Captured here undergoing cold weather testing in Northern Europe is the next-generation Fiat Panda 4x4, a high-riding and all-wheel drive version of the latest Fiat Panda minicar unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show last September.
While neither the Panda nor this Panda 4x4 variant are likely to be sold in the U.S., a version of the popular Italian compact will be coming but with Jeep badges.
We first reported almost three years ago that Jeep was planning a new compact urban runabout
based on the underpinnings of a Fiat model. Those reports were then followed up by news that Fiat’s C-Evo platform, underpinning cars like the Fiat Bravo and Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchbacks, could also be used for a new compact Jeep model
However, at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show Jeep CEO Mike Manley revealed
that a mini-Jeep model would be launched by 2013. He said it would compete in the B-segment, which means it will go up against compact crossovers like the MINI Cooper Countryman
, Ford EcoSport
, Buick Encore
and Fiat’s own Ellezero
Manley went on to reveal that Fiat’s small-car knowhow will be crucial to the development of the mini-Jeep. Some borrowed technology will include Fiat’s four-cylinder engine as well as its front-wheel and all-wheel drive setups.
Despite its Italian origins, the new model will unmistakably be a Jeep. The “Wrangler bloodline” will be very evident in the styling of the mini-Jeep, Manley promised, especially the Wrangler’s iconic grille and headlight design.