Fiat Panda review
The Fiat Panda is fun to drive, practical and makes a great city car
Few manufacturers can rival Fiat’s small car heritage. The brand has been delivering class-leading and cleverly designed city cars and superminis for over half a century – and the latest Panda is up there with its best. It’s neatly styled, cost-effective and bursting with Latin character, so it represents a stern test for any newcomer.
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
Despite being the oldest car here, the distinctive Panda still stands out from the crowd. With its upright stance, bold details and eye-catching mix of straight lines and curves, it attracts more attention than its conservatively styled rivals.
It’s a similarly stylish story inside, where you’ll find plenty of Fiat’s trademark ‘squircle’ design cues. Chunky switchgear and bright fabrics add to the fun feel of the interior. Some of the materials seem cheap, though, and in Easy trim the Panda is sparsely equipped. 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 combination of a high-set driving position, excellent visibility and light controls makes the Panda a doddle to drive around town. And thanks to soft suspension, it soaks up bumps in the road with ease.
However, the Fiat struggles on the open road. Despite its larger 1.2-litre engine, it feels less responsive than its 1.0-litre rivals, forcing you to work the car harder. There’s also more body roll through corners and less grip. Plus, the Panda suffers from more wind and road noise, while some of our testers found the offset pedals uncomfortable on long journeys.
Overall, there are three engines to choose from, including a 1.3-litre petrol and 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.
Fiat has struggled to shake a reputation for making cars with flaky build quality and reliability – and the Panda doesn’t feel
as durable as its rivals.
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.
Thanks to its boxy dimensions and large glass area, the Panda’s cabin always feels airy – although it’s the smallest here. There’s 20mm less rear legroom than in the Hyundai i10, while the boot will only swallow 225 litres of luggage – 26 litres less than the Skoda Citigo. You’ll also have to pay £50 for a 60:40 split-fold rear seat.
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. 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. However, our experts predict the Fiat will retain 42.7 per cent of its value after three years