What is it?
Another niche-busting Panda from Fiat. Fiat describes the Panda Trekking as a 'city utility vehicle'; so a versatile city car for during the week and a pseudo off-roader for the weekends.
Ignoring what the marketing department says for a minute, in practice the Panda Trekking is a front-wheel-drive version of the new Panda 4x4. It gets the 4x4's raised ride height, increased suspension travel, mud and snow tyres and funky body cladding, but it does without the 4x4's all-wheel drive and has a five-speed manual gearbox instead of a six-speeder.
To give it some off-road ability to match its looks, Fiat has given the Trekking a clever electronic and stability control system called Traction +. This mimics an electronic locking differential by controlling the brakes when slip is detected in either of the front wheels, directing traction to the wheel with more grip. Traction + can be used at speeds of up to 18mph.
The Trekking can be had with one of two engines in the UK: a 84bhp 0.9 TwinAir petrol unit and a 74bhp 1.3 MultiJet diesel.
What is it like?
In all but the most extreme of road conditions, it's pretty much identical to the excellent Panda 4x4. It's on-road manners are excellent, too, thanks to the copious suspension travel and zesty performance of the TwinAir engine. It also stars off-road, or at least it did on the gravel-lined rutted roads and uneven logs and ramps we tested it on.
The driving position, like the 4x4's, is superb, offering a commanding view of the road. The cabin is also a lively environment; Trekking and 4x4 versions get some more distinctive exterior colour choices that can be mirrored on the inside. The lurid orange of our test car is probably not for everyone, though.
Perhaps the key advantage of the Trekking over the 4x4 is the lower kerb weight, which comes as a result of not having the all-wheel-drive system. At 975kg, a Panda Trekking TwinAir weighs 75kg less than a Panda 4x4 TwinAir, with useful improvements to the economy, CO2 and acceleration as a result.
Should I buy one?
Of course. The Panda Trekking will probably be able to cope with Britain's roads for about 363 days a year, compared to the Panda 4x4's 365. But you could always work from home on those two days when you get snowed in, or hope they fall on the weekend.
In everyday driving the Panda Trekking will pretty much match, if not better, a Panda 4x4 thanks to its slightly improved economy and performance. You might miss the extra gear if doing a lot of motorway miles, but perhaps not so much when you consider the Trekking is likely to cost around £1000 less than the Panda 4x4 when it goes on sale later this month.
We'd whole heartedly recommend both cars, so it really just comes down to whether or not you think its worth £1000 for the extra 4x4 kudos, a sixth gear and true go-anywhere, anytime ability, rather than the ability to go just about anywhere just about all of the time.
Fiat Panda Trekking TwinAir
Price £13,000 (est); 0-62mph 11.5sec; Top speed 105mph; Economy 61.4mpg; CO2 105g/km; Engine 875cc, two-cylinder, turbocharged petrol; Kerb weight 975kg; Power 84bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 107lb ft at 1900rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual