Much like a Panda 4x4, but you’re more likely to get noticed driving this bonsai off-roader down a high street – particularly in the bright yellow ‘launch colour’ – and you’ll have a slightly better chance of traversing obstacles if you do take it off road.
The former has everything to do with redesigned front and rear ends. The most notable change is the addition of a large frontal skid plate, complete with exposed twin towing eyes.
The latter because the Cross sits 9mm higher than the already raised up regular 4x4, benefitting from further improved approach and departure angles.
Fiat's all-wheel drive running gear is carried over, meaning the same electro-hydraulic centre clutch and so-called electronic differential lock, which in this case uses the stability system to brake individual wheels when required to shuffle the torque around.
These features are grouped under a new Terrain Control wheel, found between the front seats. Its modes include Auto, in which the Cross is effectively front-wheel drive (98% of drive goes to the front) unless slip is detected – although up to 100 per cent of the torque can be apportioned to the rear axle. There's also an Off Road mode, where the differential is primed to split torque, reducing response times.
The differential lock comes into play in this mode and the stability system switch to a more appropriate setting. Finally, there’s a new Hill Decent feature, active below 15mph, which requires the driver only to steer on steep inclines.
Fiat's Panda Cross also benefits from larger all-season tyres and steel protective underguards, further boosting its off-road credentials. It’s still not going to put you in contention for outright victory in the Paris-Dakar, but traversing grassy fields or rocky lanes are well within reach.
Like the regular 4x4, there’s a choice of TwinAir Petrol or 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engines: the petrol with a six-speed gearbox including an extra low first gear, the diesel making do with a five-speed gearbox.
A subtle recalibration liberates an additional five horsepower for both engines (taking outputs to 89bhp and 79bhp respectively) but both cars drive in a very similar manner to the standard 4x4.
The little Twinair is much the zestier drive, its surprising lack of refinement offset by its even more unexpected mid-range shove that dies away with revs.
At motorway speeds the additional extra gear over the diesel makes for much more relaxed progress, and with less weight over the front axle the petrol Cross is a livelier, engaging car through corners.