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First Drive: Fiat Panda 4x4 – on sale January 2005



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The Panda 4x4, on sale in the UK from January, will help Fiat to get a grip as it climbs back after a dismal period. The sales target is about 1,000 in 2005 and the model spearheads plans to introduce 4x4 versions of 10 Fiats over the next two years.

The derivative of Europe’s Car of the Year 2004 is based on the front-drive Panda’s Dynamic specification (with extras), and is in effect the mainland Europe Panda 4x4 Climbing (the term will not be used in Britain).

City-dwellers will be attracted by the image but the Panda 4x4 is an impressive genuine off-roader, given the limitations of a short wheelbase, low ground clearance (raised to 160mm) and small wheels.

Drive to all wheels is permanent, with a viscous coupling directing power where it is needed.

Scrambling on a mix of mud, rocks and grass, the Panda 4x4 is a tenacious and stable performer.

There are no direct rivals to the single-specification, 1.2-litre petrol Panda 4x4, which will be priced around £9,000, to include underbody protection, roofbars, ABS, electric front windows, alloys and foglights.

One of its most practical features is a full height, top hinged tailgate.

Topping the Panda range by almost £1,000, it will claim the title of Britain’s cheapest 4x4 on its arrival.

Panda 4x4 will be available throughout mainland Europe by the end of this month, with the 1.3-litre, 16v MultiJet diesel engine available next year, though not in the UK for “the foreseeable future”.

Fiat enjoys the prospect (at last) of a cultish car and plans to limit 4x4 production to 20,000 in 2005, representing 10% of likely Panda output. The UK mix should be much the same, with this year’s expected 10,000 Panda sales (since March) repeated in 2005.

Panda comes off a new Fiat platform, which will also be the basis of a small SUV, sharing the same wheelbase but with a bigger body. This is likely to reach the UK late next year.

Strengths: Genuine 4x4, marque image builder
Weakness: Weight of extras dulls performance
Opportunity: Will attract drivers to Fiat
Threat: Demand may exceed supply
Price: £9,000 (est)
Bodystyle: 5dr hatchback
Engine: 1.2 8v 60bhp petrol FIRE
Transmission: 5sp manual, permanent 4wd
Performance: 0-62: 20 seconds; top speed 90mph
Efficiency: 42.7mpg comb; 156/km CO2
CAP RV (3yr/30k): TBA
Rivals: Suzuki Jimny, Daihatsu Terios, Suzuki Ignis 1.5 4GRIP

First drive: Fiat Panda

Fiat looks to its new model to boost its share of the small car market.

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