James May once noted on these pages that the Panda is a ‘rare animal with a cute face'. Well, the cute face just got an extra set of, ahem, claws, because this is the new Panda 4x4. A four-wheel-drive Fiat Panda!
Before you reach for your Internet to a) anonymously type something about ‘superminis not being SUVs' or indeed, b) note the position of your delicately worded sentence, hang on: Fiat first rolled out a four-wheel-drive Panda nearly 30 years ago. So they've got history.
This little nipper will make its public debut at the Paris Motor Show that takes place in the month of September, the year 2012. It gets something called a ‘torque-on-demand' transmission system with two differentials and an electronically controlled coupling that, sadly, will require the aforementioned Mr May to explain properly.
But it is a permanent 4WD setup, managed by an ECU that distributes traction according to the road grip. It's automatic too, so if you do understand it, please feel free to avoid explaining to passengers the finer complexities of the system. Please.
It'll launch with the TG award-winning TwinAir petrol engine, and the 75bhp 1.3-litre diesel, each paired up to a six-speed manual with an extra special low-range first gear (for those tricky hill starts). The rear suspension is also lighter than before, and the whole thing is but a smidgen longer, wider and taller than the regular Panda.
Joining it in Paris will be a ‘Trekking' version (beefed-up looks, 2WD with traction control), and a ‘Natural Power' version. This is exactly what your juvenile, 12-year old brain is thinking. It's equipped with duel fuel capacity, and can thus be powered by petrol and methane. Methane.
How rare is this ‘animal with a cute face'? Very. It's the only A-segment car with four-wheel-drive. What do you make of Fiat's ‘Super Panda'?