THE Fiat revival continues apace with the launch of the interesting Panda Cross, which the Italians claim is unique in the increasingly competitive SUV segment.
The launch of the Panda Cross fell through the cracks over the holiday period, but Fiat is confident that this new, €22,475 4WD contender will still make an immediate mark on the Irish market.
In 2006, SUVs accounted for 7% of the car market in Europe, but they now account for 20%.
Fiat wants a share of this market and says the Panda Cross combines the capabilities of an off-roader and the efficiency and practicality of a versatile city car.
Fiat says that technological upgrades make the Panda Cross the most capable vehicle in its class — more so even than the award-winning Panda 4X4 on which it is based. The Cross builds on the versatility and style of the Panda 4X4.
The Panda Cross is characterised by a chunky new bumper, which features scratch-and-bump-resistant corner sections and a large skidplate — finished in silver and enhanced with cooling perforation.
The skidplate is embellished with a pair of easily-accessed tow hooks, finished in brilliant red, as well as new, LED daytime running lights.
New headlight clusters are framed with matte black surrounds and incorporate pronounced new fog lights, while the bonnet trim is also redesigned.
In profile, the Panda Cross features protective wheel-arch extensions, thick side mouldings, matching roof bars and ‘Cross’ badging in the rear-door inserts. The 15-inch alloy wheels feature a five-spoke design and a burnished metal finish, while the rear end has a new bumper, distinctive new light clusters and a chrome tail pipe.
On the inside, the seats are trimmed in bespoke natural fabrics, with brown eco-leather bolsters, while the dashboard is finished in a new copper to set off the striking silver finish of the instrument surround and audio-system facia.
The same finish is also used for the centre console, where the new terrain-control drive selector — another segment first — is located.
Terrain control offers three driving modes: auto, off-road and hill-descent control. In auto and on normal roads with good traction, the Panda Cross is 98% front-wheel drive, but when a loss of traction is detected the system is capable of automatically reacting by redistributing the engine torque between axles in just a tenth of a second.
The level of torque distribution is varied by using an electro-hydraulically controlled, multi-plate central differential and can direct the entire torque output of the engine to the rear axle, if necessary.
In off-road mode, the all-wheel drive function is permanently activated up to 50kph.
The electronic locking differential (ELD) is engaged, ASR intervention is disengaged and, to improve traction on slippery terrain (e.g. snow, ice, gravel or mud), the ESC system is employed to brake slipping wheels.
The 1.3-litre MultiJet II turbo-diesel engine, with DPF as standard, enjoys a 5bhp boost in power, to 80bhp, at 4,000rpm. It is equipped with a fixed-geometry turbocharger and an intercooler.
It will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 14.3 seconds and the top speed is 159 kph. It will return a claimed 4.7 l/100 km, with CO2 emissions of 125g/km.
The car has a comprehensive list of standard equipment, including automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity with a USB port and steering-wheel controls, a satellite navigation dock, heated, electric door mirrors, and a leather steering wheel and gear knob.
The Panda Cross is on sale now, from €22,745.
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