2014 Fiat Panda Cross review

First there was the Trekking, then the 4x4. Now Fiat's decided to break out the steroids to give us the Panda Cross. Question is, is it a Panda too far? Here's our verdict

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The Fiat Panda Cross may look rather familiar – not because of its closely related siblings, the Trekking and 4x4, but because it has existed before, way back in 2008 and as part of the previous Panda range.
 
The new Panda made its debut in early 2012 – and the off-road-focused Trekking (two-wheel drive but with enhanced traction control) and 4x4 followed later that year. Now Fiat says it’s time for an even tougher version, hence the resurrection of the Cross.
 
The Panda Cross is based on the Panda 4x4, and comes with all-wheel drive, off-roading technology and body protection. There’s a new plastic-cladded front and rear bumper, metal skid plates front and rear, LED daytime running lights and redesigned foglights. The wheelarches and side sills also get plastic cladding and there are roof bars. Those redesigned bumpers mean the approach and departure angles are slightly better than the 4x4’s.
 
There's a choice of two engines – the 89bhp 0.9-litre Twinair petrol (with six-speed manual gearbox) and the 79bhp 1.3-litre diesel engine with a five-speed ’box.

What’s the 2014 Fiat Panda Cross like to drive?
 
The all-wheel drive system is paired with a torque-on-demand transmission that sends power to the appropriate wheels when necessary, but in normal driving 98% of the pulling power is sent to the front wheels.
 
Hill-descent control also comes as standard, as part of a three-mode drive selector, together with a set of oversized all-season tyres on 15-inch alloys.
 
The suspension has also been tuned to cope with harsher surfaces and has been raised to create around 16cm of ground clearance. All of this means the Cross is a very capable thing when you venture off road. In fact it's as capable as much bigger SUVs.
 
We tested the Cross on Fiat's Balocco test track in Italy, where it easily handled camber changes, 57% gradients and harsh suspension tests.
 
The improved approach and departure angles are better than those of the Nissan Qashqai, while the Panda's air intake has been raised for improved wading capability.
 
As with the 4x4 version, the Cross gets an electronic locking differential and a torque-on-demand system to distribute power from axles with wheels losing grip on tough off-road sections.
 
The Panda's low kerb weight also helps, plus the Twinair-powered model has an unusually low first gear – designed with off-road use in mind – that helps this little engine to provide plenty of pull on even the toughest climbs.
 
Yes, the diesel engine has extra pulling power at its disposal, and is happier than the petrol on steep inclines, but the eagerness with which the Twinair wants to rev helps you maintain momentum.
 
On the road the Cross rides better than other front-wheel-drive Pandas, remaining comfortable over rough and broken urban road surfaces. Even large bumps don't cause much discomfort. There's slightly more body lean in bends, but body control is still decent.
 
The steering isn't particularly precise, but it's light and easy, especially in the Twinair version, so it still makes a convincing city car; the high driving position and excellent all-round vision mean it's extremely easy to manoeuvre, too.
 
At higher speeds wind noise is more intrusive than in many rival city cars, but the standard mud and snow tyres don’t generate much road noise.
 
Choose the diesel and there's a healthy 140lb ft of torque on offer, but the engine sounds agricultural at all times and drones on the motorway, despite getting more soundproofing than the same engine in the 4x4.
 
On paper, the Twinair engine's 107lb ft might seem less fitting, but it’s surprisingly capable. While a little slow off the mark, there's enough mid-range muscle to keep pace with traffic and it's certainly the quieter of the two engines at cruising speeds, although vibrations can be felt through the pedals. 
  
The diesel is the more economical of the two, with an average fuel economy of 60.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 125g/km. The petrol emits 114g/km and averages 57.7mpg - though previous experience with this engine suggests you'll be very unlikely to come close to that figure - our True MPG results for the Trekking Twinair were 34.4mpg.
 
What’s the 2014 Fiat Panda Cross like inside?
 
You get bespoke fabric and leather upholstery, a copper-coloured dashboard, Bluetooth, climate control, CD player with Blue&Me, electric door mirrors and remote central locking as standard.
 
Other than that, it’s business as usual, so there are the same chunky, user-friendly dashboard controls, while the materials feel solid and functional rather than plush.
 
Some people will wish the driver's seat is set lower, and that the steering wheel adjusts for reach as well as height, but despite this it's not difficult to find a comfortable position.
 
The fact that the Panda has five doors makes it more practical than some rival city cars, and there's excellent front and rear headroom. It's just a pity that rear legroom is a little tight.
 
You don't get as much boot space as you do in the Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo and VW Up, but the Panda’s boot is well shaped and none of those rivals is available with four-wheel drive.
 
The Cross also comes with the clever folding front and rear seats that are reserved for higher-spec models.
 
Electrically adjustable door mirrors and 15-inch alloys are also standard, while sliding rear seats, sat-nav, a heated windscreen and Fiat's city braking system are extra.

Should I buy one?
 
You'll have to stump up £15,945 for the Twinair and £16,945 for the Multijet diesel when it goes on sale on September 20. That’s a heck of a lot of money for a pumped-up city car (nearly £2k more than the equivalent 4x4), albeit one with genuine off-road ability. Is it worth the extra? No.
 
If you genuinely need a city car that you can take to the hills in at the weekend we'd recommend the 4x4, or even the Trekking, which is only front-wheel drive but has a heavy duty traction control system for tackling the rough stuff.

 

What Car? says

 

Rivals:
Dacia Duster
Suzuki Jimny 

Fiat Panda Cross Twinair

Engine size

0.9-litre petrol

Price from

£15,945

Power

89bhp

Torque

107lb ft

0-62mph

12.0 seconds

Top speed

104mph

Fuel economy

57.7mpg

CO2

114g/km

Fiat Panda Cross Multijet

Engine size

1.3-litre TD

Price from

£16,945

Power

79bhp

Torque

140lb ft

0-62mph

14.3 seconds

Top speed

99mph

Fuel economy

60.1mpg

CO2

125g/km

 

 
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