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Lada XRAY concept: A Russian Evoque?

Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque recently set the world on fire with its combination of style and functionality. Lada, one of Russia’s largest automakers, seems to want in on that action. The company showed the XRAY, a a rakish compact crossover concept, at this week’s Moscow Motor Show.

The XRAY looks pretty good, but upon closer inspection it seems like Steve Mattin, the former Volvo designer who penned the concept, thought it would be easier to copy styling cues from other cars and recombine them.

At the front, the grille and headlight shapes remind one of the Kia Sorento and Optima, albeit with a blacked-out piece connecting the grille and lower air intake. The chrome tusks that extend from the headlights to the side intakes are an interesting touch.

The high beltline and low roof will definitely invite comparisons with the Evoque (or a futuristic urban assault vehicle), while the taillights look they came straight off a previous-generation European Ford Focus.

The scalloping around the fenders and the chrome-trimmed character line running through the door recall the Citroen DS3 hatchback, another trendy European automotive fashion item.

As a product of the Soviet bureaucracy, Lada has traditionally built simple, spartan vehicles for the proletariat. The XRAY is an attempt by the company to move upmarket. The concept’s interior features such niceties as leather-trimmed bucket seats, brushed aluminum trim, and a dashboard-mounted LCD screen for controlling navigation, audio, and climate control functions.

Lada hasn’t totally jumped on the luxury bandwagon, though. An Evoque may have a push button starter, but the XRAY turns over with an old school key and ignition barrel.

As a state-run carmaker during the Soviet era (originally called AutoVAZ) and an independent business in the bleak, post-Cold War Russian economy, Lada has not had many opportunities to build decent cars, let alone luxurious ones. It’s known for the primitive, Fiat 124-based Riva, the slightly more modern Samara hatchback, and the Jeep-like Niva 4×4.

With the XRAY, Lada hopes to change that. It plans to introduce elements of the concept’s styling in future vehicles, giving them a more premium feel. The XRAY could turn out to be Lada’s version of the KUE, the 2007 concept that was one of Kia’s first attempts to break out of the bargain basement; it eventually morphed into the current Sportage.

Lada may need to refine its styling a little more in order to get a signature look like Kia’s, but the XRAY is an impressive start. Putting Evoque-like styling in a simpler, cheaper package could be a recipe for market success if the XRAY ever enters production.