In-depth reviews

Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback review

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

Carbuyer Rating

2.5 out of 5

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Owners Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Pros

  • Impressive on and off-road
  • Characterful
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Zero-star safety rating
  • Limited rear legroom
  • 4x4 system increases running costs

Fiat remains the only carmaker to squeeze a full-time four-wheel-drive system into a supermini, and you might be surprised just how capable it is off-road as a result. 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.

Just one petrol engine is available: a 0.9-litre turbocharged two-cylinder engine. A mild-hybrid version may join the line-up soon. If you like the off-road looks but need to keep costs in check, there's a front-wheel-drive model called the Panda City Cross 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 and Panda Cross all sit above the regular Panda in the range, and are more expensive as a result.

MPG, running costs & CO2

The Panda 4x4’s off-road additions ramp up running costs

Fiat no longer offers a 1.3-litre diesel engine, so now the Panda 4x4 and Cross get an 84bhp 0.9-litre petrol as standard. It has stop-start technology that switches the engine off when you're stopped in traffic but it’s still not economical. You can expect 38.7mpg in normal driving, and the CO2 emissions are high at 163g/km. Two-wheel-drive Pandas now offer a 69bhp mild-hybrid engine capable of 50mpg, so we’ll hope the Panda 4x4 gets this option soon.

Tax costs £150 per year and Fiat offers a service plan that will take the sting out of servicing and maintenance. The Panda 4x4 needs servicing every year or 9,000 miles. Insurance shouldn’t be too expensive, though, as 4x4 Pandas sit in groups 9-10 out of 50.

Engines, drive & performance

The Panda is 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 discontinued diesel engine was a little noisy, both at rest and at speed, but it offered 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

Ride is as good in the Panda 4x4 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.

The 4x4 model gets front fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a smartphone cradle, heated mirrors and air conditioning, while the Cross adds split-folding rear seats, automatic climate control and a styling pack.

There are seven colours available (two metallic), and the options list includes a £280 Winter Pack - heated windscreen and front seats - and a £450 Safety Pack with rear parking sensors and auto emergency braking. We’d recommend speccing DAB radio (no extra cost) and split-folding rear seats (£150).

Practicality & boot space

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. Some city cars like the Volkswagen up! and Hyundai i10 offer around 250 litres, though.

We think Fiat has been quite miserly with the Panda in some respects; you have to pay £100 extra to have a middle rear seatbelt, and even on the 4x4 model a split-folding rear seat isn’t standard.

Reliability & safety

Based on proven Fiat 500 parts but the Panda’s zero-star safety rating is worrying

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.

Fiat came 23rd out of 30 brands in our 2020 Driver Power survey, although the proportion of owners that reported a fault was slightly lower than average.

When the Panda Cross model was originally tested by Euro NCAP it received a three-star safety rating. That was largely due to poor scores in the pedestrian safety and safety assist categories. Euro NCAP occasionally retests cars that have been on sale a long time, as the crash test gets more stringent every year; the Panda is now the only zero-star car on sale. Auto emergency braking (AEB) and side airbags are both optional extras.

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