With Europe's economies currently in the doldrums, Fiat's move to expand its Panda range with two affordable crossover-like models in the A-segment, the Panda 4x4 and Panda Trekking, couldn't have come at a better time for the struggling automaker as many consumers are changing their preferences to smaller, cheaper and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Fiat describes the new Panda 4x4 as the "only genuine 'pocket' 4x4 car" in the European market and a "Jack of all trades" capable of tackling "mountain mule tracks and the urban jungle" with the same ease.
The Panda 4x4 rides on a jacked up suspension that offers a higher ground clearance over the regular 2WD model, while rolling on 15-inch wheels wrapped in 175/65 R15 84T M+S tires developed specifically for this model.
It gets permanent all-wheel drive that is managed through a "Torque on demand" system with two differentials and electronically controlled coupling, while also featuring an ESC (Electronic Stability Control) system with ELD (Electronic Locking Differential) function as standard.
The Panda 4x4 is available with two engine options, an 84hp (85PS) 0.9-liter TwinAir Turbo petrol and the 74hp (75PS) 1.3-liter MultiJet II diesel, both with fuel saving Start&Stop tech and a six-speed manual gearbox with shortened first gear.
A subtle styling kit that adds chunky door sills with matching black mouldings around the wheel arches and the bumpers that also house silver-colored skid plates, completes the transformation.
The Panda Trekking was designed as a more economical but less capable alternative to the 4x4.
While it keeps the same looks and higher riding suspension of the Panda 4x4, the Trekking ditches the all-wheel drive system for a front-wheel drive configuration and instead relies only on a standard traction control system to improve its performance on low-traction surfaces.
It is offered with the same engine and transmission choices as the 4x4 – albeit without the shorter first gear.