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Fiat Panda Cross not likely for Australia

Europe gets the Fiat Panda Cross, but locally the chances of us getting it are slim. Shame. Would you buy one over a Subaru XV or Skoda Yeti?

IT’S STANDING ROOM ONLY in the SUV segment and coming up with something a little bit clever is getting harder and harder. But while most car makers are trying to make their compact SUVs look more like hatchbacks on stilts, Fiat has taken its Panda and claims to have turned it into a “proper off-road vehicle with the efficiency and practicality of a versatile city car”.

Practical Motoring contacted Fiat Chrysler for comment on the chance of this model joining the local Panda line-up and was told: “While there’s no immediate plan to add the Panda Cross to the Australian line-up, all international models are always under consideration and nothing is ever absolutely ruled out”.

Visually, the Fiat Panda Cross looks like the part two-tone colour scheme high-riding stance and bolt-on cladding. Indeed, Fiat claims the chunky bumper features scratch- and bump-resistant corner sections with a skidplate under the nose. There are tow hooks under the front, with LED running lights protected from damage. The new head-light clusters are framed with matte black surrounds and incorporate pronounced new fog lights, while the bonnet trim is also redesigned for the new Fiat Panda Cross.

Fiat Panda Cross interior

Inside, the seats are trimmed in bespoke natural fabrics with brown eco-leather bolsters while the dashboard is finished in a new copper colour to set off the silver “ultrashine” finish of the instrument surround and audio system facia. The same finish is also used for the centre console, where the new, ahem, Terrain Control drive selector.

Terrain Control, says, Fiat offers drivers the possibility of adjusting the vehicle’s driving characteristics according to how it is being used: There are three modes: Auto, Off-Road and Hill Descent Control. Not quite the Terrain Control set-up Land Rover offers.

Fiat Panda Cross launched

How’s it work? Well, Auto mode, as the name suggests, automatically distributes the engine torque between the front and rear axles. On normal roads with good traction, the Fiat Panda Cross is 98% front-wheel drive but when a loss of traction is detected the system is capable of automatically reacting by redistributing the engine torque between axles in just a tenth of a second. The level of torque distribution is varied using an electro-hydraulically controlled, multi-plate central differential and is versatile enough to direct the entire torque output of the engine to the rear axle if necessary.

Fiat Panda Cross launched

In Off-Road mode, the all-wheel drive function is permanently activated up to 48km/h to ensure the Panda Cross responds immediately to driver inputs: The Electronic Locking Differential (ELD) is engaged, ASR intervention is disengaged and to improve traction on slippery terrain, the ESC system is employed to brake slipping wheels, thus transferring the engine’s torque to those wheels with the most grip, which actually sounds pretty good.

Hill Descent Control (HDC) activates automatically when the speed drops below 15mph and remains in standby mode up to 48km/h. It employs the vehicle’s ESC sensors and ABS brake system to maintain a constant speed and avoid unexpected yaw movements on tricky downhill terrain with unpredictable levels of grip, and requires no input from the driver other than steering actions.

Fiat Panda Cross launched

The Panda Cross gets all-season 185/65R15 Mud and Snow tyres. Running a different suspension set-up to the standard Panda 4×4, the Panda Cross sits 161mm high (still shy of a Subaru XV at 220mm). Approach angle is 24 degrees, the departure angle is 34 degrees and the breakover angle is 21 degrees.

Under the bonnet: The 0.9-litre TwinAir Turbo engine sees its maximum power increased to 67kW at 5500 rpm and maximum torque is 145Nm between 1900rpm and 3000rpm. In terms of performance, 0-100km/h is dispatched in 12.0 seconds and top speed is 166km/h, while on the combined fuel economy cycle it returns 4.9 litres/100 km with CO2 emissions of 114g/km. This engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox which has a shortened first gear to enable the vehicle to crawl while the engine is idling.

The 1.3-litre MultiJet II Turbo-Diesel engine offers 49kW at 4,000 rpm, while maximum torque is an impressive 190Nm at just 1500 rpm. It can get the Fiat Panda Cross to the legal limit (100km/h) in 14.3 seconds and returns 4.7 litres/100 km with CO2 emissions of 125g/km.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober