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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.

However, there are two manufacturers that have a long history of shoehorning four-wheel-drive systems into small production cars: Fiat and Suzuki

Best 4x4s to buy now

The Italian brand has included an all-wheel-drive Panda in its range for over three decades, and the new Panda Cross is its most rugged and extreme version yet.

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?

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Fiat Panda Cross review

Suzuki Swift 4x4 review

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Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which dinky off-roader comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Rugged design

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.

Off-road tyres

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.

Towing capacity

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.

Verdict

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.

Key specs: 

 Fiat Panda Cross 0.9 TwinAirSuzuki 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%
Depreciation£10,492£9,102
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/cost10/£270/C/£3011/£297/C/£110
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£179/£320/£179£199/£405/£298
   
Length/wheelbase3,705/2,300mm3,850/2,430mm
Height/width1,657/1,662mm1,535/1,695mm
Engine2cyl in-line/875cc4cyl in-line/1,242cc
Peak power89/5,500 bhp/rpm93/6,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque145/1,900 Nm/rpm118/4,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd manual/4wd5-spd manual/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel35 litres/sealant40 litres/sealant
Boot capacity (seats up/down)225/870 litres211/528 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,090/480/800kg1,085/475/1,000kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient9.7 metres/N/A10.4 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealers9,000 miles (1yr)/1609,000 miles (1yr)/149
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.27th/24th33rd/16th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars82/63/49/494/82/62/5
   
0-60/30-70mph13.1/14.5 secs11.8/12.8 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.7/5.8 secs6.5/10.1 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th11.0/14.0/N/A secs21.6/N/A/N/A secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph104mph/3,250rpm103mph/3,300rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph53.4/38.5/9.6m54.3/38.4/9.3m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph68/45/66/69dB65/45/63/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range36.4/8.0/280 miles39.0/8.6/343 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined47.9/65.7/57.6mpg43.4/57.6/51.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined10.5/14.5/12.7mpl9.6/12.7/11.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket179/114g/km/15%167/126g/km/18%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/£250/noSeven/yes/£261/no
Automatic box/stability/cruise controlNo/yes/noNo/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/no/£250Yes/no/no
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£300/no/no£430/yes/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/no/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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