dates : 17th July 2005
23rd July 2005
Panda has been much lauded since its European
introduction last year where most of its sales are in
Fiat Auto SA has taken a gamble in introducing the
Panda here as a four-wheel-drive model. Perhaps the
idea was to make a bit of a splash before launching
more conventional models.
This is a 1,2 litre petrol version, but word has it
that a turbodiesel model is also a possibility in
The stubby dimensions of the Panda make it ideal for
negotiating narrow roads. And in four-wheel-drive
configuration, this obviously includes dirt roads,
even though this 4x4 system was designed primarily for
icy roads in Europe.
Dirt road driving shows up a carís qualities very
quickly in terms of build integrity and body rigidity,
and Hendrik was immediately impressed with the Pandaís
The Climbing version is priced against some faster
two-wheel-drive hatches such as the Renault Modus and
the 1,6 litre VW Polo.
the dirt youíre not very aware of the lack of power,
as the engine is profiled towards lower-rev torque.
The gear ratios are also well-chosen for low-speed
The Panda has taken a definite step forward in quality
compared to other Fiats. The upholstery is of durable
fabric in funky colours, definitely aimed at the youth
market. Panel fit is exceptionally good on this car.
When the going gets tough, the Fiat Panda makes do
with surprisingly basic equipment. Thereís no
low-range transfer box fitted, but Hendrik was
nevertheless working the little four-cylinder engine
hard on the rough dirt tracks at our test venue.
Still, he was under no illusions that he was in a
The big question thatís going to asked is whether
thereís a real market for the Panda in rather
expensive four-by-four form.
Suzuki introduced its tiny-engined Jeep here
successfully some years ago. But that was a more
conventional off-roader, very much an early rendition
of an SUV.
The hatchback format of the Panda means it doesnít
enjoy obvious SUV appeal, that of a bold lifestyle
We suspect that Fiat has a bit of an educational task
ahead, despite its genuine appeal and ability off the
Ground clearance measures 165 millimetres, which puts
it close to some running-board bedecked SUVs. The real
limitation will be those small wheels and road tyres.
We expected the 44 kiloWatt mill to bog down up the
steep rocky incline. But that strong low-end torque
and short first-gear ratio made its climbing ability
Where you notice the lack of outright power is on
tarmac. Initial acceleration is good. But the engine
runs out of steam noticeably after 5000 rpm. And this
seriously limits its on-road ability.
After a week with the Fiat Panda Climbing, we
developed lots of affection for it.
But our question remainsÖ where exactly does it fit
Fiat Panda Climbing
Four cylinder, petrol, 1 242 cc
- Power: 44
kW @ 5 000 rpm
- Torque: 102
Nm @ 2 500 rpm
Five-speed manual, four-wheel-drive
- 0-100 km/h:
- Top speed:
consumption: 6,6 litres/100 km
- Price: R139
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