New Fiat Panda 4x4

17 Oct, 2012 5:15pm Tom Phillips

We get behind the wheel of the all-new, third-generation Fiat Panda 4x4 for the first time

Verdict

4
The new Panda 4x4 is a worthy range-topper to the city car range. And when combined with the TwinAir engine, it certainly offers a driving experience that’s full of character and just a bit different from the supermini norm. However, the four-wheel-drive system isn’t totally necessary unless you live in a field, so the 4x2 Panda Trekking, which has the same features but is front-wheel drive only, could be a better option. The cheaper, larger Dacia Duster also arrives in UK showrooms just in time for winter, too. But, that said, a Panda 4x4 would embarrass a number of much more expensive current SUVs both on road and off it.

It’s nearly 30 years since Fiat crammed a four-wheel-drive system into a supermini. Taking the latest Panda as its base, this third-generation Panda 4x4 can be had with Fiat’s small but mighty 84bhp TwinAir turbo two-cylinder petrol engine. Added together, the 4x4 promises to be Fiat’s most characterful car.

The more rugged bodykit worn by the 4x4 only helps to enhance the standard Panda’s looks. The blockier front bumper, chunky plastic side sills and 15-inch alloys that are specific to the model all stand out, while the off-road credentials are boosted by uprated suspension that’s 47mm higher than the standard car. There’s also a steel sheet underneath to protect from off-road lumps and bumps, and the engine’s air intake has been raised so you don’t drown it when splashing through deep water.

Fiat also claims that the approach and departure angles are better than those of a MINI Countryman or Nissan Qashqai. Although whether either of these cars ever sees anything more challenging than a grassy car park is a moot point.

The interior is relatively unchanged from the regular supermini, although, as the range-topping model, the 4x4 gets climate control, an MP3-compatible stereo, central locking and electric windows and mirrors.

The extra ride height helps the view out, too, only enhancing the already decent visibility of the standard supermini. And while the front seats and 225-litres of boot space are very good, adults rwill struggle for knee room in the back seats.

Turn the key and the TwinAir engine fuzzes into life, sounding more like a moped than a car. The steering, pedals and gearshift are all extremely light - if a little lacking in feel - but the chunky steering wheel and gear knob have a nice solidity to them.

The TwinAir engine is quite vocal and rasps away under the bonnet, even under light throttle loads. It’s not unrefined though, and is a decent performer despite its small size. The 4x4 accelerates from rest eagerly, thanks to a low first gear ratio for more control when off-roading, and easily keeping up with other traffic right up to the motorway limit. That said, at 70mph there’s a fair hiss of wind noise from the base of the A-pillars.

The Panda’s real strong point, though, is its comfortable ride. The extra suspension travel helps smooth out potholes, while off the road, the suspension strikes a sweet spot between absorbing the worst of bumps, while not being so hard that it throws you off line.

There’s very little that stops the Panda off road. Over 90 per cent of the 4x4’s power is fed to the front wheels most of the time, but you hardly even notice when the electro-hydraulic coupling sends power to the back wheels when you’re cornering hard on a wet roundabout, or splashing across a waterlogged field. At speeds below 30mph, you can switch on the electronic diff control, too, using a button behind the gearlever. The system brakes whichever rear wheel is slipping, and feeds power to the opposite wheel, to ensure you keep moving forward.

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This is actually a decent looking vehicle, avoiding the bulbous vulgarity of the SUV style.

hi, Could you please tell me what is the ground clearance of the New Fiat Panda 4x4? I could not find it anywhere on the net. I know it is increased than earlier version, but need to know the specific numbers..

Let's just hope it is not plagued with the usual Fiat prblems of build quality and reliability

No mention of whether there is a diesel version. Great car for those who DO need the 4x4 capability but don't want a big vulgar SUV vanity vehicle.

Looking at last years (and any other years) Driver Power, last place for Fiat doesn't inspire much confidence.

I had the last generation (not 4x4) and it was such a fantastic little car, did everything it should and left me smiling. Maybe I was lucky, but it suffered none of the reliability stigma FIAT usually suffer from.
Looking forward to testing this new version as a 4x4 it sounds very promising.

Seeing as this is a relatively simple car it should be more reliable and i imagine its great fun to own. I expect it would be pretty bad on fuel though seeing as the twin air engine seems to struggle to get much more than half its claimed mpg in real life driving which would rule it out for me. The diesel version might avoid this but would undoubtedly be dull in comparison which is a shame.

Being in the leasing industry it always confuses me why FIAT fares poorly in these surveys, as reliability appears to be no better or worse than the average - in fact we get a higher %age of issues with some of the more so called 'premium' brands. My view is that it is the patchy level of service from the dealer network which is to blame as much as anything is.

This wouldn't put me off taking a car like the Panda which is a little jewel of a car ... oh, and it's NOT from one of the German manufacturers either, which has to be good ;-)

Yes, the 4x4 is available as a diesel.

No, you weren't lucky. It's a pure myth these days.

Yes, there is a diesel.

Maybe it's because when some car owners spend a lot more of their hard earned dosh on a 'premium car' they are too proud to admit when the damn thing turns out to be a lemon. The trouble with consumer surveys is they are largely about personal opinion and perceived value and some brands invite more prejudice than others due to their less-than illustrious histories. Surveys like Driver Power are not comparing like with like because no two owners are the same. Reliability surveys from the likes of Warranty Direct give a more accurate (if slightly out-of-date) picture.

Yes, the fuel economy on the TwinAir is poor. The 1.3 diesel is a better bet as far as economy goes, as long as you do a few long journeys to clear the DPF.

Really? None of the customers think so - look at the surveys.....

Fiat Panda and 500 are two of the most reliable supermini cars today, search on german surveys...

Is there a automatic Fiat panda 4x4 if so how much and where can we view one please?

Cindy

Key specs

  • Price: £14,000 (est.)
  • Engine: 0.9-litre, 2cyl turbo
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 12.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 103mph
  • Economy: 57.6mpg
  • Emissions: 114g/km
  • Equipment: 15-inch alloys, electric diff lock, underbody protection, climate control, central locking, MP3-compatible stereo
  • On sale: Now
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