The Fiat Panda Cross is a more rugged, four-wheel-drive version of the standard Panda hatchback. It’s surprisingly capable off-road, but feels rather cheap inside.
The Fiat Panda Cross is a chunky little hatchback that could be your ideal compact off-roader if you fancy something small and easy to drive but live somewhere prone to bouts of harsh winter weather.
Unlike the Suzuki Jimny, the Fiat Panda Cross isn’t a thoroughbred 4×4 – as its name suggests, it’s based on the humble Panda hatchback. Peel away the Cross’ angrier bodywork, however, and you’ll find a neat four-wheel-drive system that means it’ll keep up with the Suzuki long after many more expensive SUVs have got themselves well and truly stuck.
Its huge plastic bumpers and silver door protectors aren’t just for show, either – they’ll help make sure the Fiat Panda Cross’ bodywork springs back into shape should you have an altercation with a particularly solid piece of the countryside.
It even comes with two tow hooks front and back so you can use the Panda’s off-road prowess to rescue other motorists caught in a sudden snowstorm – if you feel like it, that is.
This rugged utilitarian theme continues in the Fiat Panda Cross’ cabin – only here it’s less appealing. Sure, the square instruments look pretty funky and the contrasting silver slab and copper-effect dashboard add a splash of colour, but the plastics all feel hard and scratchy and you don’t get a great deal of equipment as standard.
The Fiat Panda Cross is fun little 4x4 that’ll plug its way through terrain that’d see many bigger SUVs stranded but, if you’ll just use it to potter around town, get a standard Panda.
So, it might not feel all that plush inside, but at least the Fiat Panda Cross’ cabin is pretty roomy. There’s loads of headroom in the front (although a height-adjustable driver’s seat doesn’t come as standard on entry-level cars) and three kids will have plenty of space to stretch out in the back. A Dacia Duster has more space in for tall adults, though, as well as a more practical boot than the diminutive Fiat Panda Cross.
The Dacia’s engines aren’t quite as economical as the Fiat’s, though. You can get the Panda Cross with either a city-friendly 0.9-litre two-cylinder petrol or a more powerful 1.2-litre four-cylinder that’ll be better if you plan on doing long motorway journeys or any kind of serious off-roading.
If you plan to stick to the asphalt, though, you’ll find the Fiat Panda Cross feels very similar to the standard Panda – that’s to say it’s a doddle to manoeuvre in town, easy to park and even reasonably comfortable. It’s not particularly spritely – whichever engine you pick – and it leans a fair amount in tight corners, though not enough to make passengers feel ill.
What it lacks, though, is any kind of advanced safety kit, such as the automatic emergency braking feature you get in a Suzuki Jimny. That being said, the more affordable Fiat is still a charming compact off-roader that’s well worth a second look. Check out our Fiat Panda Cross deals to see how much you can save on one.