Fiat has released its little Panda out in to the wild and it’s come back a changed beast, as James Stiff finds out
The first thing that strikes you with this heavily muscled Panda is its styling. Unlike its siblings within the Panda range, the Cross has large, bulky wheel arches and wild two-tone paint. This helps the baby 4×4 stand out in a crowd. The lairyness continues on the inside with a matching twotone cloth interior.
Once inside you are greeted by a large and clear dashboard with all controls placed high up for easy view and reach. The raised driving position allows for great visibility which inspires confidence behind the wheel. But that’s no good if the little off-roader can’t back it up with ability, and fortunately Panda’s chassis is excellent. The Cross’s tenacious grip is only let down by body roll – though this isn’t a car designed for fast cornering – and this small niggle doesn’t detract from the huge amount of fun that the baby Fiat serves up. The frugal 1.3 turbo diesel engine is very lively and a joy around town. With almost no detectable lag it makes city driving fun. Heads will turn to see just what the 4×4 Cross is, adding to the charm of it.
On longer journeys and on fast A-roads and motorways, the small power plant struggles at higher speeds; with the engine revving quite high, it can make for quite a noisy journey. However taking the Cross out on the motorway is like taking your pet guinea pig out for a walk: yes it will do it f0r short distances, but it just doesn’t belong there for any kind of sustained period of time. A key feature of the Cross, compared to the regular Panda Dynamic, is its four wheel drive system. This can be engaged via a button on the dashboard. When switched on, the system will only make itself known to you if things get slightly hairy. Don’t be fooled though, this is no serious off road monster. Think of it more as a school run Mum with her wellies on.
The overwhelming appeal of the Cross is its character. You really would forgive it for anything. In a time when sexy body styling and swooping curves are all the rage, it’s refreshing when a car comes along that doesn’t try to look aggressive, or sexy. The Panda looks friendly and fun.
- Engine: 1248cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max Power: 70bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 107lb ft at 1,500rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 900kg
- Combined Consumption: 54.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 136g/km (E)
- 0-62mph: 18.0secs
- Max speed: 94mph
- Insurance group: 3
Great visibility, fun to drive, higher seating position
Tiny boot, limited rear headroom