Stare At This Fiat Panda And You'll Get Cross

What's this then?

This is the Fiat Panda Cross. No, it's not angry at you (more like suspicious of your presence, looking at it), it's just a slightly toughened-up version of the regular Fiat Panda 4x4.

Anything new?

Mainly visual addenda. It follows a similar path to that of the previous generation Panda Cross, with redesigned main headlamps and a set of auxiliary lights below them. There's some tough body cladding, chunky alloys, roof rails, and an enormous skid plate that makes the entire car look a little like a giant electric shaver.

Inside there's a new style of fabric upholstery, a copper-coloured facia panel and a fairly healthy equipment roster. Among its many trimmings are a leather-trimmed steering wheel with remote controls, a leather-trimmed gear knob, automatic climate control, Blue&Me connectivity, electric mirrors, a height-adjustable driver's seat and a Terrain Control selector.

What's under the bonnet?

The two engines from the Panda range you'd expect to be there. The first is the now ubiquitous TwinAir two-cylinder turbocharged lump, producing 90 horses in this installation and 107 lb-ft of torque from 1,900 rpm. Combined economy is 57.6 mpg, which you'll never get anywhere near - but the 114 g/km CO2 rating means low VED bills.

The other is a 1.3 MultiJet II turbodiesel: 80 horsepower, and 140 lb-ft of torque at 400 revs lower than the TwinAir's peak. CO2 is higher at 125 g/km, but you'll probably get a little closer to the 60.1 mpg combined figure. If you actually intend to venture off the beaten track, it's probably the one to go for.

Fiat Panda Cross rear

Anything else?

Remember that Terrain Control selector we mentioned? The Fiat's all-wheel drive system can be switched between Auto, Lock and Hill Descent modes. The former lets the car decide where the torque goes. The middle option is optimised for off-road use and can brake slipping wheels to maximise traction. Hill Descent does what it says on the tin: it helps control the car in the stickiest of downhill situations.

The raised ride height and taller tyres also help here, giving hardcore off-roaders greater ground clearance and better approach and departure angles over obstacles.

How much will it cost?

Fiat won't tell us just yet, so we'll have to wait for the upcoming Geneva Motor Show for more details. For reference, a regular TwinAir 4x4 starts at a reasonable 14,145 and the diesel 4x4 is a grand more than that.

Any alternatives?

Superminis will genuine off-road ability? Not really. The loved/unloved (by owners/journalists) Suzuki Jimny is probably closest, but despite a recent facelift the Jimny is older than any deity you'd care to mention and therefore not that sophisticated. The Dacia Duster may be worth a shot though - not as cool as the Fiat, but a heck of a lot more car for the same money.

In a line:

Extra off-road ability, extra ugly.

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