The Fiat Panda has always stood out from the crowd, stubbornly refusing to follow convention, so it is fitting that Fiat has continued to fill the smallest of niches with the latest iteration. It may have first appeared in 1983 but even today a 4×4 City Car is an unexpected combination.
The first thing to make clear with the Panda 4×4 is that it is a different breed to the other car derived 4x4s, and here’s why; permanent four-wheel drive, electronic diff locks, 19% approach and 20% departure capability, a very short first gear and crucially standard-fit mud and snow tyres give the little Fiat genuine off-road ability. The only sign that off-road ability has been compromised is the swap to cheaper torsion beam rear suspension.
The award-winning TwinAir engine offers more performance than the diesel, is a good chunk lighter and it’s cheaper. You’ll struggle to match the official fuel consumption but this engine suits the Panda’s eccentric personality perfectly. With 107 lb.ft of torque at just 1,900 rpm it is also well suited to light off-road work and you get an extra gear to play with, thanks to the 6-speed ‘box.
The interior is well laid out and has a distinct styling theme running through it with everything forming squares, including the top of the gear lever. Look carefully and you will find even more squares outside too. The high roof line and expansive glass area gives a great feeling of space and provides great visibility too, something that is useful in the urban jungle and off the beaten track.
If you want a car-derived 4×4 that can actually tackle some off-road work, the Panda is the pick of the bunch. You can tell that Fiat has concentrated on this and the company deserves particular praise for fitting mud and snow tyres as standard (BMW take note!). Add in the sensible price and low tax and you have to ask why more manufactures haven’t cottoned on to small 4x4s.