Review

Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback

Price  £14,295 - £16,945

Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Impressive on and off-road
  • Well equipped
  • Economical engines
Cons
  • More expensive than standard Panda
  • Limited rear legroom
  • 4x4 system increases running costs

At a glance

The greenest
0.9 TwinAir 85hp 4x4 5dr £14,295
The cheapest
0.9 TwinAir 85hp 4x4 5dr £14,295
The fastest
0.9 TwinAir 85hp 4x4 Cross 5dr £15,945
Top of the range
1.3-16v Multijet 4x4 Cross 5dr £16,945

"Despite its tiny size, the Fiat Panda 4x4 is more capable than many larger SUVs."

Fiat remains the only carmaker to squeeze a full-time four-wheel-drive system into a supermini. As well as having four-wheel-drive, the Panda 4x4 rides 47mm higher than the standard Panda, plus it has chunkier bumpers that make it look like a baby Land Rover. However, it retains the standard Panda's compact dimensions, making it easier to live with and use in town than a full-size off-roader.

There's a choice of petrol or diesel engines and, if you like the off-road looks but need to keep costs in check, there's a front-wheel-drive model called the Panda Trekking which is cheaper to buy and run. Finally, there's the Panda Cross, the most rugged version of the car, offering even more ground clearance, mud and snow tyres as standard and exclusive paint finishes inside and out.

The Panda 4x4, Panda Trekking and Panda Cross all sit above the regular Panda in the range, and are more expensive as a result. However, standard equipment is better than in the normal car, too.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.4 / 5

Off-road additions ramp up running costs

The Panda 4x4 and Trekking can be specified with either a 74bhp 1.3-litre diesel engine or an 84bhp 0.9-litre petrol, both with stop-start technology that switches them off when you're stopped in traffic. In the Panda Cross, both engines produce an extra 5bhp. None of the cars emit less than 100g/km of CO2, so there's no free road tax for Panda 4x4 owners.

The diesel and petrol Trekking models return 67.3mpg and 61.4mpg respectively, while the same engines in the 4x4 and Cross should see 60.1mpg and 57.6mpg. However, despite the additional mechanical complexity of its 4x4 system, the Panda remains a realtively cheap car to run, insure and service.

Engines, drive & performance

2.9 / 5

Fun to drive on road and off it

The Panda is pretty small, but the extra ride height gives a more comfortable ride on longer trips. The diesel engine is a little noisy, both at rest and at speed, but it offers plenty of power, while the TwinAir petrol makes a unique, characterful buzzing sound that's more like a moped than a car.

Raised ground clearance, a clever electronic differential and a special low-ratio first gear make the Panda 4x4 a decent off-road car. Few are likely to see more than a damp field, but it can tackle the most difficult terrain with ease, embarrassing some larger SUVs in the process.

Visibility and manoeuvrability remain as good as they are in the regular model, and the controls are light, too, making the Panda 4x4 and Trekking very easy to drive around town. The Panda Cross is the best off-roader in the range, while remaining comfortable on tarmac, but its extra ride height means there's lots of body lean if you drive enthusiastically around corners.

Interior & comfort

3.3 / 5

Ride is as good as a much larger car

The Panda offers excellent front seat space, while the raised ride height improves visibility of the road ahead. The suspension gives a comfortable ride over large bumps and potholes, which makes the Panda 4x4, Trekking and Cross feel like larger cars, even though they’re really direct rivals for some of the smallest models on sale in the UK. The 4x4 gets a little unsettled over more consistently rough surfaces, however.

Fiat has given this generation of Panda larger windows than the previous model, making the interior lighter and airier. If you're considering the Panda Cross, it's worth remembering that its standard mud and snow tyres are much nosier than regular rubber in day-to-day driving.

Practicality & boot space

3.7 / 5

The Panda is small outside but big inside

For such a small car, the Panda 4x4 is impressively practical. The interior is unchanged from the standard version, so there's plenty of space for the driver and front-seat passenger, plus a large storage area, glovebox and two cup-holders (the Panda 4x4 actually adds an extra storage compartment to the standard car's tally of 14).

The back seats offer good headroom, but adults will find legroom tight. The boot offers a decent 225-litre capacity, but the extra height makes it slightly more difficult to lift heavy items into the boot than the standard Panda. The rear seat doesn’t quite fold flat and doesn’t split 60:40, either.

Reliability & safety

3.4 / 5

Based on proven Fiat 500 parts

Fiat doesn't have the strongest reputation for reliability in the UK, but the brand is working hard to make amends. The company has also introduced the Mopar brand to its dealerships, which promises to improve after-sales and warranty service. A Fiat Panda 4x4 care package will also be offered, which includes four years warranty, roadside assistance, servicing and a set of four winter tyres. The Panda 4x4 is built on the same platform as the Fiat 500, and the brand claims its four-wheel drive system requires no extra maintenance.

Price, value for money & options

3.2 / 5

Quite expensive to buy, but well equipped

The Fiat Panda 4x4 seems quite expensive at first – particularly as the regular Panda range offers such good value for money. However, the amount of standard equipment included makes up for this: air-con, electric windows, electric mirrors an a USB port are all standard. This is in addition to the off-road upgrades, which include 15-inch alloy wheels, bigger bumpers and steel under-body protection. However, if you don’t need four-wheel drive, the Panda Trekking model is cheaper and comes with the same equipment, as well as a clever Traction+ system that improves grip on wet or snow-covered roads.

The Panda Cross features extra plastic trim and skid plates, more ground clearance and bumpers better suited to off-roading, but for most British mortorists the more affordable Panda 4x4 will be sufficient.

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4.0 / 5
"The new Panda 4x4 is a worthy range-topper for the city car range. And when combined with the TwinAir engine, it certainly offers a driving experience that's full of character and just a bit different from the supermini norm. However, the four-wheel-drive system isn’t totally necessary unless you live in a field, so the 4x2 Panda Trekking, which has the same features but is front-wheel drive only, could be a better option. The cheaper, larger Dacia Duster also arrives in UK showrooms just in time for winter, too. But, that said, a Panda 4x4 would embarrass a number of much more expensive current SUVs both on road and off it."
4.0 / 5
"Brilliant off-road, loaded with kit, competitive pricing, only 4x4 city car in its sector. Chunky styling will not suit all tastes, and not as fun to drive as a Ford KA."
Last updated 
13 Jan 2014

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