If the Fiat Panda 4×4 isn’t tough enough for you, or you fancy standing out from the crowd of me-too city cars, then the Cross variant might just suit.

It has a distinctive look, with swathes of black cladding around the bodywork, perforated steel undertray, and bulging fog lights either side of the grille. It’s definitely a Marmite car, especially in the bright yellow of our test model.

There’s no doubting it’s off-road credentials, despite its diminutive dimensions. Thanks to the electronic locking differential, hill descent control and trick computers, the Cross shrugs off 70° inclines, traverses 55° slopes, wades through deep water and absorbs seriously rough ground – astonishing, for what is ultimately a city car.

Fitted with the well-known 0.9-litre Twinair engine, on-road performance was less impressive. Headline economy figures are excellent, with a combined figure of 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km, leaving the end user with a BIK burden of 15%. However, our Twinair failed to get close to the promised figures, its easy-revving nature and mere 80hp output forcing drivers to work the engine hard.

It’s comfortable while being thrashed, though. The taller suspension and softer tyres give a ride quality that rivals bigger, more expensive cars. Handling is a little vague, with significant levels of understeer when pressed, but until then it’s finely balanced.

Standard kit levels are high too, seeing DAB radio, climate control, half-leather trim and Bluetooth fitted among many other items.

It costs though, with a list price of £15,945 for the Twinair. That’s nearly £2000 more than the capable Panda 4×4, and over £3000 more than the two-wheel drive Trekking model with its advanced traction control to get through tricker conditions. An 80hp 1.3-litre diesel option is available for an extra £1000, offering more torque and improved mpg, but at the expense of weight and higher CO2 output.

The Cross Twinair is good to drive, works well in the city and is refined on the motorway. It might also tackle Kilimanjaro without breaking a sweat. If that’s what you need from a city car, there is literally no other option.

P11D price £15,495
Model price range £15,495-£16,945
Fuel consumption 57.7mpg
CO2 (tax) 114g/km (15%)
BIK 20/40% per month £39/£77
Service interval 18,000mls
Insurance (1-50) group 8 (estimate)
Warranty 3yrs/100,000mls
Boot space (min/max) 225/870 litres
Engine size/power 875cc/89hp
Top speed/0-60mph 104mph/12.0secs
On sale September 2014