Johannesburg - Fiat’s new Panda, scheduled to be launched in South Africa later this month and already being previewed on Fiat's local website, will be released in two variants. One is a conventional five-door hatchback city car, the other the attitudinous Panda Cross, successor to the surprisingly capable Panda 4x4 Trekking of a few years back.

The Panda Cross in the ‘coming soon’ banner on the Fiat SA website - is a dead ringer for the Panda Cross currently available in the UK, with either a 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel or the 875cc Twin-Air turbopetrol.

So it’s a good bet that one of the variants we will be getting in SA will be the Panda Cross Twin-Air, driving all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox and taking full advantage of the import duty loophole for engines of less than one litre.

Whether we will also be getting the 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel is an open question, although my guess would be, probably not. Fiat’s miniature beetle-crusher will already be a niche player in a niche market, in which diesel variants occupy an even smaller niche. Do the maths - you can bet Fiat Chrysler SA already has.

Less is known about the conventional hatchback model - but what we do know is that last month ago Fiat Chrysler UK launched an entry-level version of the Panda Cross called the City Cross, with front-wheel drive only, powered by a 1.2-litre petrol four.

So it's likely that the Panda hatch will be launched in South Africa in an entry-level format with the naturally-aspirated 1.2, and in an up-specced derivative with the turbo twin.

Stay tuned for prices and specs later this month.

IOL Motoring

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