Fiat Panda 4x4 (2012) Review

Fiat Panda 4x4 (2012) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
While not a full-blow off-roader, the Panda 4x4 has earns its spurs by coping with more tough terrain than most owners dare throw at it.

+Improvement in ride comfort, outstandingly capable off road and in snow, well equipped and charming.

-Disappointing Real MPG from TwinAir, relatively expensive, interior plastics feel flimsy to the touch.

New prices start from £11,900
Insurance Groups are between 7–11
On average it achieves 82% of the official MPG figure

The Fiat Panda 4x4 has become a cult, a legend and a workhorse, and the third-generation model launched in 2012 brought some welcome comfort to the mix as well. With a choice of punchy petrol and diesel engines, and a special low-ration first gear, it will pick its way over the countryside as easily as it does through town. It’s also affordable to buy and run as a funky second car.

Fiat knows when it’s on to a good thing and the Panda 4x4 is just that. It may not be a huge seller, but it’s a crucial part of the Panda line-up and has a history going back four decades. This makes it a key pillar of the Panda range and one that many of its owners couldn’t contemplate being without.

How does a tiny 4x4 based on a model that straddles the city car and supermini classes endear itself to so many? Part of it is down the looks, which are more ‘aah’ than a video of puppies on social media, and a certain lingering attraction from models gone by.

The majority of its lure, though, lies in the downright brilliant ability of the Panda 4x4 to cope with terrain that would leave most SUVs and larger 4x4s wondering which way the Fiat had disappeared to.

Small is always handy for off-road work as it means the Panda 4x4 can snaffle through gaps others cannot. It also ensures the Panda is relatively light, so it doesn’t need the massive tyres or engines of many 4x4s to scamper across rough ground. Instead, it treads gently and makes good progress in an unfazed manner like a Sherpa ascending Everest.

When the current Panda 4x4 was launched in 2012 as a companion to the third generation of the model, it arrived just as the world was embracing crossovers and SUVs with glee. The timing was ideal and the 4x4 has never looked back. Instead, it has gone on to add the Cross version, which isn’t a model that’s a little bit angry but has more dirt-busting kit to make it an even more capable off-roader.

The 4x4 comes in a single, high spec trim level to cement its position as the range-topper in the Panda range. Opt for the Cross and you get the same levels of kit but with an extra low first gear to help when tricking over rough terrain. It also has Terrain Control to give three settings for rough road driving that includes Descent Control to keep things in check when heading down slippery slopes.

The Cross is also easily identified by its even chunkier body styling that brings a front skid plate that actually works rather than being for show. There are also scratch-resistant plastic panels on the outer bodywork, different headlights and even permanently attached tow hooks to show this is a proper mud basher.

Whichever Panda 4x4 you prefer, there’s a choice of 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol engine or the 1.3-litre MultiJet turbodiesel.

The two-cylinder TwinAir motor is packed with character thanks to its strong low-down power delivery and offbeat engine note. However, it rarely gets close to its claimed fuel economy figures, so the 1.3 turbodiesel is the better bet for those wanting to extend mileage between fuel stops. However, the diesel is no longer available new so you will be looking at a used model for this motor.

Neither engine is especially quick in performance terms and the Panda 4x4 can feel a little high-sided when driving on normal roads. Yet it’s still good to use and its superb off-road ability counters its on-road foibles in a way only the old Land Rover Defender could ever match.

Ask Honest John

Which small cars offer 4-wheel-drive?
"My partner is looking for a 4-wheel-drive car, however, it needs to be a small car - something like the Suzuki Swift for size. Can you please advise?"
Your choice is pretty limited. Options include the Suzuki Swift, Suzuki Ignis and Fiat Panda. Would your partner consider a front-wheel-drive car with winter tyres? You might be surprised at the difference a set of tyres can make.
Answered by Andrew Brady
I'm looking to replace my Daihatsu Terios - what would be a suitable new car?
"I love my Daihatsu Terios, which I have had now for about 10 years. I call it the Tardis as it is deceptively roomy. I'm now looking to buy something similar - high driving position and not too wide or long. I am 70 years old and vertically challenged so I like the seating position of the Terios. Not too confident about parking a bigger vehicle either. I prefer 4/5 door and AWD. I also like the reversing sensors and am looking maybe for an in-car sat-nav. What would you suggest? "
A Suzuki Jimny is probably the closest thing you can get to a Terios today. It's not a driving experience that'll be appreciated by everyone, however. Consider a Suzuki Vitara or Fiat Panda 4x4, too.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Is this poor Fiat Engineering - or just bad luck?
"My wife bought a Fiat Panda Cross in Dec 2014 on a PCP. By Aug 2015, the rear differential was leaking oil and needed replacing. Over the period of the three year warranty several other issues came up including the replacement of two ECUs and the reconditioning of the turbo. Now seven months after the warranty has expired and four months before the PCP is paid off, the gearbox has started to grind and shakes. The dealership now thinks the car is worth less than I have left to pay on it and tells me that I will need to pay to have the gearbox investigate or replaced if I want to hand the car back. The car has done less than 58,000 miles. Should I expect a Fiat gearbox to last for longer?"
Tell the dealer and the finance house that you would prefer to settle the matter in the Small Claims track of the County Court. Basically they have sold you a car that has not even lasted the four year repayment period so cannot be considered "of satisfactory quality" under the Sale of Goods Acts. See: Rear diff failure is common on Panda 4x4s. But please tell me if this is a TwinAir or a Multijet diesel.
Answered by Honest John
My Fiat has an intermittent steering problem - is Fiat responsible?
"I have a Fiat Panda 4x4 which I bought new in 2010. I have had intermittent power failure on the steering. I remember seeing Watchdog some years ago when this seemed to be a common fault with the car. My car has only done 28000 miles i wonder if Fiat should take some responsibility for this repair?"
It's fairly common on the 500, Panda, Punto, Alfa MiTo and original Vauxhall Meriva all of which use the same EPAS system. It's caused by holding the steering wheel on full lock which burns out the electric motor.
Answered by Honest John

What does a Fiat Panda 4x4 (2012) cost?