It might be chilly and icy out there but if you are looking for a capable 4x4 to cope with the tricky conditions that doesn't cost the Earth then Fiat might just have the answer for you.
Launching this month is Fiat's new, third generation Panda 4x4-a city car-sized with the off-roading capabilities of a true SUV.
First launched 29 years ago, the latest incarnation of the quirky little off-roader now benefits from Fiat's new choice of more efficient engines. Adding the 0.9 litre TwinAir to its range, the Panda features emissions as low as 114g/km CO2 and fuel economy of 57.6mpg on a combined cycle.
If you opt for the 1.3 Multijet diesel engine instead, there is emissions of 125g/km CO2 and fuel economy as strong as 60.1mpg combined cycle.
Both engines come with Start&Stop and a Gear Shift Indicator (GSI) which suggests to the driver the optimum point to change gear in order to achieve the best economy.
While the Panda 4x4 uses an automatic four-wheel drive system, Fiat also offers the Panda Trekking model, designed to sit between the full four-wheel drive and the regular two wheel Panda models. Acclaimed to be the world's first CUV or City Utility Vehicle, this version features the Panda 4x4's raised ride height but combines front-wheel drive with a traction control system for improved road handling abilities over slippery surfaces.
Bigger but still for the city too
The latest Panda models are longer, wider and taller, than their previous generation. On 4x4 and Trekking versions those dimensions increase slightly again, but the cars still retain their city car category.
As well as featuring raised ride height, the 4x4 and Trekking models feature a more rigid body and benefit from special bumpers, bespoke door handles and mirror fairings and black longitudinal roof bars and protective side strips. This is finished off with 15-inch smoked (silver on Trekking) burnished alloy wheels, black side skirts and wheel arch mouldings. Two new colours complement the existing colour palette: Sicilian orange and Tuscany green.
There are also six airbags, four of them standard, ABS anti-lock braking, and ESP (Electronic Stability Program) as standard. The Panda 4x4 and Trekking also feature the option of City Brake Control, a low speed collision mitigation system usually found only on much bigger cars.
On board every Panda 4x4 and Trekking there is also air conditioning, Blue&Me multimedia system, ESP, a CD/MP3 radio, 15-inch alloy wheels with Mud and Snow tyres, electric heated door mirrors, central locking with remote control and rear head restraints.
The eco:Drive system is available on all Fiat cars equipped with Blue&Me and enables users to analyse their skills at the wheel. It then gives tips on how to make their driving more efficient, save money and lower CO2 emissions.
Fiat proved the off-road ability of the last generation, by taking a pair of Panda 4x4s from Kathmandu to Mount Everest's base camp in 2004. It was the first time that a small off-road vehicle had reached this base at an altitude of 5,200 metres.
In 2007, two Pandas were entered in the gruelling Dakar Rally raid. Although the cars featured spare wheels, water reserves for the crew and sand ladders, they were essentially standard models, complete with 1.3-litre MultiJet turbo diesel engines.