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4X4 Panda stands out in crowd

 
Created on 13/02/2015 @ 08:01
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Test Drive by Graham Breeze

It’s beginning to feel like there’s a city car around just about every corner with the motoring industry obsessing about being the best.

But there aren’t any like the Fiat Panda Cross 0.9 TwinAir which has arrived in 4X4 format.

As brand designers strive to find the “stand-out” model in the SUV sector Fiat has produced something really unique and the 4x4 is easily the most capable vehicle in class.

The Panda was the first to be offered with all-wheel drive in its segment and it rides better than other Pandas with superb all-round vision.

Fiat built Panda for city life but the 4X4 really widens the target customer base and is attracting the driver who wants just a bit more attitude from their functional car.

On test was the two-cylinder, 875cc TwinAir 90hp version, which despite being incredibly noisy, performed well on the streets but was less impressive on the motorway where diesel would be the preferred choice.

There’s a top speed claim of 104mph but I never really felt comfortable enough to push the Panda that hard because the car just never felt settled at higher speeds. Handling is largely OK though with hardly any corner lean for a car that does sit highly on the open road.

The Twinair engine is noisy and on first drive had me checking that there wasn’t an exhaust problem. There’s cabin vibration and lots of wind noise on the open road too, something you don’t get in some of the Panda’s rivals.

The top speed of 104mph is supported by 0-62 in 12 seconds and CO2 emissions of 114g/km, which will keep your running costs to a minimum. Fiat claims 57.6mpg on the combined cycle.

The Panda has attracted rave reviews for its off-road capabilities, often performing better than many bigger SUVs and if you want to be seen you can be sure to attract plenty of attention with funky looks and stand-out colour schemes.

You get dark metal 15” alloys fitted with mud and snow tyres, silver roof bars, silver side strips with “Cross” logo and front and rear bumpers with silver skid plates.

Changing driving modes couldn’t be easier. You get an all-terrain selector switch with three modes – auto, off-road and hill-descent.

The esthetic enhancements not only provide some visual clues to the all-road potential of the FIAT Panda Cross, they also perform the functional role of protecting its bodywork, lights and mechanical components, both in extreme off road conditions and the rough and tumble of city traffic.

Fiat wins the battle for an impressive cabin hands down. It’s a nice place to be with a large central console containing most of the controls and the gear lever within easy reach. The steering wheel has height adjustments but I couldn’t find any much-needed rake movements.

My biggest worry for Fiat is that this Panda may be priced too highly. Prices start at £15,945, while the model on test would set you back £17,350. I know you are getting an all-wheel-drive vehicle but that’s a lot of money for a car of this size.

You would expect some of the extras, such as metallic paint, a space saver spare tyre, rear parking sensors, city brake control and tinted rear windows to be classed as standard. You even have to pay extra for side airbags, heated seats, coat hooks and a sunglasses holder.

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