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Fiat Panda climbing again

In principle, this new Fiat Panda makes an awful lot of sense: city car dimensions, clever packaging, disarmingly cute styling and off-road ability. Well, some of the latter – at least.

After a hiatus of some years, Fiat is marketing its Fiat Panda 4×4 in South Africa again, and considering popularity of crossovers, this is one which has all the attributes to appeal.

Styled in that indominable manner only Fiat could shape a 4×4, the new Panda looks great and with available in 4×4 and Cross (FWD) derivatives, it should appeal to the urbanite who might venture onto some rural South African gravel over the weekend.

It is certainly not a traditional 4×4, with size in the Jimny league, but featuring vastly superior packaging and on-road performance. A technical specification which is sure to draw circumspection is its engine, with only two-cylinders displacing a mere 900cc. It’s not transposed motorcycle motor, though, and good fo 66kW and 145Nm, courtesy of turbocharging and Fiat’s much vaunted twin-air technology.

The crucial difference between Panda 4×4 and Panda Cross are their engine outputs (the latter being 3kW stronger), ground clearance (4×4 rides at 161mm, Cross at 150mm) and an additional gear bringing the 4×4 version’s tally of forward ratios to six, as opposed to five. It makes sense, obviously, to have that additional gear because it enabled a very short first ratio, for climbing and off-road work.

How good will it be off-road? Well, with modest ground clearance and an approach angle of only 21-degrees, don’t expect it to follow a Jimny anywhere, but there is a torque-on-demand ABS traction mitigation system, which does send power where it is required. You’ll certainly be able to navigate sand and some tight hairpins climbing an extreme gravel road in it. And if there is a big hole in the lawn, and you put a wheel in it, be sure that you’ll be capable of reversing out.

Ultimately, this is a very honest car and priced accordingly. Without Daihatsu’s Terios around, Fiat could have the semi-capable mini-4×4 market all to itself this time around.

Fiat Panda 0.9 TwinAir Easy: R184 900

Fiat Panda 0.9 TwinAir Lounge: R199 900

Fiat Panda 0.9 TwinAir 4×4: R229 900

Fiat Panda 0.9 TwinAir 4×4 Cross: R249 900

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