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Fiat Panda Cross: 'Interesting-looking' Multipla spawn hits UK

What the HELL is THAT?

Rock and roll

It’s as tall as it is wide, so predictably there is some body roll, particularly on corners with adverse camber, but this is better controlled than you’d expect. On all counts the suspension and drive train punch well above their weight.

The Panda Cross has electric power steering – something I hate. A “city” button only makes it worse as it obfuscates steering feel, however in this Fiat it isn’t so bad - falling somewhere between “OK” and “surprisingly good”.

Taking the Panda Cross around the Fiat test track

Taking the Panda Cross around the Fiat test track

Given that this something you might very well take on long journeys on the motorway, driving needs to be comfortable and Fiat explains that it has added to the soundproofing, especially in the diesel version where sound-absorbing material has been added between the firewall and dashboard. The TwinAir sounds better and there is no wind noise from the wing mirrors with those mud and snow tyres rumbling.

I tried both the TwinAir and the diesel and felt that the excitable TwinAir more suited the car than the oily one. The diesel only has a five speed gearbox and could have benefited from the six-speed fitted to the smaller engine. The TwinAir, despite being revvy, runs out of puff at 5500rpm, but naturally that’s a good 1500rpm up on the diesel.

Simon Driving the Fiat Panda Cross

Some comfort sacrificed for compactness and off-road capability

Driving the Panda Cross around Fiat’s Balocco proving ground was an eye-opener. The little Panda climbed incredibly steep slopes, and the Hill Descent Control was more an exercise in faith than driving: engage HDC, roll over a precipice and then let it control the brakes. Your instinct is to press the middle pedal but to do so would be foolish. It would disengage the system and leave you struggling with the situation. Leave yourself in the hands of the mechanics and electronics and you’ll be fine.

Fording Fiat's fake river was easy with the air intake 739mm above the ground in the diesel and 711mm in the TwinAir that I took around the off-road circuit.

The driving position is good, and vision excellent. Being a little taller than most compact cars helps. You’ll get an adult in the back but it’s not somewhere to spend too much time. For trans-European runs to the ski-slopes you’d only really want to do it two-up.

Fiat Panda Cross

Looks like an old Renault 4 from behind

In recent years we’ve seen spectacular improvements in car fuel economy, with the Ford Ecoboost and Fiat TwinAir being in the forefront of these efforts. Here, the TwinAir manages 47.9mpg on the urban cycle, 65.7mpg on the extra urban cycle and 57.6mpg combined. The diesel clocks in at 56.4mpg on the urban cycle, 61.4 on the extra urban cycle and 60.1mpg on the combined cycle. The CO2 emissions are 125 g/km diesel and 114 g/km for the petrol engine.

Fiat expect sales to be 50:50 with the TwinAir costing around £15,945 and the diesel costing £1,000 more, although even from the off Fiat said there will be deals to be done on financing and insurance.

Fiat Panda Cross

Town and country

Reg Verdict

The Panda Cross 4x4 is an incredibly capable little off-road car. It compromises some luxury for the ability to scale mountains and rear space for easy of parking, but will find favour with both the “City Venturers” Fiat is targeting and country types. The UK will be the first country in the world to get the Fiat Panda Cross with a launch in September. It might look more grumpy than cross but it's not just a city face. ®

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Fiat Panda Cross

Fiat Panda Cross: 'Interesting-looking' Multipla spawn hits UK

Compact off-roader with petrol and diesel options to suit town and country dwellers.
Price: £15,945 (TwinAir turbo petrol engine), £16,945 (turbo diesel engine) RRP