For those who want to venture across the sort of terrain a Panda 4×4 would struggle with, Fiat has a solution. The recently announced Panda Cross has been designed to tackle bigger lumps and bumps.
The rugged-looking Panda Cross SUV is based on the Panda 4×4. It features ‘Torque-on-Demand’ all-wheel drive, Electronic Stability Control, Electronic Locking Differential and Hill Descent Control, all of which help it handle more than just a high kerb outside a school.
A choice of an uprated 1.3-litre MultiJet II or 0.9-litre TwinAir Turbo engine will be available. The TwinAir petrol has seen its power increased from 85 to 90hp. Torque is 107lb/ft (145Nm) from 1,900 rpm, while CO2 emissions and fuel economy are 114g/km and 57.6mpg, respectively.
The MultiJet diesel has also seen its output increased by 5hp to 80hp. Torque is a sizable 140lb/ft (190Nm) from 1,500rpm, giving it more oomph than the petrol, but is a little worse off in the CO2 department at 125g/km. Fuel economy is 60.1mpg.
Both engines are mated to a manual gearbox. The TwinAir gets a six-speed with a ‘crawler’ first gear. A five-speed manual is fitted to the MultiJet.
The Fiat Panda Cross uses fancy electronic systems to perform its off-road duties. Terrain Control lets you swap between three driving modes: Auto, Off-Road and Hill Descent Control.
Auto distributes torque automatically without driver input. Off-Road makes all-wheel drive permanently engaged up to 30mph. Electronic Locking Differential is switched on and ASR is switched off to improve traction on slippery surfaces like mud or snow.
Hill Descent Control, which engages itself automatically below 15mph and is on standby up to 30mph, uses Electronic Stability Control and ABS to help the Panda Cross edge its way down a slope. All-season mud and snow tyres play a role in tackling gradients up to a maximum of 70 per cent. That’s a not-so-insignificant 50.7-degree slope, folks.
Fiat says the torque distribution defaults to 98 per cent at the front, but up to 100 per cent can be sent to the rear in a tenth of a second should the need arise.
The Fiat Panda Cross, like the Skoda Yeti, is somewhat limited by ground clearance. Luckily the 161mm you get for the TwinAir and 158mm for the MultiJet is more generous than a Panda 4×4.
Fiat has ensured the new model looks the part. A new front bumper with scratch and bump resistant corners and underbody protection keeps knocks at bay, while new headlight clusters with daytime running lights and small round fog lights show the world this little Fiat means business.
Protective wheel arch extensions, 15-inch alloy wheels with a five-spoke design and thick side mouldings further enhance the protection and rugged “I can drive over anything” aesthetic.
Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, heated electric door mirrors, leather steering wheel and gear knob and height adjustable driver seat and steering wheel.
Optional extras include rear parking sensors (£250), Winter pack comprised heated windscreen and heated front seats (£250) and City Brake Control, a clever system that uses a LIDAR laser to detect obstacles up to 19mph, automatically applying the brakes in emergencies.
Prices will start from £15,945 for the TwinAir petrol and £16,945 for the MultiJet diesel when sales begin towards the end of 2014.