The Firefly family of gasoline units could add new base and range-topping versions.

It was September 2016 when Fiat revealed the refreshed Panda family, including the regular model and the 4x4 Cross version. Now, our spy photographers have managed to snap a Panda prototype performing cold winter tests, making us wonder what the Italian company is working on.

A detailed look at the vehicle from the photos shows it’s actually the Panda Cross. However, we can’t spot any visual differences compared to the production model that’s already on sale – even the tiny little details at the front seem identical, including the shape of the headlights, the grilles, and the LED daytime running lights.

2017 Fiat Panda
Fiat Panda mule spy photo

So, could this just be a test mule for some new technologies? Our guess is yes. In addition to the refreshed Panda, in September last year Fiat also presented the Firefly family of new engines. This range currently consists of two motors, a 1.0-liter three-cylinder and a 1.3-liter four-cylinder units, both working on ethanol and gasoline. Taking into account the facelifted Panda didn’t receive new engines at all, we are tempted to believe Fiat is indeed working on adapting the Firefly engines to the model.

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The new lineup was introduced with the launch of the 2017 Uno in Brazil. The smaller, naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine uses only two valves per cylinder and has a chain-driven camshaft. Power is rated at 71 horsepower (53 kilowatts) at 6,000 rpm, while peak torque stands at 75 pound feet (102 Newton meters) at 3,250 rpm, when running on gas. This unit could serve as a replacement for the current entry-level 1.2-liter gas engine with 65 hp (48 kW).

As for the bigger 1.3-liter Firefly unit, it features the same layout with no forced induction, but produces 100 hp (74 kW) and 99 lb-ft (134 Nm) of torque thanks to its bigger displacement. If this motor makes it to the Panda, we will finally have a version breaking the 100 hp (74 kW) barrier.

2017 Fiat Panda
2017 Fiat Panda
2017 Fiat Panda

The Panda could receive these new engines in time for the 2018 model year. If so, look for an introduction this fall with sales starting before the end of the year.

Source: Motorchase

Photos: Automedia

Gallery: Fiat Panda mule spy photos

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