Here's why we adopted a Fiat Panda 4x4

Photography by Shayan Bokaie

Aug 19, 2021

Among the many icons and cult classics of automotive design, the Fiat Panda is surely one of the most affordable. Revered in Italy, the Panda was for decades the mass-produced people carrier offering the standard means of getting from point A to point B. The 1983 launch of the Panda 4x4 livened things up a bit, freeing enthusiasts to to take their Pandas off-road (within reason of course). With the intent of spreading some Panda joy here in the United States, a friend of Marqued recently (and quite impulsively) bought one on Bring-a-Trailer. He offered us the chance to "adopt" his latest acquisition for a few weeks — and it may have been our best decision yet.

For those who attended Monterey Car Week, or followed along on social media, you may have caught glimpses of the Marqued-liveried Fiat Panda 4x4 roaming about. We figured that amongst what is perhaps the greatest concentration of elite vehicles in the world, a "cat amongst the pigeons" approach could shift attention to a car that’s arguably just as rare and admired here in the US. Reflecting on this, we came up with a quick list of all the reasons we just love this thing:

1. There's no replacement for small displacement

In an era of silly four-figure horsepower counts and numbing driver aids, driving is simply no longer driving — you are merely along for the ride. The Panda, however, is an ode to the philosophy of "less is more". Equally, it’s a one-finger salute to limited production and proof that iconic design need not be limited to the top end of the market.

2. It'll (just barely) hit 55

Every turn is an adventure, every shift is critical, and every action has a reaction. Inputs have outputs, and sometimes consequences. In total, the Panda's 49 adorable little horsepowers deliver genuine joy at every interaction, all while staying well within the confines of traffic laws and speed limits. Can you say that about a Ferrari 488 Pista?

3. Oddly and highly practical

Two carry-on bags, half a dozen smaller duffel bags, dry cleaning and all sorts of odds and ends fit easily in the trunk and rear seat. The design makes use of every cubic inch, which makes the Panda a great ‘support’ vehicle on some of our Marqued photoshoots.

4. Passenger comfort

Getting in and out of the rear seat of the Panda is without a doubt easier than it is in modern coupes three times the size. Both front seats pivot to a fully forward position, giving passengers ample space to hop in and out.

Why we bought a PandaWhy we bought a Panda

5. Legendary lineage

While Giorgetto Giugiaro, one of the greatest car designers of all time, has penned dozens, if not hundreds, of incredible cars, he also penned the Panda. Design benefits, yes. Cool points, absolutely.

6. Steyr-Daimler-Puch drivetrain

The Austrian company responsible for one of the ultimate 4x4s in the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen also developed the drivetrain for the Panda 4x4. Enough said.

7. No tach required

The Panda's lack of a tachometer leaves the driver to rely purely on feel and sound to avoid bouncing the car off the rev limiter. It appears the functional priorities were better spent on the dash-mounted inclinometer, which sits firmly in the driver's field of view, as well as on a sliding, dash-mounted ashtray that offers easy access to both driver and passenger.

What’s next for our mighty Panda 4x4, you may ask? The plan is no plan. We’re open to any and all invitations to cars and coffees, drives, you name it—we’ll bring the Panda party.

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