The legacy of the Cappuccino looms large over my vehicular history. It was the perfect introduction to Japanese cars and in particular the wonders of keijidōsha, the two mainstays of my automotive purchases ever since.
But it’s time for a change.
Let’s get the soppy bit out of the way first: I’m going to miss the JDMny terribly. Not only has it made my crummy commute that little bit more bearable but it’s taken myself, my wife, and our Lakeland Terrier on almost every adventure we’ve had over the past 5 years. It’s just a special car.
At 20 years old (exactly – some of the interior panels are stamped October 1999) and with over 200,000km on the odometer I was always aware that the JDMny’s time as a daily driver hung in the balance but the latest double-whammy of major rust issues and the removal of the newly-repurchased Wagon as a backup vehicle pretty much pulled the rug from underneath me. It was difficult to know whether to keep fighting or whether to let go [/melodramatics] but ultimately I decided that it was time to draw the JDMny chapter to a close. It’ll break my heart to see it heading off to be recycled but it’s also important to remember that it’s just a car – now and again we all need reminding that there are bigger things out there to concern ourselves with!
So why a Fiat Panda 4×4? I reckon Pandas of all types have a pleasing utilitarian vibe to them which is only heightened when a 4WD setup is slung underneath them. When my wife purchased her first Fiat 500 a few years ago I remember grabbing a photo of a box-fresh Panda Cross in the dealership car park and thinking what a cheeky little monkey it looked with its exposed towing eyes, aggressive bumpers and standard mud and snow tyres; the 500 itself – which shares its platform with the Panda – subsequently impressed me hugely with its comfort, ride quality, and lovely, honest feel.
But why not a new Jimny? Well, aside from the small issue of not having £19,000 lying around there’s also the two-year waiting list to contend with and, whilst I understand the use of a simple N/A 4 -cylinder, I’m also genuinely a little disappointed that the JB73 doesn’t use the 3 cylinder, 1l turbocharged Boosterjet engine… but then I did switch from a UK to a JDM Jimny for some extra theatre so maybe my view is a little biased!
In fact, I guess it’s my “thing” about engines that sold me on the Panda. I’d read a lot about the 2 cylinder “TwinAir” engine – good and bad – but by the end of the test drive I was absolutely smitten. The thut-thut exhaust note and slugs of low-down torque might initially put you in mind of a diesel but the engine will also excitedly buzz itself up through the revs at the drop of a hat and the induction noises however you drive it are just delightful (though possibly most uncouth if you’re used to more sophisticated rides than I).
It’s early days with the Panda but it’s been great fun so far and most importantly looks great dirty, a real bonus when it’s white and you’re travelling down mud-splattered B-roads to walk the dog every weekend! It’s also nice to have made that leap into something more modern without sacrificing character and fun – two things the JDMny had in spades.