Test drive – Fiat Panda 4×4 Climbing
Saturday 23rd February 2013, 5:00PM GMT.
IT MAKES sense to set the scene for this test-drive. It’s the day before the snow comes to Guernsey, there is a nip in the air and gunmetal-grey clouds obscure the sky completely.
I’m hoping the white stuff will come down during the next hour or so in order to get the maximum out of the Panda.
This rugged little 4×4 has been described as the thinking man or woman’s vehicle for coping with tough driving conditions and is the perfect vehicle to drive for those who live in the Alps or Dolomites.
Top Gear magazine named it their SUV of the year for 2012, praising this, the third edition, for its excellent 4×4 capabilities, ride and comfort.
Well, our terrain may be very different to the snow-capped peaks of an Italian mountain range, but the Panda 4×4 is still a cracking little car for Guernsey.
It’s nippy and it grips the road superbly. The sound from the 875cc turbocharged TwinAir engine is a fabulous throaty growl, making it seem much larger. Roaring up to Fort Hommet to meet Steve the photographer, he says admiringly: ‘it sounds like a real thumper.’
While I am hopeful of a sudden blizzard while out on the roads, none is forthcoming so I instead head for the lanes around Pleinmont, as advised by Dave at Fiat dealership Le Mont Saint Garage.
The Panda loves the steep, narrow terrain and grips the road like a tree frog.
Thanks to the electronic stability programme and electronic locking differential, which ensures maximum traction, the Panda breezed along as if it was on virgin tarmac rather than twisty, mucky back lanes. The suspension is cracking and it doesn’t miss a beat going around corners.
Inside, the fully-adjustable driver’s seat allows for a superb positioning aspect and it’s comfortable too.
It has great interior styling, there are some fantastic colour combinations for upholstery and the equipment has its own individual twist too. There is a quirky handbrake that is more ergonomically styled to fit the hand compared with the more-standard ‘rod’ shaped version.
The dashboard is practical and great to look at. The dials are housed in squared-off portholes and the gear knob is a similar squared-off shape.
The exterior is rugged without being overly macho. With its chunky alloys and snub nose it looks like a tough little trooper, able to deal with whatever road or weather conditions it encounters. There is plenty of boot space and built-in roof rails. It’s the kind of car that shouts to be laden with snowboards, surfboards or any other kind of outdoor equipment.
There is a choice of engines, the 1.3 MultiJet II 16v diesel or the 875cc turbocharged TwinAir engine. Both come with start/stop technology as standard. They are both fuel-efficient too, with combined consumption of up to 60.1mpg for the 1.3 MultiJet version.
As Fiat say, ‘if you’re looking for fun and adventure, you’ve found it’. I think they may be right. All I need now is snow.