• The new FIAT Panda Cross looks like the upcoming Baby Jeep


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    The FIAT Panda Cross is a very off-road-capable, wee-little crossover. It’s a pity the FIAT Panda Cross is not slated to come to the United States anytime soon. The regular FIAT Panda is a big, worldwide seller and it’s more attractive than the FIAT 500L – the only four-door FIAT currently sold in the USA. Still, there is an interesting possibility in the making: FIAT is working with Jeep to build a “Baby Jeep” and the FIAT Panda Cross looks like a logical platform candidate.

    Featuring a ‘Torque-on-Demand’ all-wheel drive system that works with FIAT’s electronic stability control, electronic locking differential, hill descent control and a significantly beefed-up suspension, the FIAT Panda Cross comes with an 80 horsepower 1.3-liter MultiJet II or a 90hp 0.9-liter TwinAir Turbo. A tiny diesel will be available too. Granted, North America needs more power – which is exactly what the 1.4L 16V MultiAir® Turbo Engine we use is capable of. The FIAT Panda Cross comes with a purpose-built six-speed manual transmission – because, Europeans are cooler than us and like manual transmissions.

    Here’s FIAT’s take on the FIAT Panda Cross’ off-road system:

    “The advantages of this system are that it is both fully automatic and requires zero maintenance and it is controlled by the new Terrain Control selector, which offers the driver three driving modes depending on the driving situation:

    • AUTO – Automatic distribution of drive between the front and rear axles in accordance with the available grip
    • LOCK – 4WD is optimised for off-road use at speeds of up to 30mph, with distribution of torque controlled by braking slipping wheels and thus transferring the drive to those with the most grip
    • HILL DESCENT – For optimum handling of particularly steep hill descents or when driving down extremely bumpy laneways

    In addition, the FIAT Panda Cross is also fitted with oversized all-season 185/65R15 tyres, larger than those fitted to the standard Panda 4×4, which were developed specifically to combine drivability and traction in low-traction situations with positive on-road handling on both wet and dry surfaces.”

    Here’s where Jeep comes in: FIAT Chrysler Automobiles knows they need a “Trail-Ready” vehicle. This means: the FIAT Panda Cross, if it’s going to underpin the new Baby Jeep needs to handle the Rubicon trail. Believe it or not, with the right tires and beefy under-cladding, the FIAT Panda Cross should be able to do it. If nothing else, it should be able to keep up with the Jeep Patriot off road – which would be a huge selling point.

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    It’s possible that the Baby Jeep could straddle the capabilities of the Jeep Patriot and the (very capable) Jeep Cherokee TrailHawk.

    “AUTO – Automatic distribution of drive between the front and rear axles in accordance with the available grip
    LOCK – 4WD is optimised for off-road use at speeds of up to 30mph, with distribution of torque controlled by braking slipping wheels and thus transferring the drive to those with the most grip
    HILL DESCENT – For optimum handling of particularly steep hill descents or when driving down extremely bumpy laneways
    In addition, the FIAT Panda Cross is also fitted with oversized all-season 185/65R15 tyres, larger than those fitted to the standard Panda 4×4, which were developed specifically to combine drivability and traction in low-traction situations with positive on-road handling on both wet and dry surfaces.

    The suspension of the FIAT Panda Cross has been developed to combine on-road comfort, handling, road-holding and safety with improved off-road characteristics. An independent MacPherson suspension is employed at the front while a torsion beam layout has been developed for the rear to accommodate the all-wheel drive mechanicals, thereby saving weight and providing better ride and acoustic characteristics than the semi-trailing arm arrangement of the previous generation Panda Cross.

    In addition to its generous ground clearance – 16cm for the MultiJet II version and 15cm for the TwinAir Turbo version – the FIAT Panda Cross also benefits from improved approach and departure angles: Its 24° approach angle represents a three degree improvement over the previous model, while its 33° departure angle represents an improvement of one degree. The new FIAT Panda Cross also boasts a break-over angle of 20° and a 31.5° (70%) climbable gradient.” – – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

    Keep in mind: the FIAT Panda Cross weighs less than 3,000 lbs. If FIAT and Jeep adapt the FIAT Panda Cross into the Baby Jeep, it would put on some weight to satisfy DOT/IIHS/NHTSA safety scores and requirements. The heavier the vehicle becomes, the less off-road-worthy it becomes.

    If the FIAT Panda Cross does not underpin the upcoming Baby Jeep, perhaps FIAT would bring the Panda to our shores? There’s always a chance, but don’t hold your breath. It’s a shame really; the FIAT Panda is a fantastic little machine and its platform is remarkably flexible.

    Time will tell.

    Check out this fun video of the Jeep Cherokee TrailHawk in some Colorado dirt!

    Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum.  His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.
    Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.

    Nathan Adlen
    Nathan Adlen
    Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.

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    9 thoughts on “The new FIAT Panda Cross looks like the upcoming Baby Jeep

    1. I was told recently by the service department at my local Jeep dealer that they were told that the new baby Jeep would be a FIAT underneath. They were not pleased about it.

    2. The prototypes that are running around Italy are more 500L size, which makes sense as they have said that chassis will underpin the 500X crossover and the new B Jeep. I think this AWD system in the Panda Cross gives you a good idea what will be under the 500X. What is under the new Jeep is being kept hush-hush, but is supposed to be unique to the Jeep. I’m betting that means the Jeep gets some sort of very low gearing for off-road use, which the Fiat system will probably lack. All that said, I think they are nuts for not already having Panda here. They are small, but also as handy as a Swiss Army Knife. Fiat should have brought it in when they launched the new model. They are supposed to do the unveil in Geneva of the 500X and the Italian built Jeep aren’t they?

    3. I think Fiat is doing good things for Chrysler, but they need to stay the hell away from the Jeep brand.
      Americans are not going to go for this kind of styling on a vehicle like the Jeep with such long and storied and iconic heritage.

      They already messed up with the new “Cherokee”…if you can call it that. Granted, I understand it’s going to help the Jeep brand meet CAFE requirements…but they can do it other ways without introducing a Fiat vehicle dressed in a Jeep skin.

    4. I don’t see why everyone throws Fiat under the bus when it comes to developing vehicles with Jeep or any other product. The people at Chrysler are smart enough to only use what’s beneficial from Fiat, and vice versa. I am glad we are seeing new and exciting product from these guys. I do however would love to see the Panda here along with the new baby Jeep. Fiat needs more variety and quick!

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