Fiat Panda review
The new Fiat Panda offers lots of charisma, low running costs and it's great fun to drive, too
The Fiat Panda has been a huge success for the brand since it was first introduced in 1980. This third-generation model was introduced at the beginning of 2012, and is longer, wider and taller than the outgoing car. Entry-level cars don't come with very much equipment, but more expensive models do get 15-inch alloys and air-con. There's a range of three engines, which includes the firm's efficient 0.9-litre TwinAir engine.
Our choice: Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy
The Fiat Panda is tall and boxy compared to its city car rivals, and has rounded off lines that create what Fiat describes as a 'soft cube'. The modern face, curved wheelarches and big glass area give a simple yet attractive look, too. The rounded theme is carried over to the to the switchgear, instruments, gearlever, chunky handbrake and even the digital readout for the stereo. The high-set gearlever is reminiscent of the old Panda, but material quality has been improved - although it still can't compete with cars like the Kia Picanto and VW up! for interior quality. There are three trim levels: Pop, Easy and Lounge. Entry-level cars come with 14-inch steel wheels, electric front windows, and a CD player with MP3 as standard. Mid-spec Easy cars get air-con, remote central locking, roof rails and rear head restraints, while range-topping Lounge models come with 15-inch alloys, foglights and heated door mirrors.
There are three engines to choose from: a 1.2-litre petrol, a 1.3-litre diesel and the firm's efficient 0.9-litre TwinAir engine, and all come with a five-speed manual gearbox. The 1.2 petrol option produces 69bhp and 102Nm of torque, can go from 0-62mph in 14.2 seconds and has a top speed of 102mph. The 1.3-litre Multijet diesel has 75bhp and 190Nm of torque, and can manage 0-62mph in 12.8 seconds. The efficient two-cylinder turbo TwinAir - which is also available in the 500 and Punto - develops just 84bhp but it rarely feels slow. It can go from 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds and has the highest top speed at 110mph, while the small turbocharger provides plenty of mid-range grunt. Pushing the Eco button on the dash slashes torque output from 145Nm to 100Nm in a bid to cut fuel costs.
The Fiat Panda has a four-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, with an 82 per cent score for adult occupant but just 43 per cent for safety assist. This is because ESP isn't fitted as standard - it's a £315 option. Every version does come with ABS as well as driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags as standard. The last-generation Panda finished a disappointing 87th in the 2012 Driver Power Top 100, while Fiat finished last in the manufacturer chart. That said, the new Panda has underpinnings that are updated from the old car and shared with the Fiat 500, so reliability issues should hopefully be ironed out. Every Panda comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
The Fiat Panda has a 225-litre boot - this is more than the Kia Picanto, which has 200 litres, equal to the Hyundai i10 and less than the VW up!, which has 251 litres. All Pandas will come with a sliding rear bench that’ll increase the standard boot size to 260 litres, and it folds to create an 870-litre load area. Split-folding rear seats, a third headrest and three-point belt are all optional, but the front passenger seat folds forwards to create a useful table. There's lots of storage space around the cabin, with two big gloveboxes, two cup-holders, decent door bins and extra storage in the centre console. There's not a lot of legroom in the back, but the Panda's boxy shape does mean that there's plenty of headroom.
The Panda is cheap to insure, tax, fuel and service. The Multijet diesel is the most efficient, with headline-grabbing figures of 72.4mpg and 104g/km of CO2. The TwinAir version is said to be able to return average fuel economy of 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, which means that although you'll struggle to match these official fuel economy figures in the real world, it is free to tax and is exempt from the London Congestion Charge. The entry-level petrol is the best choice, though, as it's the cheapest to buy and can manage 54.3mpg and 120g/km. The Panda won’t hold on to its value well, though.