Fiat Panda Trekking
Chunky, pumped up looks set the Fiat Panda Trekking apart from regular small cars, but it is not a 4x4
At a glance, the Fiat Panda Trekking resembles a 4x4, but underneath the macho make-up are front-wheel-drive mechanicals. Low CO2 emissions and stop-start make it cost-effective to run. And although the Panda Trekking prices are higher than some rivals, it promises a more upmarket image, while uprated traction control gives off-road ability to match its looks.
The Fiat Panda Trekking comes with either a 900 CC, two-cylinder TwinAir petrol engine or a 1.3-litre diesel. In terms of equipment and spec, the Panda Trekking model is based on the regular Panda Lounge supermini, but as well as the chunky looks and uprated traction control system, gets the Fiat Blue & Me bluetooth system as standard.
Like many modern Fiat cars, the Panda Trekking is available with a huge range of personalisation options, from bold body dcals to packs that bundle desirable equipment. There's even a winter sport kit that includes a roof box and a snowboard
With its tall stance and boxy proportions, the Fiat Panda Trekking easily stands out from the crowd. As on the Panda 4x4, you get plastic body cladding, a 47mm increase in ride height and black roof bars.
The Fiat is equally bold inside, where you’ll find the distinctive rounded-square ‘squircle’ styling cues. It feels more upmarket than the Dacia Sandero Stepway, but there are still some hard, scratchy plastics. You’ll also have to pay £50 for a height-adjustable driver’s seat, while taller drivers will find the offset pedals uncomfortable.
Air-conditioning, Bluetooth and electric windows are standard, but sat-nav and a leather steering wheel will set you back £433 extra – both are included on the Dacia.
Compact dimensions, a high-set driving position, excellent visibility and light controls make the Panda a breeze to drive around town. But out on the open road the Trekking initially feels out of its depth. The electrically assisted steering delivers little feedback, there’s plenty of body roll and the skinny tyres surrender their grip at surprisingly low speeds. Go for the characterful TwinAir engine and you'll find it eager. A 1.3-litre diesel is also available. Mud and snow tyres and a recalibrated traction control system also allow the Trekking to deal with light off-roading.
The Fiat brand finished a lowly 30th out of 32 in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey. Yet it has taken steps to ensure the latest Panda is durable and desirable. All versions get four airbags, while the Trekking adds electronic stability control as standard. As a result, the car was awarded four stars by Euro NCAP.
Thanks to boxy dimensions and a tall stance, the Fiat Panda Trekking is roomy inside, with decent head and legroom for rear seat passengers. There’s also plenty of storage. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. The 225-litre boot is smaller some rivals' and a third rear seatbelt and split-fold rear bench is £100 extra.
A small-capacity engine, two-wheel drive, low CO2 emissions and standard stop-start tech should equate to good fuel economy, but the Trekking returned a disappointing 40.5mpg at the pumps. It also costs more to service than the Dacia Sandero Stepway, and has weaker residuals. It’s not all bad news, though, as the car does sit in a low insurance group and as it only emits 105g/km of CO2, road tax (VED) is only £20 a year. With the 1.3-diesel, the Panda Trekking averages 67.3mpg, sits in the same VED band but costs £1000 more to buy.