Recently previewed at the Durban Motor Show, the Fiat Panda mini MPV range, which will also include an SUV derivative, will be launched in South Africa in the second half of 2005.

Recently previewed at the Durban Motor Show, the Fiat Panda mini MPV range, which will also include an SUV derivative, will be launched in South Africa in the second half of 2005.


The Fiat Panda was named Europe's "Car of the Year 2004” after beating rivals such as the Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf Five, Opel Meriva, BMW 5 Series and the Nissan Micra for the title. In Durban, Fiat Auto SA previewed the Fiat Panda, which is powered by a 44 kW 1,2-litre petrol engine. The model is claimed to be a genuine off-roader and versatile urban car ideal for weaving through traffic.


The Panda 4x4 is 357cm long, 160cm wide, 163cm high and has a minimum ground clearance of 160mm. It has a raised driving position for improved visibility and a 9,6-metre turning circle. The permanent four-wheel drive system features a viscous coupling and two differentials that come into play automatically when required to off road conditions.


In 2003, a CAR correspondent found that the Panda's squarish lines and SUV detailing set it apart from rival small cars. One of the most distinctive aspects is the side window line, which tapers softly downwards, until it meets the rear side quarterlights, and suddenly squares off.


The rear end is stubby, perhaps to the extent that it impinges on luggage space, but the result is a pleasingly cute little car. The facia is attractive, yet still very MPV-ish. There's a tall hangdown section neatly housing the radio, ventilation controls, electric window buttons etc.


Fiat offers buyers three rear seat options. You can have either a rear bench seat with a folding backrest, or a bench seat with a split folding backrest, or finally, the bench rear seat with folding and tilting backrests. When the car is equipped with the sliding rear seats, luggage space can be improved from a dinky 206 dm³ to a still not-too-impressive 236 dm³.


In European markets the Panda is available in four specification levels: Actual, Active, Dynamic and Emotion. The Actual can be identified via its black bumpers and, at first glance, rather spartan trim levels. It gets a driver's airbag, tinted windows, heated rear window - and rear wiper.


The Active adds different wheels, liners on the door pillars, and a passenger-mirror. It starts getting better from the Dynamic level, which adds special trim, tinted windows and grille, ABS, Dualdrive power steering, central locking and twin front airbags.


The Dynamic specification offers three packs: radio CD player, steering wheel controls, hi-fi with subwoofer, foglights and electric mirrors (Hi-Fi pack); manual climate control system and courtesy mirror on the driver's side (CLASS pack); Skydome electric sunroof, foglight and courtesy mirror on the driver's side (SKY pack).

Emotion spec offers cloth seats, alloy wheels, roof bars, black side strips, automatic climate control, radio/CD player, electric door mirrors, height-adjustable front seat and remote central locking.


At the recent European launch, the Panda was offered with a choice of three engines. A five-speed manual gearbox was standard, while the Dualogic sequential automatic gearbox was an option on the 1,2-litre model. Pricing and specification is still be finalised for the South African market, Fiat Auto SA said this week.

Original article from Car