Fiat Panda takes aim at the Nissan Qashqai

Fiat Panda
7 Mar, 2013 5:19pm Steve Fowler

The Fiat Panda range has “room for expansion”, according to Fiat's CEO

The Fiat Panda range could expand to include a Nissan Qashqai rival, while a performance model is also on the cards.

Speaking to Auto Express at the Geneva Motor Show, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “There are two cars in Fiat’s DNA – the Panda and 500. The Panda has more expansion potential.”

Fiat insiders confirmed that a larger member of the Panda family is under consideration, with the company looking to take a slice of the growing C-SUV segment that includes the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti, as well as more premium models such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

Fiat thinks the Panda family – which currently includes the standard model, plus 4x4 and Trekking models – could expand further, and it could share technology with sister brand Jeep.

The upcoming 500X crossover will form the basis of a new supermini-sized Jeep SUV, set to be launched next year, while a larger Panda crossover could also share its platform and engines with Jeep models. However, don’t expect to see a Panda SUV until 2015 at the earliest.

A hot Panda based on the current car is likely to join the range before then, possibly powered by the 104bhp version of Fiat’s two-cylinder twin air engine. The old model Panda 100HP warm hatch had quite a following, so Fiat would like to recreate that buzz with the new model.

While the Panda range is expanding, Marchionne confirmed that the 500 range will reach its limits when the 500X is launched. “We’ve intentionally been building a 500 family and we’ve seen varying degrees of success,” said Marchionne, “We need to be careful not to peel back the onion too far in spite of our designers’ gazillion ideas. The 500X will probably be the last version of the 500.”

While Fiat has publicly concentrated on the 500 and Panda families, it hasn’t forgotten its other models. “Bravo, Punto and Freemont are all in development and we’ll see them in better shape in 2015,” said Marchionne.

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How can Fiat even try to compete with the Skoda Yeti? The panda is a noddycar, poorly built and with a reputation for poor reliability and as a whole, Fiat are always languishing at the bottom of reliability surveys, whereas the Yeti is a true off roader, great allrounder, Audi-like build quality and a high reputation for reliability. Dream on Fiat hahaha!

make sure it will not fall apart like our last Panda

I seriously doubt that Skoda's standards have fallen so dramatically that Yetis now have "Audi-like" build quality.

Skoda is the only VW Group brand to place higher than FIAT in the most recent Warranty Direct survey (Skoda 12th, FIAT 18th, VW and SEAT joint 20th, Audi 26th - out of 35 brands surveyed).

vagfan often talks rubbish regarding VAG products.

Well I guess you were unlucky. We have owned 2 Pandas over the past 8.5 years one has covered 75k and the other 85k and nothing yet has fallen off. But I suppose there are still "Friday afternoon" cars out there...

Fiat really seem to be scratching around for ideas. The Panda is a small, cheap and cheerful, characterful model with a lot of good points, but making a bigger version of it is silly. The company obviously doesn't have the confidence to launch a larger model which will stand by its own reputation.