Although introduced in 1980, the Riva's origins are older: it is a restyled version of the Fiat 124-based Lada Type VAZ-2101 / "Zhiguli" saloon, which was introduced in 1970. The Riva itself is officially designated as VAZ-2105 (base saloon), VAZ-2104 (estate), and VAZ-2107 for the deluxe saloon with a large chrome grille, sometimes known (in Eastern Bloc countries) as the ВАЗ-2105 (VAZ-2105), ВАЗ-2107 (VAZ-2107), 'Pyatyorka' ('The Five') or Semyorka ('The Seven'). In Russia, VAZ-2105, VAZ-2104 and VAZ-2107 are considered to be different cars rather than variants. Nonetheless all of them are unofficially included in a single 'Klassika' ('Classic') family along with older models such as the VAZ-2101 'Kopeika'.
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.