Fiat Panda Antartica

 

   “A Fiat Panda 4x4, that’s one I’ve got to see!” came the response when I reeled off my latest list of cars I’d either driven or I would be driving soon. I’m not sure some of my friends actually believed such a thing existed.

    Funny really, Fiat’s go anywhere (well ok, with in reason)  Panda has actually been with us, albeit in various guises, since 1983; it’s won countless awards, crossed deserts, trekked across frozen wastelands and even taken part in the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally. If you want one there’s a waiting list; the outdoorsy types can’t get enough of them across the channel as they’re perfect for tackling narrow alpine village streets. Time then perhaps, to take this little car a lot more seriously.

   With ground clearance of just 150mm – up 50mm over the standard Panda – it’s probably safe to say you’re unlikely to stray too far off the beaten track in a Panda 4x4. But, despite being in a class of one – no other mainstream manufacturer currently makes a four-wheel drive city car - and being diminutively dimensioned, the Panda 4x4 does possess some genuine off-road abilities. Beefed-up bumpers and chunky side sill protection together with some rather sturdy looking aluminium effect skid plates do a sterling job of warding off the worst of the inevitable knocks and bumps, whilst standard fit mud and snow tyres make light work of slippery surfaces. You can even choose to electronically lock the differentials, well sort of. Press the EDC button and the traction control will prevent any lightly loaded wheel spinning away what power this little car can muster.  

   Ah yes, the power. You can choose from either Fiat’s 0.9 litre two-cylinder 84bhp TwinAir petrol engine, or the torquier 1.3 litre Multijet diesel (as driven here). The petrol gets a 6 speed gearbox, the diesel makes do with a 5 speed, both get a low ratio first for extra control on the rough stuff.

   As you might have guessed already with this is no Italian supercar and those tiny bhp figures together with the short gearing reflect in the Panda’s performance. 0-62 takes a near calendar worthy 14.2 seconds and at motorway speeds things can get a tad noisy.                                                                 But, what those numbers can’t tell you is, just how comfortable the Panda 4x4’s ride is and how much fun it is to drive.

   Like all small cars driving the Panda 4x4 is more about conserving momentum than out-and-out speed. Because it doesn’t weigh very much, and of course it grips like the proverbial limpet, you can throw this little car around with the kind of con brio its Italian fore-fathers would applaud. OK, so the steering is not the sharpest, and if I’m honest the gear-change is akin to stirring a bucket of porridge but neither trait is hard to forgive once up and running. Short overhangs and superb visibility mean it’s a doddle to park too.

     And the cost? Hmm…Panda 4x4’s aren’t cheap. Our, albeit range-topping and fully-loaded, Antartica edition came in at a fiver shy of £16,000, and that didn’t include split- folding rear seats, or the rather lovely leather steering wheel – that was a £105 extra.

   Still, if you need a little car that’s great around town and pretty good when well away from of it too, the Panda 4x4 might well be worth looking out for.

 

Fiat Panda Antartica  1.3 16V Multijet 4x4

 

Engine:  1248cc 16V 4Cyl diesel

Transmission: 5 speed Manual, four wheel drive.

Power:  75bhp @ 4000rpm

Torque: 140 lbft @ 1500 rpm

0-62MPH: 14.2 Sec

Max Speed: 99 mph

CO2: 124g/km

MPG: 60.1 Combined

Price: From £15,995

 

Many thanks to Catrina at Fiat’s UK press office for arranging the loan of the Panda

 

www.liam-bird.com

 

@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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