The history of Fiat reaches back to 1889 when the Italians produced their first car.
Surprisingly, Fiat has also been involved in weapon manufacturing such as the Fiat–Revelli Modello 1914 – a standard machine-gun of the Italian Army in the First World War.
The gun was also used in limited numbers into the Second World War. Of course, that is all in the past, Fiat now only produces cars.
Having earlier had the opportunity to spend a week with their Fiat Spider Abarth 124, I was happy to fly down to Durban to drive their refreshed Panda models, including the new 4×4 and Cross versions.
Starting with the standard Panda which is available in two trims, Easy and Lounge.
It still boasts the same dimensions as the outgoing model.
So, do not expect difference in space or anything like that to have changed, but changes there are. Both variants come standard with 15-inch steel rims with hub caps.
Inside, all four variants look almost the same. You need a very sharp eye to tell the differences. You get radio controls at an additional price on the Easy trim.
However, all that can be had by default in the Lounge version.
All Panda models have space for five people with a 225 litre boot that puts it bang on with the other competitors in its segment.
If you think that is not enough, you can increase the boot space by folding down the rear seats and get a full 870 litres now.
In all four models, you find an impressive two-cylinder, 875cc TwinAir petrol engine that sends 63kW and 145Nm to the front wheels via a five-speed manual on the Easy and Lounge models or a six-speed manual transmission on the 4×4 and Cross models.
Power in the Cross model has been upped and it can be felt.
You get the same two-pot engine, but it now churns out 66kW.
I will not waste your time explaining how the standard Pandas look since it’s just a mere refresh and the changes are subtle, but the big story lies with the 4×4 and the Cross city SUVs.
Starting with the 4×4, this is a car that combines small car proportions with 4×4 capabilities thanks to its heightened ride and off-road styling cues.
It is a rough looking car and, just like the Panda it is based on, it feels grown-up compared to the previous 4×4.
In my view, it has no obvious competitor in the A-segment. It is still the king when it comes to off-roading in a city car.
On the road, the two-cylinder 4×4 showed the need to get up and go.
The two-pot sounds hoarse in a very enjoyable way. It is not a race car, but it offers reasonable performance for around town.
Point it to the open road and it also delivers adequate performance.
However, the overly raised seating position remains a challenge and that can be tiring during long trips.
We did not test the fuel consumption but Fiat claims a com – bined fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100km which makes it an ideal City SUV if you can get these sort of numbers in real world driving conditions.
Built on the same platform as the Panda 4×4, this one is aimed at people who are looking at un – dertaking serious off-road journeys.
This one boasts an improved standard kit over the 4×4 variant.
This includes three driving modes to choose from depending on the type of terrain you are driving on. The Cross model comes with new light clusters, fog lights, bumpers, roof bars and a ‘Cross’ logo insignia.
There are also some distinct styling changes making it unique from its siblings including new light clusters, fog lights, bumper, roof bars and ‘Cross’ logo badging throughout.
We were taken through a 4×4 driving spree where I got to feel how capable the Panda Cross and 4×4 models are.
We put the Auto, Lock and Hill Descent modes into practice at the Killarney 4×4 venue situated in the outer west of Durban.
The Cross is capable both on the road and off. But would you take such a beauty off the tarmac? You decide, but it stays happy on both terrains.
The Panda 4×4 features the Electronic Stability Control system with Electronic Locking Differential function as standard.
This system provides assistance while driving and setting off on slippery terrain.
The ELD acts by braking the wheels with poor grip, thereby transferring the drive to those with more grip. This function can be activated manually by pressing a button behind the gear lever and operates below 50km/h.
In the safety department, the Panda comes standard with stability control which is unusual in the A segment.
ABS, EDB comes standard on the Easy and Lounge models. Tyre pressure monitors come standard throughout the range. You also get four airbags and some parking sensors.
Hillhold assist comes standard. To conclude, all the models offer bet – ter quality, driving capabilities and increased off-road abilities.
So, it is either you go for the regular Panda if you want a run around car to your local mall or the 4×4 and Cross models, should you wish to do some off-roading and explore outdoor fun.
Pricing and Warranty
- Fiat Panda R184 900
- Fiat Panda 4×4 R229 900
- Fiat Panda Cross R249 900
All Fiat vehicles are covered by a three-year/100 000km warranty and service plan.