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Trans-Siberian Railway 2013 – St Petersburg, Russia Photo Report

2 Lada ZhiguliLada Zhiguli

* See the Full Photo Report and my estimated Top 10 models by clicking on the title! *

Over the last couple of weeks I have been backpacking my way along the Trans-Siberian railway, hopping on and off the train and discovering very different car landscapes along the way. Each time I took the train I moved between 800 and 1000 km so it’s really like finding oneself in a different country altogether, even though I stayed in Russia for the first two weeks of my trip. Given how obsessed I am with which cars are successful where, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that the ratio car/tourist pictures I have taken has been 10 to 1 so far…

1 Opel MokkaOpel Mokka

So from today onwards I will share with you one Photo Report for each city I have gone through, by the time this series is over we should have about a dozen Photo Reports in total, I can’t tell you the exact number for now simply because I don’t know how many cities I will stop in! I have also been trying to meet people from the automotive industry along the way to give these Photo Reports a bit more depth.

3 Hyundai SolarisHyundai Solaris

First stop is St Petersburg, at the very West of Russia. Straight from the airport car park, the main striking element when looking at the car landscape here is how young it is: cars over 5 years-old are by far in minority! A very fine achievement in a city of 5 million inhabitants.

It looks like St Petersburgers have taken full advantage of the scrappage schemes in place in the country over the past couple of years. The second observation about the St Petersburg car traffic is that there doesn’t seem to be any speed limit in the city, or one that has long been forgotten! It’s simple: pedestrians have had to dig tunnels for themselves to go under the streets as it is way too dangerous to attempt a crossing…

4 Kia RioKia Rio

In terms of the St Petersburg car landscape composition, one thing becomes very clear very quickly: the near absence of Ladas! Over the 36 hours I spent in the city, I saw way less Lada Granta (8) than new generation Range Rover (20) or Porsche Cayenne (40)! The legendary Zhiguli seems to be an endangered species here, you can still pick a few Samaras but nearly no 110, Priora or 4×4. Volgas are still relatively frequent in St Petersburg streets, mainly as taxis but I also spotted 2 very well preserved 1962 models.

5 VW PoloVW Polo

In fact, an easy way to describe the cars you see in the streets of St Petersburg is to say it’s like you took the 2013 Russian sales charts and removed all Ladas! The Hyundai Solaris, VW Polo (almost exclusively as a sedan), Ford Focus and Kia Rio should dominate the St Petersburg ranking in this order.

6 Ford FocusFord Focus

The good thing about being ‘in the place’ is that I can now share with you certain recent developments about the Russian new car market and explore it with a lot more depth than the monthly Top 25 models I publish. For example, it became quite clear after a few hours spent in the country that the reason for the Chevrolet Cruze’s current second wind (it is up to a record 4th place overall in August) is the success of the hatchback version, an interesting fact as Russians are still mostly fond of sedans.

9 Renault Logan Chevrolet CobaltRenault Logan and Chevrolet Cobalt

A little like minis and superminis in Italy, if you’re an SUV in St Petersburg and offer a higher driving position, chances are you’ll be met with success. The Opel Mokka for once is a prime example of this trend: it’s only been on sale for a few months but is already swarming the streets of St Petersburg. Pretty much every other SUV can be spotted repeatedly: Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi ASX, new generation Toyota RAV4, BMW X1, X5, Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Land Cruiser… You name it, you’ll find it here. Heck even the Renault Koleos and Peugeot 4007 are more frequent than in Paris!

7 Nissan Juke Nissan Juke

But the reward for most over-represented model in St Petersburg compared to the national sales charts undoubtedly goes to the Nissan Juke, literally everywhere! It is not uncommon to see 2 or 3 of them parked next to each other, and I would bet on a Top 10 or even Top 5 ranking for the Juke in this city.

8 Infiniti FX Infiniti FX

Luxury vehicles are almost as common as mid-range ones in the centre of St Petersburg. Apart from the staggering amount of new generation Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne I saw, the main learning here (and I will end up finding this in most cities) is the incredible strength of Infiniti, almost reaching the status of mainstream brand. Surfing on the SUV craze, the FX is the brand’s most popular model but the entire range is represented with also a strong heritage from the birth of the brand onwards. You can also see many Mercedes M, GL, E, C and new generation A Class, BMW 1 and 7 Series and VW CC and I spotted two Mercedes CLA.

10 Toyota RAV4Toyota RAV4, Lifan Solano and Chery Amulet

A few other surprises: the very high occurrence of current gen Citroen C4 vs. nearly no first generation, including in its sedan variant which I had never seen before, the Kia Cee’d extremely popular especially the station wagon variant and the good start of the Chevrolet Orlando. Other frequent models are the Ford Mondeo, Toyota Camry, Skoda Octavia and Fabia (but no sedan) and VW Jetta. I also saw a reasonable amount of Citroen DS4.

11 Lada ZhiguliLada Zhiguli

This trip is also an opportunity to discover ‘in the flesh’ models confined to a certain region of the world. For example the Chevrolet Niva is very common here, I saw my first Peugeot 408, first Peugeot 301 and first Chevrolet Cobalt in St Petersburg. Oh and the Lada 4×4 4 doors and a Samara van which never left Russia… I saw my first ones here!

12 Volga TaxiGAZ Volga

There are a few Chinese models but compared to the next cities I visited they are relatively rare in St Petersburg. Apart from the Geely Emgrand EC7 and Lifan Solano as taxis, I spotted a few Great Wall Hover, Geely MK2 hatchback, one BYD F3 and one Lifan Smily (aka 320).

That was St Petersburg! I hope you enjoyed this first stop. We’re going next to Moscow…

Full Photo Report featuring 30 photos and estimated Top 10 below.

Estimated St Petersburg September 2013 best-sellers:

1Hyundai Solaris
2VW Polo
3Ford Focus
4Kia Rio
5Nissan Juke
6Nissan Qashqai
7Chevrolet Cruze
8Toyota RAV4
9Citroen C4
10Kia Sportage

13 Chevrolet NivaChevrolet Niva

14 Nissan QashqaiNissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga

15 Lada Zhiguli Lada Zhiguli

16 Citroen C4 SedanCitroen C4 Sedan

17 Kia Cee'dKia Cee’d

18 Renault KoleosRenault Koleos

19 Chery BonusChery Bonus

20 Lada ZhiguliLada Zhiguli

21 Toyota Hilux Mercedes A ClassToyota Hilux and Mercedes A-Class

22 GAZ VolgaGAZ Volga

23 Peugeot 408Peugeot 408 and Lada Zhiguli

24 Lifan SmilyLifan Smily

25 Great Wall HoverGreat Wall Hover

26 Nissan PatrolNissan Patrol

27 ZAZ TavriaZAZ Tavria

28 1962 GAZ Volga29 1962 GAZ Volga

30 1962 GAZ Volga1962 GAZ Volga

This Post Has 12 Comments
  1. @nemanja s.

    I’m leaving in Petersburg and I’d like to say that Moskvich is very rare car on our streets. In USSR there were almost russian cars. But foreign cars were too but very little number. My friend worked in subsidiary of sweden company in Leningrad and they were given a couple of new Volvo 244. He told that he had drived that Volvo on Nevsky prospekt soviet people looked at him as he was on Rolls Royce!

  2. As a fan of Russian cars, I’m very interested in this nice photo report.

    I have been in Saint Petersburg three years ago, and modern cars was already the most part of the traffic : Logan, Camry, Octavia, Focus II, Qashqai… There was too a lot of Lada 110/112, Priora (2170), Samara (all models) Niva, and of course “Zhiguli” (2106, 2107, 2105 and 2101). But it was before the arrival of Hyundai Solaris, VW Polo sedan, Nissan Juke, Lada Granta and new Kia Rio…

    I remember of a lot of Volga-3110 and 31105, and a few 31029 (1992-97) and M24 (especially 1985-1992 model, with the plastic grille). A good amount of UAZ. But only two or three Moskvich…

    You’re right about Lada Niva 4-doors (called “2131” in the Lada system), who is built in a special line in Togliatti, with the Priora Coupe and the Kalina Sport, and only for the Russian market. The Samara Van is built by VAZInterService (VIS), now independant of AvtoVAZ, but also based in Togliatti.

    The ZAZ-1102 Tavria is a good find, because more and more difficult to find in Russia. And of course, I love the Volga-M21 ! A lot of them are still used every day by old people in the country, but I think it’s not easy to find one in a big city like St. Petersburg ! Congratulations ! 😉

  3. Citroen C4 Sedan looks too good. It should be avaible in the Occidental market. In Spain and Portugal, for example, would be a huge sucess among the taxi fleets togheter with its younger brother, the C-Elysee.

  4. Great job Matt! Were is Moskvich? What diversity on the streets of Peter. 30 years ago when I was in USSR, there had been twelve models from 4 factories VAZ( Lada Ziguli, Niva,Samara), ZAZ, GAZ(Volga, Kombi), Moskvich and UAZ offraod cars. Today, we can see everything from everywhere! Chinese are becoming popular. Koreans are doing better than VAZ. They like sedans and SUV’s. Allmost all VW Polo’s are sedans. One more question, is there any CARWASH in the town?!

    1. Thanks Nemanja! This is only the first Photo Report, there are many more to come. In terms of diversity St Petersburg is by far the market where I saw most of it. Not many Russians cars and trucks though but this will come further East. Nope, I saw no carwash in town! 🙂

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