First driving impression Fiat Panda 4×4 and Natural Power
One wouldn’t expect Balocco to be the ideal testing ground for the new Fiat Panda 4×4, but the former test track of Alfa Romeo really has everything to offer, meaning everything with wheels underneath can be tested here. It was a real surprise to us, last week, to discover a bumpy sand road running through a small forest behind the trees of Balocco. This circuit is a world on its own, especially since Fiat put its hands on this 190ha-terrain in the late eighties. This historical ground had another few surprises up its sleeves as well, for example the quite impressive noise we suddenly couldn’t help but notice coming from behind us. It didn’t take long before it was coming from the side and moments later from in front of us, though, as a small black sports car rushed by while we were caressing this rural area in between the Sesia and Cervo river with the Panda Natural Power. The low camouflaged object was glued to the tarmac and was as fast as a bullet on steroids. As you probably already worked out, it was the new Alfa Romeo 4C with the 1750 engine in the middle which will be introduced in Detroit early next year. That was impressive! There was something else too… But we swore to the people of Lingotto to keep it quiet.
Back to the present now: the new Pandas. Fiat deservedly thinks these big versions (+47mm) of the original Panda will be successful. The 4×4 is a small luxurious SUV with a lot of attractive force. To us, this new mountain goat with six-speed manual and ‘Torque on demand’-technique is the best of the lot. The solid and very reliable build quality alone already gives it half of its credit, combine this with the extra attention to detail (optical as well as technical), the off-road look with very decent standard equipment and the impressive handling (thanks to the adapted suspension) and it all adds up to a masterpiece. A true crisis-killer in our opinion, because why would you buy ‘better’ when this already feels ‘as good as it gets’? The heightened driving position, the beautiful finish, the extremely pleasant gearbox and the enjoyable steering really give a royal feel to this piece of machinery. Also the Trekking with Traction+ system offers that same emotion and is perfect for those not living in the mountains. We do realize, though, that this heightened Panda asks for a 1.3 MultiJet rather than a 0.9 TwinAir Turbo in order to keep the fuel consumption economical, but that’s perfectly possible.
We’d also like to pay some attention, once again, to the Natural Power on green gas which we’ve already written a lot about. Like the Panda 4×4, this car is slightly heightened but it is technically unique and it beats its predecessor in all aspects. There’s also an LPG-model with regular height called ‘Panda EasyPower’.
With these extra versions, Fiat really managed to offer a complete gamma of Pandas, which suits the more than 30 years old tradition of one of the most popular Fiats ever. The beauty of it all is that this compact five-door is technically perfect, but it is still cheerful, fun to drive and its styling is very amiable.