10 reasons why you need a Fiat Panda 4×4

Well the weather outside is frightful and right now, most people are turning their attentions to What Boat?, rather than What Car? Normally at this time of year, the motoring press would be – if you excuse the expression – awash with advice on what winter 4×4 buy.

And the media – rather than sending hapless reporters to stand in a few inches of flood water in Oxfordshire – would be telling us that sales of 4×4 vehicles have hit an all-time high.

Hopefully it’ll stop raining at some point in 2014 and maybe we’ll get some weather which, you know, feels more like a British winter. A touch of frost, a sprinkling of snow. And when this does happen, PetrolBlog recommends that you buy one of our favourite off-roaders – the Fiat Panda 4×4.

Tuscany Green Fiat Panda 4x4

Its’s crazy to think that the original Fiat Panda 4×4 – with its four-wheel drive system developed in conjunction with Steyr-Puch – was introduced all the way back in 1983. The Fiat Panda had only been on sale for three years, but it was as though the Giugiaro-designed ‘shoe box’ was always destined for off-road duties. Fast forward to the third generation of the Panda, and the bloodline is all too apparent.

The current Panda may have grown up, developed a conscience and forced to adapt to modern safety requirements, but somehow, Fiat has managed to retain the vast majority of its original charm. Utilitarian, basic, fuss-free and – in 4×4 guise – utterly brilliant.

PetrolBlog presents ten reasons why you need a Fiat Panda 4×4. No, really – you do.

1. It’s the choice of the Italian hill farmer

Head to the hills of Tuscany and there’s one car you’ll see more than any other. You’ll find them littering the landscape, nestled in the olive groves or sat idle outside an old barn. They’ll be in various states of disrepair, but crucially, they’ll still be running.

It’s the Fiat Panda 4×4 of course, the transport of choice for countless generations of Tuscan hill farmers. First generation, second generation and a smattering of the current model, too – the Fiat Panda 4×4 was bought new and bought for life. Not on a three-year, balloon payment finance plan. Instead, they were bought in the same way they would buy a puppy. With a view to raising it, nurturing it and staying loyal to it for the rest of its life.

The Fiat Panda 4x4 TwinAir

The reward is loyalty in return. Whether it’s called into action when an inch of snow lies all around, or when the tracks are transformed into dusty byways, the Fiat Panda 4×4 will keep going.

And it’s not because it lives a sheltered, pampered life. The Fiat Panda 4×4 will be worked hard, over long hours and with little attention paid to cosmetic issues.

If it’s good enough in the hills above Florence, it’s good enough for Flo in Fleetwood.

2. The Fiat Panda 4×4 will keep going where others fail

There’s a common misconception in this country that a 4×4 will get you out of trouble should the going get tough. Sure, a 4×4 will deliver greater traction in say snowy conditions, but you still need the skill to tackle the situation. And a 4×4 isn’t going to stop any quicker than a normal car in icy conditions, with the added weight of an SUV simply making the situation worse.

Italian Fiat Panda 4x4 in the snow

When you’re done scouring the hills of Tuscany for traces of Fiat Panda 4×4, head across to The Alps for another excursion. Once again you will find that the people who really know their stuff tend to own a smaller 4×4. Maybe a Swift 4×4, or a Suzuki Jimny, or yes – you’ve guessed it – a Fiat Panda 4×4.

Naturally the enlightened residents of the Alpine communities will still have a Avant Quattro parked in the garage, but for slipping through tight gate entrances and cutting through the snow, the Panda 4×4 has few rivals. You can thank its lightness – 1,050kg for the TwinAir – and the relatively skinny 175/65 mud and snow tyres for this.

In short – with the Fiat Panda 4×4, you can play at being the king of the castle and the dirty rascal.

Fiat Panda 4x4 in Tuscany Green

3. Because it’s a Panda

Subjectively there are many city cars that are better than the current Fiat Panda. Some are better to drive, some offer greater quality, others deliver better value for money. Heck, the up!/Mii/Citigo trio are arguably the best city cars money can buy.

But there’s something about the Fiat Panda that helps it punch above its weight. It’s far easier to connect with a Fiat Panda than just about any of its rivals. Which is partly why it managed to beat the Skoda Citigo in PetrolBlog’s Tale of Two City Cars feature.

It’s this willing, almost terrier-like nature which migrates beautifully over to the 4×4 version. Show the Panda 4×4 a bit of rough and it’s as though you’ve shown a piece of open parkland to an excitable puppy. It gives you the sense that it will climb every mountain, ford every stream.

Of course, with a mere 150mm increased ride height, the Fiat Panda 4×4 will soon be found wanting when the going gets too tough for even Billy Ocean, but on dirt tracks, wet fields and through a dusting of snow, the Fiat Panda 4×4 is brilliant.

4. It’s an absolute hoot to drive

Which brings us on to point four – the Fiat Panda 4×4 is brilliant fun to drive. We’ve tested both engines – the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel and the 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol and both offer distinct changes in character.

The 1.3-litre Multijet is more refined and – on Millbrook’s off-road circuit – offered plenty of useable torque. But with only a five-speed gearbox, it’s unlikely to offer the all-round capabilities of the two-cylinder petrol engine.

Fiat Panda 4x4 MultiJet on off-road course

The TwinAir engine just begs for involvement. In the same way we experienced with the Fiat 500 TwinAir, it thrives on constant input and use of the six-speed gearbox. To some people, this may not appeal, but the Panda 4×4 soon settles down on a motorway and makes for a surprisingly good long distance cruiser.

As in the aforementioned Fiat 500, you’re unlikely to see anything close to the claimed 57.6mpg on a combined cycle – the TwinAir’s reputation for slightly optimistic economy claims is now legendary. But if economy is your priority, the 1.3-litre Multijet offers 60.1mpg, making it – on paper at least – just about the most economical 4×4 you can buy.

But the boxy nature of the Panda, combined with an upright driving position and a gearshift which is wonderfully aligned with the steering wheel, help to make the Panda an immensely enjoyable car to drive. And the way in which the TwinAir engine puffs and wheezes away in front you, just heightens the appeal.

Fiat Panda 4x4 ECO and ELD

Just one piece of advice – keep the ECO button turned off at all times. It may be good for economy figures, but in the real world it completely blunts the performance, making everyday driving really hard work.

5. It’s relatively cheap to buy

Without options, the Fiat Panda 4×4 TwinAir costs £14,145, or £15,145 if you opt for the diesel. Is this good value for money?

Well it’s certainly cheaper than the vast majority of 4x4s on the market, with only the Dacia Duster and really-rather-good Suzuki Swift 4×4 offering anything close. But in both cases, neither car offers anything like the charm of the Panda. The prices aren’t cheap for a city car, but then most cars don’t offer the same off-road potential of the Panda. You pays your money…

Fiat Panda 4x4 interior

Our test car came fitted with optional Tuscany Green metallic paint (£450), City Brake Control (£250) and a host of other largely cosmetic upgrades that amounted to a total of £1,155. Whether you need the luxuries is your call, but the Tuscany Green is – as far as PetrolBlog is concerned – an essential upgrade.

And besides – do as the Tuscan farmer would do – and set out to keep your Panda 4×4 for life. £15k for a car that will last you 30 years seems like good value to us…

6. It’ll probably cost pennies to run

Whilst there’s a debate over the purchase price of the Panda 4×4 TwinAir, there can be no doubting its potential to be cheap to run. Co2 emissions of 114g/km equate to tax band C, or nil in the first year, followed by £30 the year after. The insurance group is a lowly seven and – assuming you have a featherlight right foot – it should return reasonably good economy figures.

And whilst you may pay around £150 a corner for a set of winter tyres on a 4×4 SUV, a set of excellent Goodyear UltraGrip 8s – as previously tested by PetrolBlog – will only set you back around £63 a corner.

62 plate Fiat Panda 4x4 off roading

To top it all, it’s not like you need to splash out on options and accessories. Bluetooth comes as standard, as does a USB connection, 15-inch alloy wheels, ELD (electronic locking differential), roof rails, air conditioning, Dualdrive power steering and plenty of 4×4-style cladding. In short – everything you need to start your 4×4 adventure. Except the snorkel. And the winch. And the Kendal mint cake.

Anyone used to the plush surroundings of a German car may find the Panda’s interior a bit too much like a Fisher Price toy, but the ergonomics are good and the utilitarian feel seems to suit the Panda 4×4 down to the ground. There is one minor point, and that’s the brightness of the high beam bulb, which is terribly distracting at night. We did say it was a minor point…

7. It remains wonderfully classless

How many cars are truly classless these days? The Volkswagen Golf has alwaya been a prime example. Or the Land Rover Defender. Perhaps the Subaru Legacy?

The Fiat Panda 4×4 can certainly be added to the list. In all-important Tuscany Green, the car will look just at home on a country estate as it would a housing estate. Turn up at a posh dinner party in a Panda 4×4 and you’ll blend in like 007 in a casino. You won’t even need to wash the mud off first.

Fiat Panda 4x4 1.3 Multijet at Millbrook

8. The Fiat Panda 4×4 is a future classic

There are only 4,300 Fiat Panda 4x4s on the streets of Britain. They are bought by the enlightened, the informed and the educated. A Fiat Panda 4×4 is bought to serve a purpose, not to boost one’s image.

It’s the archetypal 4×4 city car. A car which spans three decades and three generations. It won’t be long before the original starts to command serious money. Buy a new Fiat Panda 4×4 today – your grandchildren will thank you for it.

9. Because of the ‘squircles’

Once upon a time, Jalopnik was lauding the squircle as the hottest thing in car design. They had a point.

They also wished the Fiat Panda was available in the US. Again, they had a point.

Fiat Panda 4x4 dashboard

The Fiat Panda 4×4 is rammed full of squircles – or square circles. Or rounded circles. You could spend all day counting them. Which you will. They’re brilliant.

10. The Fiat Panda 4×4 isn’t a lumbering SUV

The Fiat Panda 4×4 demands your attention because it’s not a big lumbering SUV.

Do the right thing – buy a cheap, practical estate car and treat the family to a new Panda 4×4. As rewarding as a new puppy, but without the puddles on the carpet or the dog training classes.

The Fiat Panda 4×4 – PetrolBlog’s favourite 4x4xfar…

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

6 comments

  1. April 3, 2014
    Sven Bengtsson (in Sweden)

    Hi, I bought a Fiat Panda 4×4 in February 2014. I like it more and more for every day. It’s a fantastic little car, just enough for me and my Bearded Collie. We live on the countryside in Sweden and sometimes we get lots of snow here.
    The trick of driving economically is to forget all your earlier experiences about car-driving. This little engine is, surprisingly, very strong and should be kept at low revs. I try to keep it between 2000 and 3000 rpm. At low loads you could even keep it just under 2000 rpm but when you go too low it could appear some vibrations.
    I was able to do some snow-tests before the winter ended. The car was very very capable at snow and ice I must say! Where I live in Sweden we have steeply roads and snow, so this car is perfect for me.
    The Panda 4×4 is unfortunately unusual in Sweden (until now?). In my surroundings however we are 3 Panda 4×4, because of its great capabilities.

    Reply
    • April 25, 2014
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      So the appeal of the Panda 4×4 is spreading northwards from the Alps?! Are you running a third generation car?

      Reply
      • July 13, 2014
        Sven Bengtsson (in Sweden)

        Sorry I didn’t see your question for a long time. Yes, its a brand new TwinAir with electrically heated windscreen and electrically heated front seats. The rear seat’s back is possible to fold 40/60 which makes it possible for a large dog-cage AND a passenger besides in the rear. 🙂

        I also changed to new “ultra-bright” headlight-bulbs for the coming dark winter-nights here in the north.
        By the way, high-adjustable driver seat is also a standard equipment for the Swedish market.

        Reply
      • April 1, 2018
        JEFF

        YES I JUST BOUGHT ONE IN MARCH 2018

        Reply
  2. April 1, 2015
    Mike Orritt

    Just come across this article, great review of a great little car. I have been wanting to get this car for a while, but decided to wait for a while until the Panda Cross came out. After test driving I decided to go for the Panda Cross TwinAir in Tuscany Green, I must admit the only reason for choosing the Cross over the 4×4 was primarily how it looks and the few extra things it can do. Are you going to review the Panda Cross at some point?

    Reply
    • April 1, 2015
      Gavin Big-Surname

      I missed my chance to drive the Panda Cross, but I’ve heard great things about it. Congratulations on your purchase!

      Panda 4×4 remains one of my favourite cars and one of the few cars I’d actually buy new.

      Oh, and that’s a great choice of colour!

      Reply

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