I would like to use my Lada Niva for normal road travel, but at 3500 rpm at 100 kph it is not very fuel efficient. I don’t know what the current differential ratio is, but I assume it has been changed for off-road driving. I already changed a 4-speed gearbox to a 5-speed, decreasing the engine speed from about 5000 rpm at 80 kph to the current 3500 rpm at 100 kph. Can I further reduce it by changing the differential gear ratio?

  • Provide more details about your car. What year is it? Does it have older 1.6 L carburetted engine, or newer 1.7 L fuel-injected or some other? Is the vehicle was originally sold in Russia or neighbouring countries, or was it export version that may have had Western European transmission components installed?
    – theUg
    Aug 12, 2013 at 17:35

5 Answers 5


Yes, gear ratios are the second largest influence on your fuel consumption. Number one being maladjusted timing. I always relay the story of my and my wife's cars: she has a 1.4 Opel Corsa and I have a 2.0 Turbo Coupe. While my car has more than twice the power of hers and weighs 350kg more, we get about the same consumption figures (she gets 12.5km/l and I get 12.3km/l, or about 8 to 8.2 litres per 100km). The reason is that her car revs about 3000RPM at 100km/h and mine does 2300RPM at the same speed.

Your problem is going to be that your engine was designed to deliver power at a certain RPM range and if you mess with the final drive, you might be driving in a portion of the rev range where you don't have sufficient torque. Although that's a much bigger problem for highly-tuned performance cars with narrow torque bands than for an off-roader such as your Lada. I would suggest not going too severe. I can't find exact figures, but it's usually okay to fit a 1.6 litre's final drive on a 1.4 litre car. I wouldn't go any further than that.

For quick reference, you shouldn't decrease the size of the final drive by more than 6-8%. but that will already lower your RPM from 3000 to between 2760 and 2820. anything more and your car will be as tardy as a donkey.


changing the final drive ratio is more easier and cheaper than replacing 5 tires & rimes any way you should know there are 3 ratios 3.9 ,,, 4.1 ,,, 4.3 so check which ratio you have thin choose lower one and don't forget that you have transfer case high ratio of 1.2 and low ratio 2.35


Sounds like you might be under geared, and need to raise your gearing. In other words, it sounds like your engine is spinning too many times for each wheel revolution. Raising your gearing will allow your engine to spinning less per wheel revolution, and possibly increase you efficiency. Example: Your engine currently spins 4 times per 1 wheel revolution, raise the gearing to have it go 2 per 1, and one can assume your fuel efficiency will improve.

  • 1
    Thanks to all who contributed. My Lada is a 1999 1.7 carburettor. The previous owner fitted a 4sp gearbox for off-road.At 80kph the rpm was about 5000.It had tremendous power,climb a mountain effortlessly, but no use on the road. I changed back to a 5sp gearbox and that reduced the rpm considerably. What I don't know is whether he changed the diff as well. What is the final drive ratio supposed to be? My previous Lada did 3100rpm @ 110kph.
    – Martin
    Aug 14, 2013 at 10:05

If your diff ratio has been changed for offroad use your speedometer will be innacurate. Much so if larger tyres are fitted.Purchase an after market speedo cable corrector (available for both needle dial( as in your case) or digital speedos.The faster you go the greater the error i.e.29" to 30" inch tyres with 4.11.1 ratio can see a false speedo reading at 100k.p.h. of 20%


Your Niva's condition is an advantage to increase tyre size. Why don't you put a bigger tyre (radius, not width) instead of playing with final drive ratios.

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