7 min read
25 Sep

Once upon a time, the phrase "Nigerian roads" had an automatic connotation of "bad roads." While Nigerian roads (urban and rural) have seen significant improvement with time, there's still a long way to go, and many motorists across the country still have awful tales to tell about the driving conditions. Of course, potholes and uneven terrain aren't unique to the West African country. 

So, the Panda Cross is just as useful to drivers in Nigeria as it is to everyone else. The Fiat Panda Cross is a compact crossover SUV produced by Italian automaker Fiat. Known for its rugged design and off-road capabilities, the Panda Cross features all-wheel drive and increased ground clearance compared to the standard Panda model. 

It was designed for adventurous drivers who want a versatile vehicle capable of tackling various terrains while maintaining the practicality and compact size of the Panda. In other words – a perfect blend of agility and city-driving-readiness. This model typically includes distinctive styling elements like skid plates and roof rails to enhance its soldierly aptitude.

Related Reading: The 10 Most Reliable And Capable Used Cars For Nigerian Roads 

What Is The Fiat Panda Cross?

2014_Fiat_Panda_Cross_yellow_urban_suv Noebu via Wikimedia.

Unveiled during the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the Fiat Panda Cross represents the pinnacle of the offroad-inspired Panda lineup. Mechanically, it shares its foundation with the Panda 4x4, offering the same range of powertrain options. 

Distinguishing features of the Cross, however, include wider 185/65 tires on specialized alloy wheels, updated front and rear fascias featuring prominent skid plates, and distinctive head- and taillight arrangements. 

Additionally, the new bumpers and heightened ground clearance enhance the vehicle's approach and departure angles. 

Starting in 2017, Fiat introduced a 4x2 variant of the Panda Cross, branded as the Fiat City Cross. In 2020, a nomenclature change occurred for the Fiat Panda Cross and Fiat Panda City Cross, specifically in the French market. 

Both models dropped the "Panda" name, with the Fiat Panda City Cross becoming the Fiat City Cross and the Fiat Panda Cross becoming the Fiat City Cross 4x4. This alteration did not affect other markets. 

Later in 2022, another name switch took place in France, with the Fiat City Cross renamed the Fiat Panda Cross, reutilizing the original name of the Panda Cross 4x4 to now designate the Panda Cross 4x2 model. 

With the discontinuation of all Fiat Panda 4x4 models in late 2022, Fiat standardized the name Fiat Panda Cross for the Panda City Cross (Fiat City Cross in France) across all markets. In essence, the brand repurposed the original name of the Panda Cross 4x4 model for the Panda Cross 4x2 variant. 

Why The Panda Cross Is Perfect For Bad Roads

2014 Fiat Panda Cross via Challenges.

We don’t mean it as a slight on others (including the venerable Volkswagen Golf, for that matter), but we can’t think of any other city car capable of venturing as far into off-road terrain with such reasonable confidence as the unique Fiat Panda Cross. 

In its production years, though, most shoppers were just as contented with the standard 4x4 version. The Fiat Panda Cross stands out as a little off-road machine, rivaling the likes of a Land Rover Defender in terms of capability. No kidding, and no shades. 

The Panda-Defender parallel suggests a case of Bichon Frise barking at a Great Dane, but this Panda has what it takes to hold its ground when the occasion calls for it. 

It builds upon the foundation of the Panda 4x4 by incorporating increased ground clearance, a hill descent mode (you read that right), and updated bumpers. Imagine activating the hill descent mode just for fun while climbing down those cavernous potholes in certain areas (we won’t name names) of the city. 

Additionally, the Cross introduced new color options and a two-tone brown-and-silver dashboard. The overall result is a highly appealing and adaptable vehicle, which makes you wonder why you’ve never seen this car. Right? 

Notably, there’s no such thing as “trim level” or “options” with this particular Panda, but buyers can select from two engine options. 

The first is a 0.9-liter two-cylinder petrol engine, while the other is a 1.3-liter MultiJet diesel engine, both prepped with turbochargers. Diesel, turbochargers, small displacement: it’s a perfect recipe that answers the questions of performance and fuel efficiency. 

We meant what we said when we said there’s no such thing as options with the Panda Cross, which explains the sole automatic transmission choice. However, the diesel variant comes with a five-speed manual, while the petrol version features a six-speed manual transmission. Still manual. 

How The Fiat Panda Cross Deals With Rough Terrain

Fiat Panda Cross offroad via HDmotori.it.

Sharing the same locker room with the rugged Fiat Panda 4x4, the Panda Cross elevates its ride height to provide increased ground clearance and enhance its off-road capabilities. 

Up front, protective plastic cladding shields the headlight and fog lamp clusters against potential impacts from rocks and tree branches. 

The Panda Cross features a substantial and eye-catching skid plate integrated into the sizeable front bumper, boasting no less than 15 intakes in the iconic 'squircle' shape – a signature motif of the Panda – ensuring the safeguarding of vital components during off-road adventures. 

In typical off-road fashion, the tires take center stage, and the Panda Cross comes equipped with all-season mud and snow tires as standard. Enhanced wheel arch extensions, silver roof rails, and two vibrant red front tow hooks further solidify the Panda Cross's hardcore persona. 

The Panda Cross’ Road Manners

Fiat_Panda_Cross_1.0_Hybrid Corvettec6r via Wikimedia.

At this point, you can already imagine the Panda Cross offers an exciting experience both on- and off-road. The 875cc two-cylinder TwinAir engine stands out for delivering an enthusiastic drive. The chassis and drivetrain exhibit impressive durability and resilience, capable of conquering diverse terrains. 

Although the engine tends to be noisy, it boasts character and a respectable surge of torque that keeps the vehicle lively through its gears. 

There’s just this one problem. As you can imagine, the additional height does result in a more noticeable body roll compared to the standard Panda, particularly in tight corners. It also means the ride quality may be slightly less composed over bumps, but this discrepancy is minor, overshadowed by the exceptional performance of the 4x4 system. Thank you very much. 

Be as it may, the Panda Cross excels in demanding situations. The Land Rover Defender and other Great Danes of the off-road may offer plenty more convenience features, luxury accommodation, and off-roading appurtenances, but we can tell you this with gritted teeth: this Panda outperforms some larger, pricier off-road vehicles in terms of sheer versatility. 

If you roll your eyes, you'll miss this: it comes equipped with a user-friendly Terrain Control system (also known as a Terrain Management system), enabling drivers to switch between three driving modes: Auto, Off-Road, and hill descent. 

With 161mm of ground clearance and reasonable approach, rampover, and departure angles (24, 21, and 24 degrees, respectively), the Panda Cross is well-equipped for its size. 

Related Reading: The 10 Most Reliable SUVs For Nigerian Roads 

The Panda Cross Loves Good Roads Too

Fiat_Panda_City_Cross_Trussardi_1.2_8V_(III) M 93 via Wikimedia.

While the Panda Cross thrives in off-road environments, it hasn't abandoned its urban roots. Its compact dimensions, excellent visibility, and responsive controls make it a joy to maneuver through congested city streets. 

The ingenious 'City' button enhances steering assistance, simplifying parking and navigating tight spaces. It also features an Eco button that drivers can engage to reduce engine torque and help cut fuel costs. 

Perhaps, Fiat built this car with Nigeria's current economic crisis in mind. Unfortunately, the capable little car was never introduced officially to the Nigerian market. Not even the US market got the 4X4 Panda. 

What About The Interior?

2018 Fiat Panda Cross interior dashboard - Bcbertrand via Wikimedia.

Inside the Panda, the 'squircle' design theme extends to the matte-effect copper dashboard, while stylish contrasting silver accents adorn the instrument surrounds and center console, adding an extra layer of sophistication. 

The seats are reportedly comfortable and exhibit a techno-inspired appearance with natural-shaded side bolsters that complement the door inserts and Cross logo. Although rear seating may be somewhat snug for taller passengers, both the driver and front passenger enjoy ample room. 

The Panda Cross’s increased height ensures extra headroom. In any case, the vehicle offers abundant storage solutions and convenient features, including automatic climate control. 

The Fiat Panda Cross Fuel Economy

Fiat Panda Cross fuel economy - via Stellantis.

The petrol-powered TwinAir Panda Cross claims an impressive 57.6 mpg and emits 114g/km of CO2, although real-world fuel efficiency with the TwinAir engine often falls short of optimistic claims. 

Opting for the diesel variant yields up to 60.1 mpg and emits 125g/km of CO2. It's worth noting that the diesel model carried a slightly higher price tag compared to the petrol version. Not that you’re surprised. Overall, the diesel variant proved a more appealing choice – offering a smoother, more mature driving experience and better real-world fuel economy. 

Notably, the UK market enjoyed a diesel Panda Cross model with longer service intervals, requiring maintenance only every 25,000 miles, in contrast to the TwinAir's 18,500-mile service intervals. 

How Much Is The Fiat Panda Cross

 How much is the fiat-panda-cross-4x4-90hp-offroad? via Ricardo.

We found a neat Fiat Panda Cross for sale with a price tag of £9,995 (₦9.520 million at £952/₦) at the time of writing this article. Sadly, we imagine the Fiat Panda Cross will be difficult to come by at local car dealerships not just in Nigeria but in many other markets where the Cross variant was not available during its production years. 

If you have one for sale or know where the Panda Cross is for sale, tell us about it in the comment box at the end of this article.

The good news? The car is widely available for sale as used models in the UK, with their prices averaging around £10,000 (₦9.520 million, excluding logistics). We also found a good number of them available for sale on Japanese auto trading sites such as BeForward. So, buy, import, enjoy


Fiat Panda Cross TwinAir85 via AutoGuru.at.

The Panda Cross offers as much peace of mind to off-road enthusiasts as it does regular city commuters, especially those who frequently navigate unfavorable road conditions. With its hill-descent control and a lockable all-wheel-drive mode, this Panda is ready to roll. 

If you're in search of a supermini with an impressive 16 inches of wading depth – a valuable feature considering the state of Nigerian (and even British) potholes – the Panda Cross stands ready to meet your needs.

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