Fiat Panda 4x4 (2012 – 2023) Review

Fiat Panda 4x4 (2012 – 2023) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The original Fiat Panda was a low cost, compact, lightweight, cheap to run car. The Mk2 combines those attributes with rugged durability, better build quality, more space and comfort, and a distinct personality. And the Fiat Panda 4x4 builds on that appeal with a simple, all-mechanical, all-wheel drive system that gives it outrageous off-road ability. A whiff of extra road and suspension noise and a tad more body roll through corners is a small price to pay for the car’s mastery of snow, mud and wet gymkhana grass. And don’t take our word for it; ask any Italian postman…

+ Space, practicality and off-road fun in an engaging, affordable package.

-Diminutive loadspace, feeble 1.2 litre petrol engine.

New prices start from £14,770
Insurance Groups are between 6–11
On average it achieves 81% of the official MPG figure

The Fiat brand has been synonymous with Europe’s most affordable 4x4 since a basic all-wheel drive system was fitted to the first not-the-car-but-the-box-it-came-in Fiat Panda 4x4 in 1983. The model’s mechanical simplicity, durability and off-road abilities quickly found universal favour, particularly with Postman Pat and telephone and electricity utilities throughout the continent.

You’d think a diminutive, all-wheel drive machine such as this would be unique to the market, but by the arrival of this second generation car rivals existed in the form of the Daihatsu Terios, Suzuki’s Ignis and Jimny and the Subaru Justy. As we’ll point out in this review, however, none of them could hold a candle to the Fiat Panda 4x4’s mud-plugging prowess.

The second generation Fiat Panda 4x4 built on the mechanical simplicity of its long-serving predecessor with a variable torque distribution, permanent all-wheel drive transmission system capable of automatically transferring up to 50% of engine torque to the rear wheels. 


Employing front and rear differentials and a central viscous coupling, this robust, low maintenance drivetrain is completely automatic and entirely mechanical, requiring neither driver input nor electronic control, and imbues the Fiat Panda 4x4 with outstanding off-road and severe weather abilities.


Combine this fool-proof all-wheel drive system with improved wheel articulation, a ground clearance of 165mm, short front and rear overhangs, and a weight of well under 1000kg even in its heaviest guise and the Fiat Panda 4x4 proves all but unstoppable in even the most vile conditions – it’s light weight ensuring it trundles happily over snow and mud into which heavier 4x4s inevitably bog down.

When this second generation car launched, Fiat went out of its way to demonstrate that it was no toy. Over one million test kilometres, undertaken through some of the world’s harshest terrain, attested to both the Fiat Panda 4x4’s remarkable off-road abilities and the durability of its drivetrain… 

In Lapland, the car performed faultlessly in temperatures of minus 40 degrees, maintaining traction and stability on surfaces more slippery than a freshly buttered banister, and overcoming snow covered gradients of more than 40%. In the Kalahari Desert, the most mechanically debilitating of unsurfaced roads combined with dust, sand and 45 degree temperatures to subject the Fiat Panda 4x4’s drivetrain and suspension to the harshest examination.

Finally, two Fiat Panda 4x4s set out from Kathmandu to drive through the Himalayas to the Mount Everest advance base camp, sited at an altitude of 5200 metres. This was the first time a small off-road vehicle had achieved this goal, a feat made all the more remarkable by the absence of any modification to the standard car except minor engine control unit adaptations appropriate to the local petrol.

On road, the Fiat Panda 4x4 further augments the additional levels of traction and stability inherent in a sophisticated, variable torque distribution all-wheel drive system with ABS anti-lock brakes, complete with electronic brakeforce distribution, and MSR to modulate brake torque whilst changing down a gear.

At launch, the Fiat Panda 4x4 cost just £8995 on-the-road, and boasted just one engine choice and one trim level. It was fitted with Fiat’s proven FIRE 1.2 litre, 8 valve, 60bhp power plant mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, took a somewhat leisurely 20 whole seconds to reach 62mph from a standstill, and couldn’t pull a new age traveller off your sister.

In August 2008 the Fiat Panda Cross was launched. This features even chunkier styling and a bespoke front end, but most importantly is fitted with a 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel engine, which is much preferable to the standard 1.2-litre petrol unit.

The comprehensive standard equipment package featured electric front windows, central locking, Dualdrive electronic power steering (remember the ‘girlie’ button?), twin front airbags and a Blaupunkt stereo radio cassette. Moreover, the availability of up to six airbags, automatic climate control, parking sensors, a Sky Dome electric sunroof, steering wheel audio controls and a stereo CD with MP3 player imbued Fiat Panda 4x4 with a level of on-board sophistication and refinement unparalleled in this class.

The second generation Panda 4x4 also offered a fine array of both active and passive safety features. It was the first car in its class to offer up to six airbags, whilst front seat belts with pretensioner and load limiter, three-point rear seat belts, and anti-submarining seats are all fitted as standard.

Unlike most of today’s overweight, over-complicated, electronically nannied 4x4s, the Fiat Panda 4x4 is immensely appealing to drive off road – properly involving in an old-fashioned mechanical way, and more fun than a bath full of otters. Recommended.

Ask Honest John

What's the best 4x4 for narrow, rural roads?

"My daughter, an emergency nurse, is moving from the south of England to the North East and will be commuting between hospitals. She is looking to buy a new car more appropriate to the change in climate and the narrower roads. A small 4x4 would be ideal, perhaps a MINI? Your advice would be very much appreciated. "
I'd recommend the Suzuki Jimny, Fiat Panda 4x4, Dacia Duster 4x4 or MINI Countryman All4. The Jimny is a brilliant 4x4. But Suzuki stopped selling it as a new car in 2021, which means your daughter will need a nearly new model via a dealer.
Answered by Dan Powell

Should I buy a four-wheel-drive car for snow or will winter tyres do the job?

"I want to buy a car to drive down to the Alps for the winter ski season. I'm thinking that an AWD or 4WD would be best, or will an ordinary car fitted with winter tyres be as good? I do appreciate that I will need to take snow chains. I don't want it to be too big as it will be parked in an underground car park with fairly tight spaces. I currently have a Honda Jazz so, ideally, not much bigger than that. A newish second-hand car would be best but I would also consider a new car. My budget is £30k. Any advice, particularly a list of models that I should consider, would be really appreciated. Thank you."
A two-wheel drive car with snow tyres is much better than a four-wheel drive without, although a four-wheel drive with snow tyres is the best option of the lot! The Mazda CX-30 is worth considering because it should be as reliable as your Honda and your budget is plenty to get you a brand new car. It looks stylish and feels nicely built inside. It has a 2.0-litre petrol engine so you can expect it to get around 40mpg if driven carefully, about 50% less than your Honda. For parking, it's about 3 cm longer than the Honda. The Skoda Karoq is about the same size as the Mazda. It's not got quite as good a reputation for reliability as the Mazda (it's still pretty good) and it's not quite as stylish looking, however, it is more practical and has better infotainment. Four-wheel drive versions of the Karoq only come with a diesel engine, although I wouldn't let that put you off – it means they have plenty of power and will get better fuel economy than the Mazda. Your budget is enough to get you a new car. Both the Fiat Panda 4x4 and the Suzuki Jimny have lots of grip in snow and are actually slightly smaller than your Jazz, although they both lack power and can feel a little wearing on a long drive. You'll get them brand new under budget.
Answered by Russell Campbell

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
More Questions

What does a Fiat Panda 4x4 (2012 – 2023) cost?