THE Fiat Panda has come a long way since it was first produced in 1980 and
THE Fiat Panda has come a long way since it was first produced in 1980 and is now in its third generation of manufacture.
The first, so-called “old Panda” was a success and sold around 4.5 million units across the globe.
In fact, I was actually one of those UK new Panda buyers who bought the car in the Eighties.
So well thought of was the second generation Panda, launched in 2003, that the next year it was named European Car of the Year.
The third generation made its first appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011.
So in just over three decades the Fiat Panda as we know it has notched up more than 10.5 million units worldwide.
What I found quite extraordinary about my new Panda back in the day was its Tardis-like inside. You climbed into the driver’s seat expecting a space that reflected its compact city-car exterior.
What you got was a more than roomy interior that belied the view that city cars had to be tight-fisted with interior space.
I mention this because this week’s drive is a further step since last year in another direction for Fiat and the Panda: the Italian carmaker has created from its Panda 4x4 the excellent Fiat Panda Cross.
Although I thought at first I could not see this Fiat Panda Cross selling in such numbers as the Panda city car, after spending time with the Cross I believe its popularity could catch on.
For those that drive it, the Panda Cross will prove to be something of a revelation, combining as it does the best of both rural and urban worlds.
What you get as always with Fiats is a very plucky car. The marketing people use words that for once are not just hyperbole â?? contending that the Panda Cross is “fearless”, “energetic” and “nimble”.
I couldn’t agree more because you feel that this little charger could just about go anywhere in any conditions, given the chance.
In fact my limited opportunity to go off-road was very enjoyable. But the Panda Cross was equally at home in the city and town â?? its high-positioned gearstick providing an easily accessible and smooth way of getting the car to zip along.
What appears to be the necessary lower gearing all round through to fifth means that the performance on motorways is different.
But again, the car jumps at the chance to crack along â?? easily handling more than 400 miles of motorway travelling during my time with it, from Gloucestershire into London and south Berkshire.
Launched in 2014 in Geneva, the Panda Cross is the top of the range offroad-styled Panda. It is based mechanically on the Panda 4x4, with options of two versions â?? the Cross 0.9 TwinAir 90hp or the Cross 1.3 MultiJet 80hp.
This Cross version is recognisable by its wider 185/65 tyres on special alloy wheels, new fascias with prominent skid plates and unique broken up head- and taillights arrangement. An increased ground clearance and new bumpers give the car more flexibility off-road.
Of course, if you are interested in any car these days you can browse car manufacturers’ websites to get the car you most desire.
I have to say the livery of the test car â?? in Tropicalia Yellow â?? would not be my choice, but there are five other colours to choose from. I think in this 4x4 Cross guise I would favour the rather fetching green or black.
If you are looking to buy a 4x4 but are still put off by the sheer size of the big ones, then you should consider the Fiat Panda Cross with all its Panda pedigree stretching back 30 years.
Test car: Fiat Panda Cross 1.3 MultiJet 80hp
On-the-road price with options: £18,690
Two engine versions: the 90 HP 0.9 TwinAir Turbo (with specific 6-speed gearbox with shortened first gear which ensures excellent starting uphill) and the 80 HP diesel 1.3 MultiJet II. Both fitted with Start&Stop technology
All terrain selector switch with three modes (auto, off-road, hill descent control)
Mud and snow tyres
Dark metal 15” alloy wheels
Ultrashine silver roof bars
Space saver spare wheel
Automatic climate control
Leather steering wheel with audio controls
Side strips in ultrashine silver with cross logo
Front and rear bumper with skid plate in ultrashine silver