with upright posture, making getting out much easier for the elderly & infirm
- dated styling & inferior standard of finish
- steering gear with large amount of backlash & poor turning circle
- paintwork often didn't match the standard colours well