Fiat updated the Panda Range recently with tweaks on the exterior and interior including an all new 875cc TwinAir turbo petrol engine to power their new third generation Panda’s while adding a cheeky looking Panda Cross 4×4 to buff up the Panda offering.
The new quirky sounding two-pot powering the Panda had some of the staffers stumped to begin with, considering the quite torquey sound the twin cylinder makes whilst idling, and then how it’s fires up through all of the 6 gears with turbo boost. One could easily either mistake it for a diesel at first because of the power and sound it first makes – which was not the case.
The dinky size of the Panda and its newer smaller Twin Air engine are in no measure of what this excitable baby is capable of, as the saying goes, dynamite comes in small packages and this little fella comes with lots of personality too. It’s the perfect around town car as you zip through the gears and play with the impressive turbo boost. You fall in love with its rugged robust little nature and how impressive this little 4×4 is. The colour coded skid plate and Cross bumpers give the Panda its wild stance and allow steeper approach and departure angles which are 24 and 34 degrees respectively, making it able to access anywhere, thanks to its 161mm ground clearance. Being a city slicker, this clearance allows you a passport to park anywhere.
Compared to its 4×4 sibling, the Panda Cross takes the ‘Terrain Control’ a step further with a ‘Terrain Control’ selector switch behind the gearstick that lets the driver select three different 4×4 modes. Two of these are:
AUTO – Automatic distribution of drive between the two axles in accordance with the grip levels of the road surface.
The four-wheel drive is always active for optimal off-road use, with distribution of torque among the four wheels, braking the wheels that are losing grip (or slip more than the others), and thus transferring the drive to those with the most grip.
HILL DESCENT – For optimum handling of particularly steep hill descents or when going down extremely bumpy routes.
Having had the chance to put the Panda through it’s off-road pace down a dirt road which once was, but rather now a complete wash away, was by no means even a challenge for the Panda as it took whatever we threw at it in it’s stride. Definitely extremely impressive performance from such a small little car that can almost do what the big boys do.
Back on the road again in and around town, you find it easy to sit at speed limits with a potential top speed of 167km/h. Only coming across some issues whilst trying to overtake at higher speeds but then these aren’t really the speeds the Panda was built for as it is purely a city slicker. With the power that this car might be missing out on in the power department, make no mistake it makes up for in acceleration and zippiness between the gears. It is really quick – so long as you stick between the turbo sweet spot in the revs and don’t use the eco-button. The Eco button is there to help with consumption but unfortunately, I couldn’t get the consumption down far enough as it sat at seven litres to the 100 which is not the best of figures for such a small car considering the smaller engine is there to reduce weight and hopefully churn out Fiat’s 4,7 litres per 100km figures.
So, if you are looking for something cute, exciting and quirky and a zippy but also want to go away for the weekend and park anywhere or even go for a drive up a mountainside, then this little car is what you’ve been looking for. At an introductory price of R265 900, this little gem is definitely something to experience.