Although it could be accused of being all show and no go, the front-wheel drive Fiat Panda Trekking actually has a reasonable degree of off-tarmac ability and is too likeable to damn with such a verdict..
If the Trekking were just a Panda with some jacked up springs and plastic panelling slapped on the side, it would be likely to enjoy much the same demise as many other cars of this ilk. But it’s not.
Power comes from either a 0.9-litre TwinAir 85bhp unit or a 1.3-litre 16v MultiJet diesel and whichever engine you choose, it goes to the front wheels only. But that’s not the end of things because Fiat has installed a clever Traction+ feature to help it find grip in slippery conditions. This set-up works by utilising the stability control system to intervene when the front tyres start to lose grip, applying the brakes to the spinning wheel while directing torque across the axle to the other. It only works below 19mph, but it gives the Trekking a surprising amount of ability when it’s muddy or icy.
The raised ride height means that cornering will be a little less direct than a normal Panda and you will feel crosswinds more. The mud and snow tyres have fairly soft sidewalls, so you’ll have to make compromises in the bends and accept that they’ll sing a little at motorway speeds.
The Panda Trekking certainly looks the part, although you’d have to give it a bit more of a forensic examination to distinguish it from the 4x4 model. It gets body-coloured ‘4x4 style’ bumpers with a black skid-plate, roof rails, side mouldings with ‘4x4’ logo, black wheel arches and side skirts, 15-inch light finish alloy wheels and raised ground clearance. Only the colour of the wheels, the black skid plate and the Trekking badge on the back serve as visual differentiators from the 4x4. This third generation Panda isn’t a whole lot bigger from the outside than its predecessor but there are a number of clever features on the inside to make the most of the available space.
With an overall length of 365cm and width of 164cm, the Panda Trekking can seat five people and rather than the rather apologetic capacity of its predecessor, now features one of the largest luggage compartments in the city car segment. Practicality is boosted by a sliding split/fold rear bench.