There’s already a four-wheel-drive version of the Fiat Panda, but the new Panda Cross toughens up with chunkier styling, a higher ride height, underbody protection and hill-descent technology for owners who want to head into the wild.
A low legal towing limit of just 900kg means the Panda Cross is suitable for pulling ultralight caravans or trailer tents only. That’s just as well when the little 1.3-litre diesel engine majors on economy rather than pulling power. Even with the modest weight of our test trailer behind it, the Fiat took 31.5 seconds to go from 30-60mph.
It may have taken a lot of effort to get there, but once at the legal limit the Panda felt secure and stable, only needing slight steering corrections when caught by a gust of wind.
The lane-change test really stretched the Fiat, though, and on the third and fastest run the car began to get out of shape as the trailer pulled at the back of the car.
So long as the handbrake was pulled on firmly, the Panda Cross and trailer stayed still on the 1-in-6 test hill. Despite the engine’s modest pulling power, the Fiat pulled to the top of the slope without fuss, and just a little burning from the clutch after reversing a short distance uphill.
The Panda’s tiny size counted against it in our practicality tests, with very little luggage space. The absence of any trailer stability system counts against the Fiat, too. It’s also rather expensive for such a tiny car.