What is it?
An electrified version of the Fiat Panda Cross: the boxy, loveable, small Italian hatchback that seems set on trying to convince anyone who claps eyes on it that it really is a proper, mud-plugging SUV.
Only it isn’t really. It might have plenty of black plastic cladding and a slightly raised ride height, but beneath it lies a front-driven, slightly puffed up city car. But we knew that already. Of greater importance is the fact that this new Panda Mild Hybrid represents the first stage of Fiat’s quest to redefine itself as a maker of small, electrified city cars.
Of course, being a mild hybrid it does seem to be more of a tentative toe-dip than a bonafide head-on dive into the waters of Lake Electrification. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and in any case it’ll soon be followed up by the fully-electric 500e that’s expected to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in a few months’ time. So it’s not like Fiat is lacking intent on this front.
The Panda Mild Hybrid is being launched alongside the new 500 Mild Hybrid, and makes use of the same 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and 12v belt-integrated starter generator as its more diminutive sibling. This harvests kinetic energy during braking and deceleration, which is stored in a 11Ah lithium battery. This enables the engine to shut down to conserve fuel when coasting or at a standstill, and can also be used to assist acceleration. All up, the Panda Mild Hybrid makes a relatively humble 69bhp and 68lb ft.