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Fiat Panda 4x4 - Quick Review

By raccars Published

The awful weather of this and the last few winters might have made some drivers reconsider their views on 4x4 and off-road vehicles and there's one model they should consider that doesn't appear on any list of the usual suspects.

Last year's new Fiat Panda 4x4 is not the sort of car to set the UK auto industry alight with enthusiasm. However, in their native Italy, Pandas command the sort of loyalty and respect we Brits usually see in our dogs. They are famed for their robustness, utility and economy and an army of them is still going strong after a lifetime of bumping around in the Tuscan countryside, that would have seen off most other small cars in half the time.

While the current market is seeing increasing numbers of bubbly supermini crossover-type vehicles, those with genuine off-road capabilities are thin on the ground. The new Panda 4x4, however, is blessed with a modern and efficient, permanent all-wheel drive system, with tow diffs providing torque on demand, automatically adjusted according to road surface conditions.

On the outside, the 4x4 looks like a beefed up version of the standard Panda, with black wheel arch mouldings and bumpers, plus underbody crash plates, a roof rail and special 15 inch alloy wheels, with mud and snow tyres as standard. The cabin is neat and practical rather than plush – this car's energies are focused on function over form. The controls are all very simple and user-friendly from a surprisingly lofty driving position and the equipment list is adequate, if not exactly generous. Although the Panda fits into the supermini category, you can carry rear passengers in comfort but in return, boot space is miserly.

Two powerplants are offered with fuel economy in mind, both featuring start/stop technology. The entry-level model is a 0.9 litre TwinAir Turbo petrol unit, with 85bhp and a nice-torque spread, the other is a punchy 1.3 litre Mutijet II diesel with 75bhp. A five or six-speed manual gearbox comes with a handy low-range first-gear, plus stability control and a great ELD (electronic locking differential), to aid grip in slippery conditions. The cars are light and nimble but also powerful enough to make light work of snow and ice.

This is the beauty of these humble little workhorses – they'll get you out of any trouble with little fuss and bother, but are small and neat enough for the meanest multi-storey. The Panda 4x4 is a true citycar that also handles cross-country with aplomb – all for less than £15,000.

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