The cult Fiat Panda 4x4 has already impressed us with its competent off-road abilities and comfortable ride, but how will it fare in its first test on UK roads?
As with previous Panda 4x4 models, the most notable difference between this and the standard car is the addition of rugged-looking plastic cladding. Not all of this is for purely aesthetic reasons, though. The bumpers help to protect the front and rear overhangs and the 15-inch wheels come with standard-fit winter and snow tyres.
The interior is similar to that of the standard Fiat Panda, but the 4x4 does get a higher centre console to add a 15th storage compartment. It comes with the same standard kit as the range-topping Lounge trim, which means you get stability control, steering wheel controls, stop-start and the firm's Blue&Me Blutooth connection as standard.
The 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel engine is a little noisy, both at idle and when you’re getting up to speed. It’s more sluggish than the TwinAir version, too, with just 75bhp it takes 14.5 seconds to go from 0-62mph compared to the little petrol engine’s 12.1 seconds.
On the road, the Panda 4x4 is more ordinary than entertaining. The added suspension travel helps soak up bigger potholes and bumps, although it can feel a little unsettled over more constant rough surfaces. The steering is light and ideal for negotiating tight situations and the chunky gearknob and steering wheel means it doesn’t feel flimsy.
Despite few Panda 4x4 models ever likely to see more than a wet field, let alone some real challenging off-road terrain, this is where the little Fiat really excels. We put the Panda through some challenging conditions and not once did it let us down once, proving itself to be a genuinely capable SUV.
However, the Panda 4x4's biggest problem is its price. At £14,950, the diesel model is expensive for a small SUV, particularly when you consider that a mid-level Dacia Duster Ambience with four-wheel drive comes in at just £13,495. So if four-wheel drive isn't a must for you but you love the Panda 4x4's charm, you might want to consider the Panda Trekking, which is front-wheel-drive only but gets the same rugged styling and costs £2,000 less.