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Fiat PANDA 4X4 review


Third generation of Italian hill farmers’ transport of choice
Full of clever technology that works

For – the only 4 x 4 city car, brilliant off road and perfectly adequate on
Against – the jury’s out on quality and reliability; now built in Italy not Poland

The Panda 4 x 4 must surely be the smallest all-wheel drive available and has survived for an incredible 29 years.

It is now in its third generation and while it’s perky looks are very familiar, it is completely different, with a huge injection of extra technology. The only cloud might be the fact it is now made in Italy rather than Poland, so quality may be an issue.

There is another new Panda, the Trekking which looks like the 4 x 4 but is only two wheel drive. However, it seems a bit pointless saving £1,500 and then getting caught out in the snow.

Fiat Panda 4x4 review 2013Petrol probably a better choice than diesel
The 4 X 4 is available with the 1.3 litre Multijet diesel tested here or the clever and remarkably economical 2-cylinder TwinAir petrol, the claimed economy of which is just 2.5 mpg worse Bearing in mind the extra £1,000 to buy the diesel, the TwinAir will be much cheaper to run. In addition the petrol’s performance  is rather less tardy. Yet another benefit of the petrol version is a 6-speed gearbox, not available on the diesel. Having said all that, Fiat managers say the diesel will be the bigger seller.

It seems something of a contradiction for a city car to be four-wheel drive and I suppose the Panda should be called a Chelsea ride-on mower rather than the larger ‘tractor’. Actually, the 4 x 4 performs both roles remarkably well with its electric power steering and its clever all-wheel drive technology giving impressive results off-road.

In normal conditions, 98% of engine torque is through the front wheels but as soon as grip is lost, power progressively and seamlessly transfers to the rear wheels. There is also the Electronic Locking Differential built into the Electronic Stability Program which actually brakes spinning wheels on slippery surfaces and directs drive to wheels with grip. This requires absolutely no input from the driver. The Electronic Locking Differential can be manually engaged below 31 mph on known slippery surfaces and gives faster reactions to transfer power to wheels with grip.

Fiat Panda 4x4 review 2013The 4 X 4 comes in only two versions, the 1.3 Multilink diesel at £14,950 and the 0.9 litre TwinAir at £13,950. Considering the technology, these prices appear reasonable. Specifications are competitive with manual air conditioning, electric heated and adjustable door mirrors, electric front windows, roof rails, alloy wheels, Start and Stop, steering wheel controls, four airbags, radio/CD/MP3 with 6 speakers and Blue and Me voice recognition hands-free system with USB and AUX-IN.

Good on road as well
This is a city car but on main roads works reasonably well and can cruise quietly at the legal limit. It turns and steers well and has good, firm brakes. Despite its short wheelbase it also rides well.

Bearing in mind the 4 X4 might actually be used off road, the interior is workmanlike with relatively unsophisticated but rugged materials. You almost get the feeling you could hose it out after a particularly muddy encounter. The only slight issue is the restricted width, meaning two full sized adults sitting in the front need to be friendly.

The fact that the Panda 4 X 4 has survived 29 years suggests that Fiat got it right in the first place and the latest version is certainly a big improvement on the old particularly, with regard to off-road ability.

Fiat Panda 4x4 review 2013

 Fiat Panda 4X4 1.3 Multijet
Engine:1.3 litre four cylinder diesel
75 hp @ 4,000 rpm
190 Nm @ 1,500 rpm
5-speed manual
Acceleration:0-62 mph-100 km/h 14.5 seconds
Top Speed:99 mph-158 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined – 60.1 mpg-4.7 l/km
Emissions class:
EU 5
Length:3,686 mm
1,882 mm with mirrors
Height:1,605 mm
Front: McPherson struts. Rear: Torsion beam
Service Intervals:21,000 miles
3 years / 60,000 miles
Boot capacity:
225 litres seat down, 870 seat up.
For:It’s the only 4 x 4 in this class
Against:Narrow cabin

© Robert Couldwell January 2013
For publication on WintonsWorld


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