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Fiat Panda 4×4 to battle in Dakar Rally

Not only does the Fiat Panda come top in our Green-Car-Guide 4×4 petrol section with 42.8mpg, but a diesel version is being entered in the Dakar 2007 rally raid, which starts in Lisbon on 6th January. The two factory-built Fiat Panda 4x4s look very capable in the sand, however the Panda 4×4 is currently only available in the UK with the petrol engine, and Fiat say there are no immediate plans to introduce the 4×4 with the diesel engine in the UK. Which is a shame, as the diesel engine in the two wheel drive Panda returns 65.7mpg, putting it in equal first place with the Citroen C2 in our diesel supermini category.

The 1.3 litre MultiJet turbodiesel Pandas deliver 105 bhp and are entered in the T2 category, the class which most closely represents production vehicles. The two vehicles are driven by Miki Biasion and former Dakar winner Bruno Saby.

It should be interesting to see how the small, lightweight Fiats, with their automatic all-wheel drive system with viscous coupling and locking differential, compare against the larger and heavier off roaders they’ll be competing against.

The Pandas have been equipped specifically for this rally – room has been found inside for accessories like aluminium platforms to help extricate the vehicles from soft sand, shovels, spare wheels, water reserves for the crew, and other specialised equipment useful for the occasion. The Fiat expedition to Dakar will include a Fiat Sedici as service back-up, and three Iveco trucks to transport spares and technicians.

Winner of two World Rally Championships with Lancia in 1988 and 1989, and two world Truck titles with Iveco 10 years later, Fiat say that Miki Biasion will be relying on the ‘manoeuvrability and durability’ of the Panda 4×4. During its development, the Panda 4×4 was tested in Lapland, where the temperature drops to -40°C, in the west African desert, in the Sierra Nevada, and in the Himalayas, as part more than one million kilometres of testing before going into production.

Dakar 2007 finishes on 21 January in the Senegalese capital. It covers 8,696 kilometres, 5,100 of them in the form of special stages, after traversing Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal.