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