Glorious mud: Fiat Panda Cross vs Suzuki Swift 4x4
New Fiat Panda Cross and Suzuki Swift 4x4 promise great mix of off-road talent and on-road fun. Which is better?
Shopping for a supermini? You’ll find an abundance of models on the market vying for your hard-earned cash. But if you’re looking for one that offers four-wheel drive, your choice is severely diminished.
Featuring a sophisticated electronically controlled transmission, a more powerful version of its characterful TwinAir engine and tough looks, it means business both on and off the road.
The new Suzuki Swift 4x4 doesn’t have the Fiat’s extrovert streak, but packs the Japanese company’s extensive all-wheel-drive know-how into one of the most underrated and fun-to-drive superminis money can buy.
So, which of our mini mud-pluggers will scrabble to victory in this rough and tumble encounter?
Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which dinky off-roader comes out on top...
Fiat has gone all out to transform the Panda from a humble city car into a rugged off-roader. With its tough body cladding, raised ride height, large towing eyes and bespoke grille treatment, it looks ready for anything. But the Swift 4x4 fails to make the same impact. Silver-finished skid plates, plastic wheelarch trims and 25mm raised suspension are the biggest clues to the car’s all-wheel-drive underpinnings.
Reduced ground clearance isn’t the only hindrance to the Swift 4x4’s off-road performance, because it’s also hobbled by its low-profile summer tyres – they struggle for grip in muddy conditions. The Panda’s mud and snow rubber is much more effective in the rough stuff.
These compact cars are both capable of pulling small trailers – the larger-engined Swift 4x4 has a towing capacity of 1,000kg, while the Panda Cross manages 800kg. However, the standard Fiat Panda 4x4 took victory in the under £15,000 category of the 2015 Tow Car of the Year awards.
1st place: Fiat Panda Cross
The rugged and characterful Panda Cross takes a well deserved victory in this encounter. It’s far and away the most capable small 4x4 money can buy, and is equally at home clambering up a muddy hillside as it is darting around crowded city streets. And while the TwinAir engine is thirsty, it’s a punchy performer. It’s expensive, but no other small car can match the Cross’ unique blend of talents.
2nd place: Suzuki Swift 4x4
In two-wheel-drive guise, the Suzuki Swift is still one of our favourite superminis. Yet in 4x4 guise, it doesn’t make as much sense. It’s still fun to drive, solidly built and well equipped, but it doesn’t offer enough extra versatility and all-weather security over the standard car to justify its higher price or increased running costs. With more power or greater off-road focus, the Swift would shine.
|Fiat Panda Cross 0.9 TwinAir||Suzuki Swift 4x4 1.2|
|On-the-road price/total as tested||£15,945/£17,050||£14,199*/£14,199|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)||£5,453/34.2%||£5,097/35.9%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£477/£953||£546/£1,092|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,619/£2,698||£1,511/£2,518|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||10/£270/C/£30||11/£297/C/£110|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£179/£320/£179||£199/£405/£298|
|Engine||2cyl in-line/875cc||4cyl in-line/1,242cc|
|Peak power||89/5,500 bhp/rpm||93/6,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque||145/1,900 Nm/rpm||118/4,000 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd manual/4wd||5-spd manual/4wd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||35 litres/sealant||40 litres/sealant|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||225/870 litres||211/528 litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||9.7 metres/N/A||10.4 metres/N/A|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/1yr||3yrs (60,000)/1yr|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||9,000 miles (1yr)/160||9,000 miles (1yr)/149|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||27th/24th||33rd/16th|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||82/63/49/4||94/82/62/5|
|0-60/30-70mph||13.1/14.5 secs||11.8/12.8 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||4.7/5.8 secs||6.5/10.1 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||11.0/14.0/N/A secs||21.6/N/A/N/A secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||104mph/3,250rpm||103mph/3,300rpm|
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph||68/45/66/69dB||65/45/63/70dB|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||36.4/8.0/280 miles||39.0/8.6/343 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||179/114g/km/15%||167/126g/km/18%|
|Automatic box/stability/cruise control||No/yes/no||No/yes/yes|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||Yes/no/£250||Yes/no/no|
|Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go||£300/no/no||£430/yes/yes|