Fiat Panda review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Fiat Panda doesn't have class-leading build quality but it makes up for that with its quirky personality and cute looks

For: 
Cheap to buy, efficient TwinAir engine, fun to drive
Against: 
Limited rear legroom, not enough kit, cheap interior

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For over 50 years, Fiat has been producing intelligently designed city cars packed with character and the latest incarnation of the Fiat Panda is no different.

Launched in 2012, the newest version of the Fiat Panda built on the success of the previous generation car, which was resurrected by the Italian firm in 2003. It's neatly styled, sips fuel and is bursting with personality, although the design isn’t the segment’s freshest.

The Fiat Panda is powered by a variety of diesel and petrol engines in either two, three or four cylinder guises. There is a wide range of trim levels too. The sparsely equipped entry-level Pop kicks things off, but move up the range to the higher spec Lounge models and you'll get features such as alloy wheels and air-conditioning. 

The Easy trim level sits in the middle of the Panda range, while buyers can also choose the Trekking model, which features some rugged looking body cladding. The Fiat Panda 4x4 is another version with off-road styling but it does actually have all-wheel drive to help in the rough stuff. The Antarctica is a special edition 4x4 version that celebrates 30 years of the Fiat Panda.

The latest Fiat Panda is bigger than previous incarnations, and there are plenty of storage spaces dotted around the cabin, as well as a generously-sized boot that expands easily thanks to a sliding rear bench. 

Our choice: Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy

Styling

4.1

The Fiat Panda is a cute looking little thing that has bags more exterior appeal that the slightly conservative looking Volkswagen up! and the generic Korean looking Kia Picanto. With its upright stance, bold details and eye-catching blend of straight lines and curves, it certainly stands out. 

The interior of the Fiat Panda continues the fun feeling and there are plenty of the trademark 'squircle' design cues. Chunky Tonka toy switchgear and bright fabrics contribute to the fun personality of the Panda.

While the interior is a vast improvement over old model, some of the materials feel a bit low rent and it can't match the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii for quality.

There are four trim levels in the Fiat Panda range: 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 and some bold exterior cladding.

Driving

4.2

Around town, the Fiat Panda really shines thanks to its high driving position, excellent visibility and light controls. The soft suspension also means it easily soaks up bumps in the road.

The City button on the dash is also handy as it lightens up the steering - so much so it can be steered with one finger - and makes squeezing in and out of tight gaps in town so much easier.

The Panda handles well on the open road too, but sadly, the little Fiat’s engines can struggle. The 1.2-litre unit needs to be worked hard and at motorway speed it sounds thrashy. The other two engines in the line-up are a 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel and the highly efficient 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol engine.

This engine is the fastest one in the Fiat Panda 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.

There is also a handy Eco button, which sees the torque output slashed from 145Nm to 100Nm in order to cut fuel costs. 

Reliability

3

Unfortunately for the Fiat Panda, it only scored four out of five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests and in a segment where most newcomers are achieving the full five-star rating, this simply isn't on. The reason why the Fiat Panda didn't achieve the maximum score? ESP is a £135 option.

Over the years, Fiat has struggled to shed its reputation for making cars with ropey build quality and reliability and the Panda doesn't feel as durable as its immediate rivals.

In our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the Fiat Panda ranked 70th out of 150 cars with owners praising its low running costs and ease of driving. However, it was let down by poor comfort, in-car tech and build quality. In terms of manufacturers, Fiat didn't rank in our top 33.

The good news is that Fiat offers a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty with the Panda, which is on a par with rivals. 

Practicality

3.7

With its up-right stance and boxy dimensions, the Fiat Panda feels bigger than it actually is. It’s certainly more spacious in the cabin than the average city car.

The cabin might feel airy, but the boot will only take 225-litres of luggage (26-litres less than the Skoda Citigo), and there's 20mm less legroom than in a Hyundai i10. You'll also have to pay £50 for a 60:40 split-fold rear seat.

Fiat Panda steering wheel

On the plus side, the interior is packed with handy storage, including a large tray in front of the front seat passenger and several cup-holders.

The rear bench does feel a bit cheap, but it slides forwards or backwards to create either more legroom or boot space. The boxy shape of the Fiat Panda also means there's plenty of headroom.

Running Costs

3.8

All of the engines in the Fiat Panda range are economical. In terms of fuel economy, the 1.4-litre Multijet diesel is the best, as it manages 72.4mpg and emits 104g/km of CO2. The 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol is free of road tax, as the emissions are 99g/km of CO2 and it achieves a very respectable 67.3mpg.

The other engine in the line-up, the 8-valve 1.2-litre, achieves 54.3mpg and emits a pretty high 120g/km of CO2. All engines benefit from efficient stop-start fuel saving technology that cuts the engine when idling.

Plus, the Fiat Panda comes with the manufacturer's three-year or 60,000-mile warranty. However, our experts predict the Fiat will retain 42.7 per cent of its value after three years.

Last updated: 9 Jul, 2014
AEX 1,339
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