Is your 4x4 this cute?
I’m not sure who gets the task of naming new car models, but whoever they are they don’t always get it right… or easy to pronounce. Think of the Nissan Qashqai, or the Volkswagen Scirocco … and the entire brand Koenigsegg.
Then there are the names that often have inappropriate meanings in other languages. Although I’m far too much of a lady to go into too much detail here, a simple Google search should get you blushing in no time.
Many manufacturers have avoided this issue altogether by sticking to model numbers as opposed to names, while others have, on occasion, come up with some great names that owners want to roll off their tongues, like Fortuner and Ballade.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
I have always thought the Fiat Panda to be a fairly apt name. It may not be fluffy, but at just 3,650 mm long, 1,640 mm wide and 1,550 mm high, it’s cute as a button – you may not want to cuddle it, but you’ll certainly be tempted to tickle it under the chin, er… bonnet. Pandas love bamboo, and the new Fiat Panda is equally green concerning its emissions and fuel consumption. And, for the first time in nearly a decade, the Fiat Panda, is – like its namesake – available in fourwheel-drive in the form of the new Panda 4x4 and Panda Cross.
During its recent launch, Fiat was keen to show off the Panda in the jungle where it belongs; make that the urban jungle, at a skate park on the Durban beachfront. The “little cars that could” made swift work of the ramps, which boded well for the next destination, Killarney 4x4, where they coped admirably around a course usually reserved for much bigger animals.
This was thanks, in part, to Fiat’s unique two-cylinder 875 cc TwinAir petrol engine that produces 63 kW of power at 5,500 r/min and 145 Nm of torque at 1,900 r/min driving through a 6-speed manual transmission. And it comes with decent ground clearance too, at 150 mm and 161 mm for the 4x4 and Cross respectively. The 4x4 approaches at an angle of 21° and easily leaves gradients of up to 36° behind, the Cross manages an approach angle of 24° and departure angle of 34° – not bad for the only A-segment 4x4 in the country.
Both the Panda 4x4 and Cross versions are equipped with a “torque on demand” transmission system, and the 4x4 derivative, with Electronic Stability Control, Electronic Locking Differential, and a permanent four-wheel drive system that senses wheel rotation and sends traction to the front and rear axles as needed. The Panda Cross adds “Terrain Control” to the mix with three different AWD modes: Auto, Lock and Hill Descent.
This all translates into a little car with a “go anywhere, like a bear” type of attitude. Let’s be honest, 4x4 enthusiasts who like to throw their machines around ever harder and more technical courses are not going to look twice at a micro SUV, but its off-road capabilities are a bonus and selling point for those buyers who like knowing that they can go camping, hiking, exploring – or even mount the pavement at a music festival – should they want to.
The Panda is equally pleasant as a daily runabout. It’s easy to park and manoeuvre thanks to its small size, yet is surprisingly roomy on the inside. In fact, with its five doors and large opening angles, the Panda can comfortably accommodate up to five people and has the biggest boot in its segment (225 litres) that quickly expands to 870 litres with the rear seat folded down.
There are also Easy and Lounge derivatives for those who have no intention of leaving the comfort of a tarred road. Each derivative comes with slightly different standard equipment as well as interior trims and finishes, while the Cross and the 4x4 have distinctive exterior styling cues to make them stand out.
While most pandas are happy to munch bamboo and sleep all day, drivers of the new Panda will probably want a little more to entertain them than that, so the Lounge, 4x4 and Cross versions carry the new Uconnect infotainment system with Bluetooth 2.1, audio streaming, a USB port, a dash-mounted USB recharging port as well as voice recognition.
With prices ranging from R184,900 for the entry-level Easy and topping out at R249,900 for the Cross, there is bound to be a range of buyers for the Panda – both from the urban and outdoor jungles – eager to put their name down to adopt Fiat’s updated baby SUV.