A Fiat Panda 4X4 Micro SUV has been imported into India from the United Kingdom (UK). The reason given for import is Research and Development (R&D), which indicates that an automaker has imported this vehicle. Fiat is likely to be the automaker in question, given the fact that the automaker is mulling an entry into the compact SUV segment. However, the X3U code-named compact SUV that Fiat plans to launch in India sometime next year is said to be based on the the 326 Modular Economy platform. This makes the Panda 4X4’s import a curious case of sorts. One explanation for the Panda 4X4’s import into India could be the automakers’ growing focus on the Micro SUV segment.
The Micro SUV segment is turning out to be the next big thing in India, what with the Mahindra S101 lined up for a late 2015 launch, followed by the Maruti Suzuki iM-4 in 2016. This SUV segment seeks to wean away B-Segment hatchback buyers and the Panda 4X4 could be straight fit, given its 3.68 meter length. The third generation Fiat Micro SUV uses the Fiat Mini platform, which is different from the the Economy low cost platform that underpins the latest generation Palio. The 1.3 liter Multijet turbo diesel engine with 75 Bhp-190 Nm outputs powers the Panda, which also gets a 4X4 system with twin differentials and an electronic locking differential. A five speed manual gearbox is standard.
A 200 mm ground clearance, a 2,300 mm wheelbase and short overhangs mean that the Panda 4X4 will make short work of many mild off road trails. The Micro SUV originally began life as a compact hatchback though and it’s cutesy design is a clear giveaway of this fact. The vehicle is far from butch as far as its looks are concerned, and the only evidence of its capabilities off the road come from the higher ground clearance and minor differentiating bits such as roof rails, body cladding, a new front bumper and the skid plates that sit below the bumpers. The Panda 4X4 looks more like a Cross variant based on a hatchback. In terms of capabilities though, this Micro SUV goes far ahead.
Another engine on the Panda 4X4 sold abroad includes the 895 cc twin cylinder turbocharged TwinAir petrol unit, mated to a 6 speed manual transmission with a short first gear to suit off roading. This engine makes 85 Bhp-145 Nm. The vehicle gets multiple active and passive safety features. ABS+EBD, airbags, electronic stability program (ESP) and anti-slip regulation (ASR) are the safety features on offer. If Fiat indeed does decide to sell the Panda 4X4 in India, a high level of localization would be the key to this vehicle’s success here. A Panda 4X4 could be served up as an enthusiast focused Micro SUV, priced at a premium over similar offerings.