Is this the best city car… in the world?
Paul Horrell certainly thinks so, after spending time in the Fiat Panda Twinair Trekking
You might not notice it, but alongside its new Panda 4x4, Fiat is issuing a body-double called the Trekking. It's only front-drive, but has the same high-rise suspension and protective body. It won't get many headlines because as an off-roader it's missing the obvious attribute. That said, its raised clearance and chunky all-season treads would probably get you further up a snowy track than, say, a Cayenne on summer tyres.
But anyway, I've decided to give the Trekking another headline all of its own: the best city car in the world. Well, the best city car our flighty and capricious minds can think of right now.
It's a carefree device for shrugging off urban assaults. For a start, all the extra body cladding is going to help when idiots open their doors onto it in car parks. Or when you try just that little bit too hard to nose through a tempting traffic gap. Which in no way makes you the idiot.
The tough tyres are resist the inevitable knocks from collapsed drains and broken surfaces. And if a bit of fly-parking takes you up over the kerb, this pneumatic robustness is ideal.
As well as better clearance, the high suspension gives you an elevated view out. And while the wheels are traversing all the grim terrain of the badly maintained streets, the long-travel springs are supple enough to coddle your backside in a luxury-car ride.
Talking of luxury, while the Twinair engine isn't exactly a Phantom V12, it's a lot more peaceful than many town-car engines because even at low revs the turbo serves up the punch you need to go for a gap. And it isn't entirely out of its depth on a motorway.
Anyway the Trekking has everything that already makes a Panda one of our choice modes of urban transport. It's got five doors, so you can bring your mates. No, they won't be able to stretch out, but we're only talking short trips. The Panda actually is surprisingly big inside given how small it is outside.
It's narrow. It's short. It's upright, so its edges and corners and ends are easy to place. Compactness is an underestimated virtue. Have you actually tried steering a full-size SUV or luxury car around the streets of Chelsea, never mind parking them? If your rubbing strips don't get shredded your nerves definitely will.
Most of all, the Trekking is ruddy cool, isn't it? Not in traffic-cone orange, obv, but in other hues it has a bit of cheeky ruggedness, yet it isn't trying too hard.
So who agrees with me out there?