When considering your options to tackle the rough and tumble of off-road motoring, Fiat is perhaps understandably not the first name that springs to mind. However, in recent times the Italians have been keen to appeal to those searching for the perfect balance between city-friendly driving and exploring off the beaten track by beefing-up their Panda range with the additions of the Panda Trekking and Panda 4X4. Now, Fiat are taking the project a step further, with the unveiling of the all-new Panda Cross edition.
As the name suggests, the Cross is the closest thing yet to a fully-fledged Fiat crossover SUV. Slotting in just above its two aforementioned siblings, this ‘mini-SUV’ is set to be the most adept off-road Panda to date. To that end, the Cross is clearly more technology-heavy than its counterparts, featuring a generous helping of gadgets to combat the worst mother-nature can throw at it. For example, the new Terrain Control selector offers the driver the choice of three driving modes – Auto, Lock 4WD and Hill Descent – depending on road conditions, whilst the Torque-on-Demand 4WD system manages the engine’s torque delivery when conditions get a little rough underfoot. Moreover, the addition of oversized all-season tyres, increased ground clearance and improved off-road suspension set-up are all a significant step up from the spec offered on the Trekking and 4X4 models.
That said, Fiat are keen to stress that the new Cross will be as capable in the urban jungle as any Panda, and that no compromises have been made in terms of ride comfort, handling or road-holding in the city.
Aesthetically, the Panda Cross certainly makes its more rugged demeanour abundantly clear. The front end features new light clusters, a new bumper and new fog lights integrated into front facia. LED DRLs are built into the decidedly more industrial looking skid plate whilst Fiat also throw in chunkier wheel arches, rectangular side mouldings, new roof bars and 15-inch alloy wheels. The rear end also gets a refresh, with a redesigned bumper, under-body protection, new rear light cluster and chrome tail pipe.
Power will come from one of two engines; either the new 90bhp 0.9 litre TwinAir Turbo with 107 lb ft of torque or the existing 80bhp 1.3 turbo-diesel delivering a tad more grunt at 140 lb ft.
Both offer a 5bhp boost over and above the standard Fiat Panda 4X4 and come equipped with six-speed manual transmission.
The new Fiat Panda Cross will make its official bow at the 2014 Geneva Motor show. Sales begin in the autumn with pricing, final UK equipment specifications and technical details to be announced closer to launch.