Fiat Panda review
The Fiat Panda is fun to drive, practical and makes a great city car
The third-generation Fiat Panda was launched at the beginning of 2012, and is slightly longer and wider than the previous model. The Fiat Panda has been around since 1980, but even so, it's still stylish and makes a great city car. It has a variety of petrol and diesel engines in either two, three or four-cylinder layouts. Plus, if you choose one of the two-cylinder TwinAir models, CO2 emissions will be low enough to avoid paying road tax. There are four specifications on offer - Pop, Easy, Lounge and Trekking. Entry-level Pop versions come with very little equipment, while you'll have to opt for Lounge or Trekking models if you're after features like alloy wheels or air-con. The latest Panda is bigger than previous generations, and there are plenty of cubby holes as well as a decent sized boot which expands easily thanks to a sliding rear bench.
Our choice: Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy
The Fiat Panda has slightly boxy dimensions especially when compared to its city car rivals. It's got rounded off lines that create what Fiat describes as a 'soft cube'. The Fiat Panda is characterised by a modern face, curved wheel arches and a big windscreen that give a stylish look. The interior of the Fiat Panda has improved massively, and the rounded theme is carried over inside the cabin, but the Panda still can't compete with rivals such as the Kia Picanto or VW up! for interior quality. There are four trim levels: Pop, Easy, Lounge and Trekking. Entry-level Pop cars get 14-inch steel wheels, electric front windows, and a CD player with MP3 as standard. Meanwhile, mid-range Easy cars get remote central locking, roof rails and air-con. Lounge modes get alloy wheels, fog lights and heated door mirrors. All-new Panda Trekking versions get 15-inch alloys, ESP and Hill Holder as well as Traction Plus.
The latest Fiat Panda is much easier to drive than its predecessor, while improved suspension settings have gone a long way in terms of better handling and body roll. Overall, there are three engines to choose from, including a 1.2-litre and 1.3-litre petrol, as well as Fiat's highly efficient 0.9-litre TwinAir engine. This engine is the fastest one in the line-up, and reaches 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds. It also has the highest top speed at 110mph, and the turbocharger provides more mid-range grunt. Pressing the Eco button on the dash slashes torque output from 145Nm to 100Nm in a bid to cut fuel costs. The Panda is a great city car - it's nippy and handles well, too. However, it's not great on motorways and all the engines are noisy when they're worked too hard.
The Fiat Panda only scored four out of a possible five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test rating – that’s simply not good enough in a class where most newcomers are achieving the full five-star rating. It missed out due to the fact that ESP isn't fitted as standard, and it's actually only available as a £315 option. The Fiat Panda didn't finish in the top 100 in the 2013 Driver Power survey, but the Mk1 Panda did finish 143rd overall. Things don't get any better when it comes to the car maker - Fiat finished 30th out of 32 in our manufacturer ratings survey. Fiat definitely has some work to do when it comes to customer satisfaction, but it does offer a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty with the Panda.
The Fiat Panda has 225 litres of boot space - that's more than the Kia Picanto, which has 200 litres. Sadly, it's not enough to trouble the Volkswagen up! or the new Hyundai i10. The Fiat Panda comes with a sliding rear bench that'll increase the standard boot size to 870 litres of boot space, however. The dashboard has a large main storage cubby and there's a decent sized glove compartment and two cup holders. You can also fold the front passenger seat down to create a makeshift table. The rear bench does feel a bit cheap, but it slides forwards or backwards to create either more legroom or boot space. Plus, the boxy dimensions of the Fiat Panda means there's plenty of headroom.
The two TwinAir petrol engines will help to keep running costs down - both emit less than 100g/km of CO2, so are road tax free. Meanwhile, the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine manages the best fuel economy, returning 72.4mpg and emitting just 109g/km of CO2. All engines benefit from efficient stop-start fuel saving technology that cuts the engine when idling, too. Plus, the Fiat Panda comes with the manufacturer's three-year or 60,000-mile warranty.