Raise your hand if you saw this coming because we certainly did not. British company M-Sport, which runs the namesake motorsport team in WRC, has created a hybrid. No, there's no electric motor hiding within this boxy hatchback as we're using this word to describe the unexpected marriage between an original Fiat Panda and a first-generation Ford Fiesta R5.
Those Lego-like angular wheel arches inspired by Group B rally cars denote this isn’t your typical Italian city car as the little Panda has been extensively modified. One could argue it's more Ford than Fiat since it gets the chassis from the rally-spec Fiesta, which required widening the shell by 360 millimeters (14.1 inches) to make room for the borrowed bones.
The engine also comes from the Blue Oval, specifically a turbocharged, 1.6-liter gasoline engine. The four-pot EcoBoost unit has been massaged to deliver almost 300 horsepower and an ample 332 pound-feet (500 Newton-meters) of torque. Output is channeled to both axles through a five-speed Sadev sequential transmission.
Additional changes have occurred inside the cabin where you won't find the rear seats anymore. These have been removed not to save weight, but rather to fit spare wheels since the mysterious buyer wants to take part in rallies on both tarmac and gravel. The Pandamonium as it has been baptized by M-Sport also comes with an FIA-homologated roll cage and six-point harnesses.
While the love affair between a Panda and a Fiesta R5 will remain a one-off project, M-Sport says more unique vehicles are on the way since the company wants to develop a line of bespoke vehicles. Meanwhile, the WRC division is putting the finishing touches on a rally-spec Puma hybrid that will celebrate its racing debut in 2022.