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Fiat Panda Trekking 2014 Review

We turn the spotlight on the Fiat Panda Trekking and answer the crucial questions, including the biggest -- would you buy one?

We turn the spotlight on the Fiat Panda Trekking and answer the crucial questions, including the biggest --  would you buy one?

What is it?

Believe it or not the Panda is an off road version of the iconic Fiat 500 Bambino. Produced since 1980 this is the third generation to carry the name, but the first for us because we missed out on the first two.

How much?

Prices start from $16,500 driveaway. Trekking is the most desirable and expensive model in the five car range priced from $24,000 (premium paint adds $500).

What are competitors?

Think idiosyncratic. Maybe the Skoda Yeti, or perhaps the new Nissan Juke – the Ford Ecosport at a stretch.

What's under the bonnet?

The 1.2-litre (1248cc) turbocharged four cylinder diesel delivers 55kW of power and 190Nm of torque. Drive is delivered to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission (there is no auto available). Overseas Trekking is offered with all-wheel drive, but sadly this is not the case here (we assume to reduce costs).

The diesel comes with automatic stop-start to save fuel when the car is idle, say at traffic lights and an indicator that encourages the driver to change gears for better economy.

How does it go?

Forget the two cylinder TwinAir. The diesel is just what the doctor ordered. We're more than happy with the manual too, given Fiat's silly Dualogic robotised manual as the only alternative (in other models).

Is it economical?

You bet. It's rated at just 4.2 litres/100km. With a 35-litre tank that gives it a theoretical range of 830km. We were getting 5.0 after just over 500km.

Is it green?

Producing 109g/km of CO2 it receives four out of five stars from the Government's Green Vehicle Guide (Prius is the benchmark at five).

Is it safe?

Gets a full five stars for crash worthiness from the ANCAP organisation, with six airbags, ABS anti-lock braking with Brake Assist System (BAS), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and an active anti-whiplash head restraint system.

Is it comfortable?

Not bad for a small car. Rear legroom is tight though. Lack of trim on the back of the rear seat in the luggage area looks cheap.

What's it like to drive?

Surprisingly good. No reach adjust for the steering wheel but the manual is easy to use and the small diesel provides plenty of pep. The Panda is designed primarily as a city car so I guess we can forgive the lack of cruise control – you may not?

Is it value for money?

Scores climate air, 15 inch alloys, leather wheel and gear shift, power mirrors and front windows, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, fog lights as well as day time running lights, six-speaker audio with steering wheel controls, height adjustable driver's seat, Bluetooth with USB and AUX connectivity.

Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional Blue&Me TomTom navigation with a smallish 4.3-inch touchscreen that sits in its own dock atop the dash and is fully integrated with the vehicle's audio system (it includes school zone and speed camera warnings).

Would we buy one?

Maybe. This is the best Fiat that we have driven in years. Fit and finish is excellent and the interior treatment is a cut above anything else we have seen from the company.

Fiat Panda Trekking
Price: from $24,000
Engine: 1.2-litre diesel, 55kW/190Nm 
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 4.2L/100km

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Range and Specs

Easy 0.9L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $8,030 – 11,330 2014 Fiat Panda 2014 Easy Pricing and Specs
Lounge 0.9L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $12,320 – 16,390 2014 Fiat Panda 2014 Lounge Pricing and Specs
Pop 1.2L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $7,040 – 9,900 2014 Fiat Panda 2014 Pop Pricing and Specs
Trekking 1.2L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $13,090 – 17,490 2014 Fiat Panda 2014 Trekking Pricing and Specs