The new Panda 4x4 has just the right amount of visual gumption to enhance the city car’s appeal. It’s still cute, but with just a hint of purpose to it – a bit like an angry jelly baby.

In addition to the bodywork addenda, which includes skid plates beneath the body, ride height is raised by 50mm over the standard Panda.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Editor-at-large
The plastic side strips probably don't offer much protection

Most of the functional hardware remains the same as the regular Panda’s. There are MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, but the 4x4 comes with the choice of just two engines.

There’s a 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol unit and the 1.3-litre MultiJet, which features in both the 4x4 and the Cross. Both of these, appropriately, make their maximum torque below 2000rpm, whereas the previous 1.2 petrol unit wanted spinning at 3000rpm to deliver its torque, and then only produced 75lb ft of it.

What sets this Fiat Panda apart from its siblings, though, is not the lack of the least torquey engine or the mildly increased ride height, but the development of the four-wheel drive system from the previous Panda 4x4.

It uses a viscous coupling to divert power to the rear in the event of slip between the front and rear axles, although some 98 percent of power is sent to the fronts in normal driving.

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There’s also an electronic differential lock, of sorts. It’s not a mechanical diff at all, but an extension of the traction control system which, by way of an applied brake, prevents power from being spun away by a lightly loaded wheel while its axle partner is denied any torque, and preloads the viscous drive system with hydraulic pressure for quicker response. The Panda Cross is of a similar ilk just with a higher ride height making green-laning possible.

Petrol versions of Fiat's 4x4 get a six-speed box with a very short bottom gear, to boost off-road capabilities, but diesel models get a conventional five-speed unit.

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