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 under £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.