When Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne began turning around Fiat, the relaunched Fiat Panda is one of the products he started with. The Fiat 500 followed, and the rest is history. The European market is causing a lot of headaches for the company, but Fiat has introduced an upgraded new 4×4 model at the Paris Motor Show.
Thanks to high gas prices, congestion, taxes and the like, small crossovers are all the rage in Europe. This particularly evident in the luxury sector with models like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. The Fiat Panda 4×4 it isn’t a new idea either – the original was sold over 30 years ago. Fiat says the Panda 4×4 is the only vehicle in the A-segment to offer four-wheel drive, with capability that is higher than its diminutive size would first suggest.
We’re not sure what how much it can tackle in actuality; the “four-wheel” drive system is a permanent one. As such, it’s more like all-wheel drive than a traditional high/low four-wheel drive system. However, it has been beefed up with some upgrades. The Panda 4×4 comes with a “torque-on-demand” transmission that includes two differentials and an electronically-controlled coupling. That way power can be distributed where it is needed at all times. The Panda 4×4 adds some visual ruggedness with plastic cladding and a slightly raised ride height. Overall it is unmistakably Fiat through and through.
As far as powertrains, European buyers have their choice of two scarily-slow (we’ve tested the smaller, more powerful U.S-spec 500 and found it wanting for power) engines. The first is a 0.9-liter 90-horsepower four, and the second a 1.3-liter, 75 horsepower MultiJet II diesel. This is all in a car that, even though it is based on the 500’s platform, is larger in every dimension than even the Panda. Does the Panda 4×4 have a chance of coming to the United States? Fiat needs more models here, and with a different (or highly modified for more power) engine we could see it doing well. U.S arrival of the Panda 4×4 as it sits isn’t likely at this point, but we’ll probably see some variation of the car in the form of a rumored small Jeep.