Take the new Panda 4x4 – nearly 43mpg, low emissions and a tiny footprint. Even Ken Livingstone might approve.
It’s not a new, fashion-led idea to drive all four of the Panda’s wheels, though.
Some of the original Panda 4x4s can still be seen long after sales ceased in the UK 10 years ago. Head to hilly areas of the Continent and battered four-wheel drive Pandas are everywhere. Fiat is hoping to sell 14,000 Pandas this year in the UK – 1,100 will be 4x4s, with about 20% going to fleets (mainly user-choosers and niche fleets).
The group launched the Panda 4x4 in the UK on February 5 and it is a relatively simple concept. It’s a 4x4 but without any of the gadgets usually associated with off-roaders – no low-ratio gearbox or buttons to assist when crawling up and down hills. Basically if the Panda’s system senses that the front wheels are losing grip, it transfers half of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels. There is only one engine available here in the UK – a 1.2-litre 60bhp engine with five-speed transmission.
Hopes were initially high that we would see a 1.3-litre Multijet diesel version but this now looks unlikely in the UK – Fiat is testing the water with the petrol version first. Standard specification on the 4x4 includes ABS brakes with EBD, twin front airbags, electric front windows, follow- me-home headlights, power steering, central locking, 14-inch alloy wheels and driver and passenger front airbags.
Behind the wheel
AT first glance, the Panda 4x4 doesn’t look rugged enough to combat an off-road course. It looks too small and far from the stereotypical meaty 4x4.
Although it automatically switches to 4x4 mode when needed, when descending a slope you can’t rely on easing down in first gear – there has to be a little clutch/brake juggling.
The lightness of the car makes off-roading more fun than functional and the Panda holds its own on steep hill climbs and over muddy tracks. Fiat says the Panda will climb gradients in excess of 50% and I don’t doubt it.
On-road, the Panda reverts back to its nippy self with little hint of what it has just been through. The 1.2-litre engine reaches high speeds quickly and the elevated driving position gives a good all round view of the road ahead.
Engine (cc): 1,242
Max power (bhp/rpm): 60/5,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 75/2,500
Max speed (mph): 90
0-62mph (sec): 20.0
Fuel consumption (mpg): 42.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 156
On sale: Now