Fiat have launched the refreshed Panda with a four model lineup, with the range now being expanded from the Easy and Lounge versions for the city car, to include the highly anticipated 4×4 and Cross versions.
The design of the Panda is as fashionable and versatile as ever and retains the same dimensions. The vehicles look is strongly characterised by the geometric lines of the front and rear bumpers, with aluminium coloured cosmetic inserts underlining the presence of underbody protection. New features include new colours and wheel designs.
Inside the steering wheel is pleasant to touch and enhances ergonomics by adopting a modern double central spoke matched with the dashboard and seat upholstery. The Easy version offers, on request, radio controls and leather upholstery, which are standard on the Lounge version. The 4×4 is fitted with a leather upholstered steering wheel, radio controls and titanium finish, which becomes silver on the Cross.
The boot offers 225 litres of space, which can be expanded into 870 litres when the rear seat backrest is folded down.
The Easy trim level features a radio and manual climate control system as standard equipment, the Lounge, 4×4 and Cross versions are bolstered with the new Uconnect infotainment system featuring Bluetooth, audio streaming, two USB ports and voice recognition as standard equipment
Also available is a Uconnect smartphone application that gives owners information such as the ability to find their car, mileage, service requirements, fuel level and dealer info at their fingertips.
Under the bonnet is Fiat’s unique two-cylinder 900cc TwinAir petrol engine that produces 63kW at 5 500 revs/min and 145Nm at 1 900 revs/min driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission on the Easy and Lounge versions. The Panda Cross gets a slight power boost up to 66kW. Fiat claim a very respectable fuel consumption figure 4,9 litres/100km.
The 4×4 and Cross models are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox that features a shortened first gear, which is useful when tackling more difficult terrain by ensuring that the vehicle is operating within the optimum power band.
The 4×4 is ready to tackle mountain tracks, the urban jungle and perfectly encompossases the go anywhere, park anywhere attitude. The 4×4 uses a torque on demand drive system, which activates automatically when required.
The Panda Cross has a distinctive style but all the style details serve to protect the mechanical parts. Upfront is a new bumper incorporating a skid plate in body colour, new light clusters, fog lights and LED daylight running lights built into the skid plate.
Inside the Cross model is characterised by a refined passenger compartment offering standard equipment such as automatic climate control, CD/MP3 radio with Blue&Me system and steering controls, rear head restraints, height adjustable steering wheel, fog lights, leather steering wheel and gear knob and height-adjustable driver’s seat.
Compared to its 4×4 sibling, the Cross model takes the Terrain Control a step further by offering selector-controlled AWD features based on driving conditions. The Auto setting allows automatic distribution of drive between the two axles depending on grip levels, Lock mode sees the four-wheel drive mode active for optimal off-road use, with distribution of torque among the four wheels, transferring power to the wheels with the most grip. Hill descent ensures optimum handling when traversing steep terrain.
The 4×4 model features an approach angle of 21 degrees, a departure angle of 36 degrees and a breakover angle of 20 degrees. Due to design differences, the Cross version features an approach angle of 24 degrees, a departure angle of 34 degrees and a break-over angle of 21 degrees and can even tackle a maximum gradient of 70 degrees – values close to those of pure off-roaders and higher than those of the leading SUVs on the market.
This was put to the test on a short but technical 4×4 course where the little Panda handled water crossings, steep inclines, declines and soft sand in its stride. At this price point the Panda 4×4 offers an affordable entry into the world of exploring off the beaten track to buyers that may not have been afforded this luxury before.
The new Fiat Panda 4×4 is the successor to the international best-seller which first appeared almost 30 years ago and remains the only 4×4 model in the A-segment. The third generation has come of age, offering improved quality in terms of space, comfort, functionality, technology and safety features. The Panda is the perfect blend of a first and second car without trading the space and the comfort of a five-door compact, made even more exciting by the adoption of a 4×4 system which offers maximum freedom of use.
Numerous Mopar accessories are available to improve the look and practicality of the Panda even further. – Reuben van Niekerk