Fiat Panda review
Fiat’s recently re-jigged Panda range still offers plenty of character and style
The Fiat Panda is a city car offering something a little different to rivals such as the Hyundai i10 and Skoda Citigo. Newer competitors can’t match the Panda’s personality or style, but they do offer more modern designs and better use of space inside. Still, the Fiat Panda is a useful city car with plenty of storage spaces dotted around the cabin, as well as a generously-sized boot that expands easily thanks to a sliding rear bench.
With decent ride comfort, sprightly handling and excellent all-round visibility, the Panda is a terrific town car. On longer motorway trips, a lack of refinement from the petrol engines can become tiresome, though. Interior trim quality doesn’t always match that of rivals, but the Panda has a solid reputation for reliability in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys. (Main pic shows pre-facelift car.)
About the Fiat Panda
The Fiat Panda is part of an illustrious bloodline of small cars that Fiat has had for sale over the decades. While the current car arrived in 2011, and is one of the older cars for sale in the city car sector, it still has appeal courtesy of its quirky shape, as well as the option of Panda 4x4 and Panda Cross SUV-style versions. A brand new Panda is expected in 2022, which will be based on the retro-inspired Centoventi concept. Engines have come and gone, and in 2020 the standard 1.2-litre petrol engine was replaced by a new mild-hybrid 1.0-litre engine as part of a small but significant facelift and range realignment. The excellent 0.9-litre TwinAir two-cylinder petrol still serves in Panda 4x4 versions, but the once popular 1.3 Multijet diesel fell off the price lists a while ago.
The Panda line-up now consists of three separate models named Life, Sport and Cross, with different trim levels available across each model. The Panda Life is the entry-level car and comes with body-colour bumpers, air-con, 14-inch steel wheels and a USB/MP3 compatible DAB radio. The Panda City Life adds front fog lamps and roof rails, a revised bumper and side skirts, plus 15-inch dark alloys and black exterior highlights complemented by a two-tone grey interior with steering wheel audio controls for its Uconnect radio with 7-inch touchscreen. The Panda Wild 4x4 is the top Life model, and shares spec with the City Life apart from the addition of all-wheel drive, front and rear skid plates and the TwinAir engine.
Car group tests
Used car tests
The Panda Sport model gets no more power than its siblings, but 16-inch alloy wheels revealing red brake calipers, tinted windows and body-colour mirrors and door handles give it a racy feel. Inside there’s a titanium-coloured dash, black headlining and sporty seats with red stitching.
The Panda Cross line-up comprises two trim grades, the City Cross and Cross 4x4. Both feature rugged exterior detailing, plus LED driving lights, 15-inch wheels and body colour bumpers with skid plates. The Cross 4x4 has marginally more off-road capability than the Wild 4x4 thanks to a driving mode selector with an off-road setting plus hill descent control, but it looks tougher with red front tow hooks and silver skid plates.
No matter which Panda you choose, you'll get fun handling, with fast steering and a nippy character. The 1.0 petrol is a little bland, so the characterful and more powerful TwinAir engine in Panda 4x4 models is the most fun to drive. All cars feature City steering that boosts the power assistance to finger-light levels at the touch of a button, making parking a doddle.
Prices for the Panda start at just under £12,000, while the City Cross is nearer £14,000 and the Cross 4x4 almost £18,000. That’s a bit steep, so if you want the chunky looks, we'd settle for the City Cross, which puts on a similar show, but also offers marginally lower running costs that come with its front-wheel-drive layout.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingFiat’s recently re-jigged Panda range still offers plenty of character and style
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe Panda performs well in the city, but out on the motorway the lack of refinement comes to the fore
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsNo version of the Panda will cost much to run, even if you can't match the official fuel economy figures
- 4Interior, design and technologyCharacterful design gives the Panda a sense of fun inside and out, but some parts feel cheap
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Fiat Panda has an airy cabin and a practical boot, although it's not the biggest load bay in its class
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe Panda doesn't feel as durable as rivals, while Euro NCAP safety ratings aren't the best