Fiat Panda Cross 4x4

Go-anywhere version of city car serves up a massive dose of fun, both on road and off.

Think of a rugged off-roader and an expensive gas-guzzling SUV no doubt springs to mind. But our average price budget buys an extraordinary four-wheel-drive machine that blows this stereotype to pieces. Fiat’s Panda Cross is brimming with character, costs peanuts to run and is as eco-friendly as a supermini.

That’s not to say it isn’t a proper off-roader, because the dinky Fiat is as comfortable ploughing through mud as it is parked on the high street. The familiar body sits on raised suspension, while chunky plastic cladding covers the doors, wheelarches and bumpers. The Cross also gets a unique front grille with a pair of powerful spotlights, useful roof rails and distinctive circular tail-lamps.

Climb aboard and you’ll discover a cabin that’s pure Panda, and this is no bad thing. Large windows mean the interior feels bright and airy, while the driving position gives a commanding, SUV-style view of the road. The dashboard is well laid out and the build quality is good.

You get a decent haul of standard kit, too, with air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel and electric windows all included. The only disappointment is the tiny 230-litre boot, although folding the 50:50 split rear bench increases carrying capacity to a handy 780 litres. Twist the key in the ignition and the Panda’s 1.3-litre diesel churns into life.

With only 70bhp, the Fiat serves up acceptable rather than electrifying performance. On the plus side, the direct-injection unit is smooth and promises 54.3mpg combined economy.

The Panda is great fun to drive. With its compact body and direct steering, it can be threaded down country lanes with confidence, while the snappy gearshift helps make the most of the eager engine’s limited power output. Even the occasionally bouncy ride fails to dim the Italian machine’s appeal.

However, to really enjoy the Panda, head for the rough stuff. The combination of four-wheel-drive transmission and mud and snow tyres allows the Fiat to effortlessly tackle rutted country tracks. An electronic differential lock for extra traction allows the Cross to scamper across rougher terrain with the agility and poise of a mountain goat! Better still, the Panda’s £13,190 price tag leaves plenty of cash to spend on options, such as dual-zone climate control or metallic paint. You could even splash out on a dirty weekend away!

In detail * Price: £13,190 * Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000): £4,420/33.5% * Benefit in kind tax bracket: 19% * Annual tax liability (std/higher rate): £501/£1,002 * Road tax band/cost: E/£110 * Insurance group: 7 * Driver Power position (manufacturer/dealer): 30th/27th * Euro NCAP (adult/child/pedestrian/overall): 3/2/1/47 * Engine: 1.3-litre 4cyl diesel * Power/torque: 70bhp at 4,000rpm/145Nm at 1,500rpm * 0-62mph/top speed: 18.0 seconds/94mph * CO2: 136g/km * Urban/extra urban/combined econ: 42.2/67.3/54.3mpg * Length/width: 3,581/1,578mm * Wheelbase/height: 2,305/1,632mm * Kerbweight: 1,090kg  * Boot capacity (seats up/down): 230/780 litres * Standard equipment: Roof bars, 15-inch alloys, leather-trimmed steering wheel, trip computer, air-con, ESP

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