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The Top Gear car review: Fiat Panda 4x4
For:Sweet looks, small and light to drive, surprisingly eager and invigorating
Against:The 2WD Trekking for £1,400 less. Do you really need the extra axle?
0.9 TwinAir  4X4 5dr
Great fun off-road, but too expensive to make sense
Fiat’s fitted the Panda with some serious off-road tech. We drive it
A great little car, with all the benefits of the 4x4, just not the 4WD. Cheaper, but what price peace of mind?
Gets you everywhere, is fun anywhere, costs buttons. Over-delivers without trying: surely the definition of cool
Can’t quite afford the Panda with the TwinAir engine? Don’t worry, this is the one you want anyway
Be warned, VW, this could be enough to keep the Panda at the head of the pack
As minor as eco tweaks get, but don’t let that put you off. We can all help in our own little way.
There was something about the old Fiat Panda that stopped you taking the piss out of it (well, too much, anyway). Its disarming simplicity and all...
What we say:
The regular Panda is one of our favourite city cars. The addition of 4x4 only enhances its appeal
What is it?
Very basically, this is what it says on the tin: a Fiat Panda with a front-wheel drive biased 4x4 system and a couple of extra inches (47mm) in the ride height, plus different alloys and chunkier bumpers. The first transverse-engined supermini to get all-wheel drive, the original Panda 4x4 launched in 1983 with a drivetrain from a company called Steyr-Puch. These days there’s a torque-on-demand system and an electronic diff to transfer power to the rear wheels in sticky situations, which, thanks to a modest kerbweight and equally modest Panda dimensions, contribute to a tiny car that’s a big surprise when it comes to coping off-road.
On the highway, the extra height means that there’s a bit more lean through corners and more motorway wind noise in the 4x4 than the standard car, but the trade-off is a noticeably better ride over bumps and the usual urban potholes. Off-road, it will amaze. You won’t believe the surfaces it will scrabble over, up, and down again. A super little off-road hack.
Two engines are on offer, an 875cc 89bhp TwinAir two-cylinder petrol with a six speed ‘box, or a five speed, 1.3-litre 74bhp MultiJet diesel four-cylinder. Unusually, we’d actually go for the petrol. It’s faster, quieter and feels more appropriate, even though it has less torque than the dieselly brother (107 vs 140lb ft). It’s also a bit cheaper, and everything counts at this level.
On the inside
It is pretty much Panda standard inside, with excellent vision (Pandas are a doddle to park), a little bit of extra storage and the same user-friendly controls as the standard car. Even taller bodies can fit – there’s loads of headroom – and even though the boot’s not hugely capacious, there’s enough room to do the usual supermini stuff . The 4x4 also gets clever folding seats (optional on other Pandas), and materials that suggest enough quality to withstand the rigours of daily life. We also like the colour-coded dashboard which makes it feel different in there – that’s if all the ‘squircles’ aren’t enough…
Given that the majority of previous-generation Panda 4x4s are probably still going (they reached a kind of cult status in Europe), residuals look set to be firm, with the TwinAir weighing in at just over £14,000 – diesels are, inevitably, slightly more. All come with climate, a CD player, 15-inch alloy wheels and electric windows, while sliding rear seats and things like Bluetooth connectivity and ‘Nav are on the options list. Spec lightly – these things are better at utility than flash. Note there’s also the 4x4- look Trekking: as cool as the 4x4 but without the four-wheel drive. We’d still pay the extra.