2017 Fiat Panda range announced

2017-08-23 06:01
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PHOTOS: quickpic

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“THAT could have stopped a fullback,” murmured John Kroeger, one of three minders shepherding journalists through a section of the Killarney 4x4 course at Shongweni. “That” was a half-metre deep river with a soft and squishy bed, while the fullback in question was Fiat’s most basic pickup, or any other 4x2 without difflock.

A few seconds later our diminutive Fiat Panda Cross made light work of a stretch of soft, dry sand. We hadn’t taken the usual precaution of deflating its tyres because there was no need to. It’s a serious lightweight with some pukka off-road gear, making it the least expensive, four-door, adventure vehicle in South Africa at present.

Unlike hard-core bundu bashers with myriad bells and whistles, Panda Cross weighs only 1090 kilograms, making it the “heavyweight” of the new, four-car, local range announced last week.

There are two city cars, Panda Easy and more luxurious Panda Lounge and a pair of all-wheel drivers – Panda 4x4 and Panda Cross. All use an 875cc turbocharged, twin-cylinder petrol sipper with manual gearboxes. City Pandas have five speeds while 4x4 and Cross versions use six, including a lower first ratio.

Fiat decided on the unusual naming order of its AWD Pandas because it could - and because there‘s a certain weird logic – they are Italian, after all. Four-by-four is what most others call all-wheel drive. It uses ESP with ELD and a torque sensing transfer box to distribute power from left to right and from front to rear, as it is needed. Buy one for better roadholding on gravel and for negotiating mud, slush or snow. It stands a bit higher, thanks to bigger wheels, than the city pair does. It still clears only 150 mm, but it’s getting there.

Cross refers to cross-country capability. Wider tyres, without reducing aspect ratio, help it stand 11mm taller. It also has underbody protection and a locking centre differential that keeps power distribution at 50:50.

Add dirt road ABS and automatic switch-off of the ESP. That’s part of what made it so clever in the sandbox. The wheels spin slightly to engage ELD. A rotating controller lets you choose between “Auto”, Off-road” and off-road with downhill speed limiter. Fiat calls this “Gravity,” again because they’re Italian and they can.

In keeping with Panda‘s youthful image, all versions use steel wheels with sexy caps (alloys optional) and cloth upholstery. A sporty growl is standard too.

The Easy hatchback offers air conditioning, a two-speaker radio and CD unit, four airbags, ABS with EBD, Vehicle Dynamic Control, ISOFix, electric front windows, hill holder, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic stop-start, and remote central locking.

Upper levels add Panda U-Connect, fog lamps, automatic air conditioning, running lights, electric mirrors and special options according to model.

• Information gathered at a manufacturer-sponsored press launch

THE NUMBERS:

Prices from R184 900 to R249 900

Engine: 875cc Fiat Twin-Air, two-cylinder, turbopetrol

Power: 63 kW (66 kW Cross) at 5500 rpm

Torque: 145 Nm at 1900 rpm

Maximum speed: 166 to 177 km/h, model dependent

Claimed average fuel consumption: 4.2 to 4.9 l/100 km

Tank: 37 litres

Luggage: 225 to 870 litres

Warranty and service plan: Three years/
100 000 km

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