Fiat Panda Cross: road test

Posted on February 13th, 2015 by James Luckhurst

No snow, rain or mud will stop the Panda Cross getting from A to B.

Fiat Panda Cross: road test

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What is it?

The five-door Fiat Panda Cross is a fun, funky and fashionable car that can fulfil day-to-day driving duties but also deliver exceptional off-road capabilities. It is available with petrol or diesel powertrains.

How safe is it?
The Fiat Panda Cross will not have to be reassessed for a new Euro NCAP safety rating, but instead carries the same 4-star grade that the standard Panda model achieved.

Who should buy one?
Anyone who enjoys day-to-day driving but wants to stay mobile during harsh winters. Fiat has a number of potential buyers in mind – singles with active lifestyles, families who demand flexibility and empty-nesters who still appreciate fun.

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Fiat Panda Cross: road test

The Fiat Panda Cross has taken the all-round capabilities of the Panda 4×4 and then upped the ante by offering even more attitude, capability and entertainment.
It is available with a choice of just two powertrains that have both received a little extra power boost. The two-cylinder 0.9-litre TwinAir Turbo petrol engine sees its maximum power increased to 90bhp from 85bhp. And the 1.3-litre MultiJet II turbodiesel engine also enjoys a 5bhp increase up to 80bhp.
Fiat believes that 60% of the Panda Cross sales will be the TwinAir petrol variant with its six-speed manual gearbox. This punchy little powertrain delivers plenty of energy and copes admirably with busy city-centre traffic where it zips around at ease. The excellent all-round vision is another bonus and out on the faster roads there is ample power on tap.

However, we did find it necessary to change gears quite frequently and when driving in Eco mode the drain in power is quite noticeable.

This particular model is fitted with a ‘crawler’ first gear which proves its worth when tackling any off-road terrain. And Fiat was more than happy to show just how capable the Panda Cross is by setting up a course around a country park through boggy woodland plus up and down very steep inclines.
Not once did the car falter as it hauled itself up long testing slopes and the hill descent control was also most impressive. And all that in a little twin-cylinder car.

We also took the diesel model off-road where it faced the challenges of clambering over rocks and boulders, wading through deep water and tackling slippery gravel and sand at a quarry. And once again, the Panda Cross ate up the ground with ease. The vehicle can tackle a maximum gradient of 70% and lateral gradients up to 55% – the additional ground clearance along with plenty of extra body armour helps to protect the vital components.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Fiat Panda Cross: road test

There is ample room for four adults to travel in comfort and the high roof-line and large windows make for a bright and cheerful environment.

Although the boot is not huge at 225 litres, it can easily accommodate the weekly shopping or a number of overnight bags. With the rear seats folded flat the capacity is increased to 870 litres.
As well as all the added off-road extras, the all-wheel-drive Panda Cross also boasts a fresh interior with bespoke fabric and cloth upholstery, matching door panels, a copper coloured dashboard and a silver central console that houses the Terrain Control Drive selector – a first in the segment. This allows drivers to adjust the vehicle’s driving characteristics via three modes – auto, off-road and hill descent control.

Switching modes is very simple and although the bulk of driving miles will be clocked up in auto mode, it’s reassuring to know the car will keep moving if there is a sudden snowstorm.

SAFETY
Fiat Panda Cross: road test
As well as the more instantly recognisable safety features, the Fiat Panda Cross has some additional extras at a cost. The City Brake Control system can be added to the Panda Cross for £250. It operates at speed up to 19mph and uses laser technology to detect vehicles or other obstacles in front of the car. If the driver ignores warning signals, then the system can activate the car’s braking system to avoid any pending collision.

EQUIPMENT

Fiat Panda Cross: road test

The basic Panda Cross has been given lots of added exterior protection such as chunky new bumpers, a large skid plate, LED daytime running lights in protected recesses, thick side mouldings, under-body protection and distinctive new lights.

And there is plenty to explore inside the car too with climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, heated electric door mirrors, a leather steering wheel and a CD player. Options such as the winter pack (£250) adds a heated windscreen heated front seats.

COSTS

Fiat Panda Cross: road test
The TwinAir petrol model is priced from £15,945 and the MultiJet diesel version starts at £16,945. When additional packs are added, the price does bump up a little but not too much, so the Panda Cross remains reasonably competitive in its segment.

Fiat believes buyers will slightly favour the petrol model and predict it will be responsible for the majority of sales. It is cheaper to buy initially, although the diesel car should prove more economical to run.

WE SAY

No snow, rain or mud will stop the Panda Cross getting from A to B.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £15,945
Performance: 0-62mph in 12.0 seconds
Economy: 57.6mpg combined
Insurance: 9
Tax: Band C (£0 first year)

Figures for the Fiat Panda Cross 0.9 TwinAir 90bhp (six-speed manual)