Fiat Panda review
The Fiat Panda is a characterful and fun city car with lots of practical touches, but it isn't the most solidy built or refined offering
Fiat's reputation of building top-notch city cars, spanning nearly 50 years, is well established. And the latest Panda continues that trend, offering something a little different to rivals such as the Hyundai i10 and Skoda Citigo.
The latest Panda is less boxy and basic than the last version, which was resurrected by the Italian firm in 2003 to decent success. It's a cheeky looking car inside and out, but some newer rivals offer a more modern design and additional space.
The 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 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
Engines, performance and drive
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, which has just enough overtaking pace, and the fun 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. But we don't find it anywhere near as frugal as Fiat's official figures suggest.
There is also a handy Eco button, which sees the torque output slashed from 145Nm to 100Nm in order to cut fuel costs.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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 (although you'll struggle to get anywhere near that).
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.
Interior, design and technology
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.
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.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
With its up-right stance and boxy dimensions, the Fiat Panda feels bigger than it actually is. It’s certainly a world away from the tight packaging of its predecessor.
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.
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.
Reliability and Safety
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.