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Fiat Panda 4x4 Review

heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

Fiat Panda
Fiat Panda

1/10

1 / 10

00/10
heycar rating
"Amazingly able, fun small 4x4 "
  • Launched: 2012
  • City car
  • Petrol, Diesel

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Quick overview

Pros

  • Goes much further off-road than you’ll ever imagine
  • TwinAir engine is strong and adds an element of fun
  • Nifty in the city thanks to compact size

Cons

  • Diesel model is tectonically slow
  • Hefty list prices
  • Disappointing economy from petrol engine

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Fiat Panda 4x4 Exterior

Overall verdict

Fiat Panda 4x4 Interior

On the inside

Fiat Panda 4x4 Driving

Driving

Fiat Panda 4x4 Offroad

Cost to run

Fiat Panda 4x4 Wheel

Prices and Specs

Common questions

Common questions

Overall verdict

"Fiat knows when it’s on to a good thing and the Panda 4x4 is just that. It may not be a huge seller, but it’s a crucial part of the Panda line-up and has a history going back four decades. This makes it a key pillar of the Panda range and one that many of its owners couldn’t contemplate being without."

Fiat Panda 4x4 Exterior

How does a tiny 4x4 based on a model that straddles the city car and supermini classes endear itself to so many? Part of it is down the looks, which are more ‘aah’ than a video of puppies on social media, and a certain lingering attraction from models gone by. The majority of its lure, though, lies in the downright brilliant ability of the Panda 4x4 to cope with terrain that would leave most SUVs and larger 4x4s wondering which way the Fiat had disappeared to. It's one of the best 4x4s going. 


Small is always handy for off-road work as it means the Panda 4x4 can snaffle through gaps others cannot. It also ensures the Panda is relatively light, so it doesn’t need the massive tyres or engines of many 4x4s to scamper across rough ground. Instead, it treads gently and makes good progress in an unfazed manner like a Sherpa ascending Everest.


When the current Panda 4x4 was launched in 2012 as a companion to the third generation of the model, it arrived just as the world was embracing crossovers and SUVs with glee. The timing was ideal and the 4x4 has never looked back. Instead, it has gone on to add the Cross version, which isn’t a model that’s a little bit angry but has more dirt-busting kit to make it an even more capable off-roader.


The 4x4 comes in a single, high spec trim level to cement its position as the range-topper in the Panda range. Opt for the Cross and you get the same levels of kit but with an extra low first gear to help when tricking over rough terrain. It also has Terrain Control to give three settings for rough road driving that includes Descent Control to keep things in check when heading down slippery slopes.


The Cross is also easily identified by its even chunkier body styling that brings a front skid plate that actually works rather than being for show. There are also scratch-resistant plastic panels on the outer bodywork, different headlights and even permanently attached tow hooks to show this is a proper mud basher.


Whichever Panda 4x4 you prefer, there’s a choice of 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol engine or the 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel. The two-cylinder TwinAir motor is packed with character thanks to its strong low-down power delivery and offbeat engine note. However, it rarely gets close to its claimed fuel economy figures, so the 1.3 turbodiesel is the better bet for those wanting to extend mileage between fuel stops. However, the diesel is no longer available new so you will be looking at a used model for this motor.


Neither engine is especially quick in performance terms and the Panda 4x4 can feel a little high-sided when driving on normal roads. Yet it’s still good to use and its superb off-road ability counters its on-road foibles in a way only the old Land Rover Defender could ever match.


If you're looking for the standard Panda, you need our Fiat Panda (2012-) review.


Is the Panda 4x4 right for you?

Live in the sticks or need to tackle poor roads on a routine basis? Then the Fiat Panda 4x4 could well be the answer you’re looking for. Many drivers don’t want a cumbersome large 4x4, especially on narrow rural lanes or in town, so the compact Fiat is the perfect solution as its small footprint makes it easy to park and pilot along back roads.


That compact size also makes it very nifty off-road where it pads along mucky tracks where most other 4x4s are battering the countryside into submission. The 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel engine is easy on fuel, while the 0.9-litre TwinAir two-cylinder petrol bristles with attitude and good low-down lugging power.


It’s not the roomiest car inside, but the Panda 4x4 is the perfect second car for a household, for taking the dogs and kids out, t or getting to the station in the depths of winter. A surprisingly luxurious level of equipment also appeals and you can also opt for the Cross model if you want the head even further into the wilds.


What’s the best Fiat Panda 4x4 model/engine to choose?

On paper, the Fiat Panda 4x4 with the petrol TwinAir engine is the clear choice for its mix of fuel economy and better performance than the 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel. On the road, the reality is more complex as the petrol engine rarely gets close to its claimed official consumption, partly as the engine is at its best when revved.


For those looking to keep their ownership costs as low as possible, then, the diesel wins out even if it’s only available as a used car now. However, this is another area where the equation is complex as the diesel is lethargically slow in town or on the motorway. The TwinAir is much zippier and more fun to use, so it gets our vote as the best all-round option.


We also prefer the six-speed manual gearbox that comes with the petrol engine to the more slow-witted feel of the five-speeder used in the diesel. If you need a serious off-roader, take the Cross, but for everyone else the standard 4x4 is fine.


What other cars are similar to the Fiat Panda 4x4?

There is very little that comes close to the Fiat Panda 4x4, either as an off-roader or for downright appeal. The only serious threat comes from the Suzuki Jimny that is even more capable off-road but less refined when driving on normal roads, and the Suzuki is also more expensive to run. Similarly there's the bigger and more expensive Jeep Renegade.


Dacia’s Duster is bigger and equally sure-footed off-road, but it feels less sophisticated than the Fiat and the cabin doesn’t have the same air of quality. As for wannabe SUVs like the Ford Fiesta Active and Audi A1 Citycarver, they drive well in the city and on faster roads but cannot hold a candle to the Panda when the going gets rough.


Learn more

Fiat Panda 4x4 Interior

On the inside

Fiat Panda 4x4 Driving

Driving

Fiat Panda 4x4 Offroad

Cost to run

Fiat Panda 4x4 Wheel

Prices and Specs

Common questions

Common questions

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