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by Matt Campbell

Rugged, tiny and just a little bit cute – this the new Fiat Panda Cross.

The Italian brand’s new four-wheel-drive city SUV boasts all the rough-and-tumble styling cues, with restyled bumpers featuring underbody protection and improved approach (24-degree) and departure (33-degree) angles, hard-wearing body cladding and high-profile (65-aspect) tyres wrapped around 15-inch wheels.

According to Fiat it also has the right stuff underneath, with a “torque on demand” all-wheel-drive system comprising an electronic differential and traction control system with a terrain control selection system with Auto (on-road), Lock (off-road) and Hill Descent modes.

The car’s suspension has been changed from a semi-trailing arm type in the previous Panda Cross to a torsion beam rear-end to make room for the all-wheel-drive mechanicals. Fiat says the new suspension layout helps cut weight and improve the car’s ride quality. The raised suspension allows up to 160mm of ground clearance.

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The Panda Cross is powered by a choice of a TwinAir 0.9-litre two-cylinder turbo with 67kW and 145Nm of torque with claimed fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres, or a 1.3-litre turbo diesel with 60kW and 190Nm and 4.7L/100km. Both cars are offered with a manual transmission as standard.

The new Panda Cross gets a unique interior trim with fabric and leather finishes, revised dashboard, leather trimmed steering wheel and gearknob, climate control and electric mirror adjustment.

Fiat Chrysler Group Australia has confirmed it currently has no plans to offer the Panda Cross locally. That move makes sense, as Fiat has stated in the past that it intends to offer only two-wheel-drive models locally, leaving sister brand Jeep to sell the upcoming Jeepster mini SUV from 2015.

The Fiat Panda Cross will make its global debut at the 2014 Geneva motor show.




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