Mighty Panda ... cheapest proper 4x4 on sale today
THE big freeze may not have materialised but Fiat's promise of manufacturing the cheapest 4x4 money can buy has.
Yes folks, for less than €15,000 you can have a brand spanking, all-singing, all-dancing proper off-roader.
To be precise, the new Fiat Panda 4x4 starts at just €14,595 and for that you get always on all-wheel drive which is capable of dealing with the most inclement of conditions including heavy snow and ice.
The Panda 4x4 not only looks as indestructible as a Tonka truck, it would actually get you up the side of the steepest mountain in the middle of a mudslide.
No seriously, this little wagon has been properly kitted out to cope with just about anything.
The extra ground clearance (50mm), underbody protection, revised suspension and specially fitted 14 inch alloy wheels dressed in mud/snow rubber means negotiating uneven or rough terrain is all in a day's work.
Powering the little dynamo is a 69bhp, 1.2-litre petrol engine, which has plenty of grunt while returning decent enough fuel consumption (6.0L/100km combined) and low emissions (Band B) meaning annual tax of €225.
It is surprisingly roomy inside and the cabin is complimented by the elevated driving position and the panoramic sunroof.
The boot proved a tad small but the clever 50/50 split and sliding rear seats sees the 206 litre luggage space boosted to 236 or with both pews down an impressive 775 litres.
The Dualdrive electric power steering - symbolised by a steering wheel button on the dash - makes parking and manoeuvring around city streets an absolute pleasure.
Other technology includes an MP3 compatible CD player but the absence of an outside temperature gauge (on a 4x4?), Bluetooth and rear electric windows controlled by the driver, proved a real bugbear.
Like its little brother, the Panda is a great drive and handles the concrete jungle with as much ease as the tropical one.
She is zippy, nippy and king of the supermarket car park - thanks to the thick rubber mouldings which run around the wheel arches and doors.
We would have liked a sixth gear for motorway cruising, but I suppose this is, first and foremost, a city car.
Nit picking aside, it all boils down to price and for €14,595 you won't get a better little runaround with genuine 4WD capabilities.
And as soon as the first fall snow arrives you'll smugly agree it's money well spent.