The TwinAir engine adds an efficient edge to the unique design and excellent quality of the new Panda. The car is comfortable and quite fast if you’re willing to rev it, and economical when you’re not. It’s practical, too, but is perhaps overshadowed by rivals around this price for space – although the car will win hearts on its charm alone.
The Panda is Fiat’s bread and butter. Small, charming and able is what the company does best – and this latest city car ticks all these boxes. We’ve already tested the four-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol version, so does this 900cc two-cylinder TwinAir model make as much sense?
It scores on style as much as any new Panda. From the outside, the tall, boxy design works well, plus the car is longer, wider and slightly taller than before. The curved edges to the square headlamps are echoed by everything inside – from the door handles to the gauges.
This is a quirky and charming car. And quality is excellent: the doors close with a nice thud, the seats are coated in thick cloth and the surfaces feel durable and well put together. Only cheap air-con switches and stalks let down the well equipped cabin of our Lounge model, with its Blue&Me set-up and excellent touchscreen sat-nav.
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Beyond the funky design, you wouldn’t expect an engine with just two pistons and 85bhp to move the Panda so well. But it does, with enough poke for cheeky city lane changes and staying out of trouble.
The engine isn’t refined, however. It needs lots of revs to get the car moving, and is one of the loudest engines in its class. Fortunately, the two-cylinder thrum adds character.
The five-speed manual box isn’t great, and in town you’ll have to use first a lot. This is made worse by the notchy shift from the high driving position.
Strong brakes and quick responses make the Panda fun to zip around town in. It doesn’t pitch about too much, even over speed humps, and has good body control in corners.
Some drivers may find the ride too firm as it picks up every bump in the road. But the chassis and steering are super-communicative, even in a straight line.
Storage is good, but our car had a single bench folding rear seat, which limits what you can do with the 260-litre boot.
The Panda has a winning blend of quality and efficiency, and with 67.3mpg and 99g/km emissions, it’s ideal in the urban centres for which it’s clearly been designed.