The Fiat Panda 4×4 is a city car with chunky, off-road-inspired looks and a grippy four-wheel-drive system to match. It’s cheap to buy and easy to drive, but not well-equipped
The Fiat Panda 4×4 is a compact city car that’ll take the odd off-road excursion in its stride. It’s just as easy to live with as the standard Panda but comes with a grippy four-wheel-drive system that makes it a worthy alternative to the likes of the Suzuki Jimny and Dacia Duster 4×4.
Inside, however, the Fiat Panda 4×4 comes with a much more stylish cabin than the unapologetically basic Suzuki. The dials, heating controls and even the centre of the steering wheel come with a squared-off circular design (should that be squircular?) and you can choose from a selection of camouflage olive, beige and brown trims for the dashboard.
Less worthy of praise, however, is the Fiat Panda 4×4’s infotainment system. Rather than a slick touchscreen like you get as standard in many other small SUVs (including the Suzuki Jimny) you’ll have to make do with a back-to-basics stereo and CD player with an old-fashioned orange and black display. Fiat’s UConnect app lets you use some of your smartphone’s features while you’re driving, but it’s nowhere near as intuitive as the more commonplace Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring systems you’ll find in many alternatives.
So, the Fiat Panda 4×4 doesn’t have a particularly high-tech cabin, but at least it’s relatively spacious for such a small car. Its tall body means there’s enough headroom in both the front and rear seats for adults to get comfy, but those in the back will be left wishing there was slightly more leg room – especially on long journeys.
It’s a similar story when you take a look at the Fiat Panda 4×4’s boot. Its 225-litre capacity is big enough for a weekly shop but significantly smaller than the space you get in the likes of the less off-road focussed SEAT Arona and Renault Captur.
Unlike most so-called off-roaders, the Fiat Panda 4x4 is perfectly capable of hauling you and three friends over deeply rutted fields and up snowy hills without breaking a sweat
Also smaller than in many alternatives is the Fiat Panda 4×4’s diminutive 0.9-litre petrol engine. It might only have two cylinders, but it packs a fairly decent 85hp punch so it doesn’t feel too sluggish. It’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in a reasonable 12.1sec, and Fiat claims it’ll return 57.6mpg – although you’ll probably see a figure closer to 45mpg in normal driving conditions.
There’s also a 1.3-litre diesel you should consider if you do lots of motorway miles. It’s not as fast as the petrol, but it uses less fuel and it’s slightly quieter when you’re cruising along.
Not that the Fiat Panda 4×4 feels particularly at home whizzing along at 70mph, that is. It’s much more adept nipping through town where its small size and relatively large windows make it a doddle to manoeuvre and easier to park than the larger Dacia Duster.
The Fiat Panda 4×4 is pretty comfortable to drive over poorly maintained roads, too, and it doesn’t lean a great deal in tight corners – despite its jacked-up suspension that makes it taller than the standard Panda.
Head off-road, and the Fiat Panda 4×4’s special tyres and four-wheel drive mean it’ll happily traipse through mud that’d leave most two-wheel-drive SUVs well and truly stuck. It doesn’t have quite the same boulder-traversing abilities as the Suzuki Jimny, but it’ll prove more than capable of dealing with a few inches of snow or a heavily rutted field.
Unfortunately, the Fiat Panda 4×4 there is a fly in the ointment The Panda Cross – with which the 4×4 shares many components – earned a mediocre three-star safety rating when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2015.
If, however, you’re looking for a cheap, cheerful 4×4 that won’t cost the earth to run you should still consider the Fiat Panda 4×4 – especially if you actually plan to use it off-road.