Fiat Panda 100HP
As much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
Hoot, riot, giggle, chuckle, blast. All these are words used by people climbing out of the Fiat Panda 100HP. The upright Italian hatch is a long way from being the fastest, best handling or most thrilling car of our top 20 this year, but there’s no denying its sheer, unbridled enthusiasm.
Visually, few other vehicles in our selection have as good a stance, or convey such a sense of fun. Chunky little alloys, black trimmings and tinted windows certainly do the job of making the city car look like a hot hatch.
And inside, the gearstick is perfectly located. Placed high on the dash and less than a hand span from the steering wheel, the six-speeder has a delightfully light and quick shift.
Unfortunately, the lofty driving position is compromised, and the seats fail to hold you in place around corners, so you end up bracing yourself against hard plastic. But this is all part of the Panda experience – as are the grabby brakes, bouncy ride and steering which, although weighty, could do with more feedback. And yet the deficiencies fail to diffuse the Fiat’s sense of fun.
The eager little 100HP is short on genuine talent, but it’s long on laughs. The gutsy engine is strong from 2,000rpm and, because performance isn’t exactly warp-speed, it can be used hard everywhere. In fact, it’s arguably even more fun in city centres than it was around the track, simply because that’s the environment in which it’s designed to excel.
Light, grippy and agile, the 100HP has a keenness to please and one of the strongest personalities on test. That’s what makes the charming Panda more fun to drive than cars costing 10 times as much – which is why it’s bloodied a few noses along the way.
- 1Welcome to Greatest Drives 2007We've gathered together this year's hottest cars to fight it out on road and track for the title of Auto Express's Greatest Drives 2007
- 2Mercedes CL63 AMGThe latest Mercedes AMG is a variant of the Bentley Continental-rivalling CL63. Does a two-tonne sports saloon make sense?
- 3BMW 130i M SportAlthough it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
- 4Vauxhall Corsa VXRIt was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?
- 5Audi S5It might not be the most thrilling to drive, but the Audi S5 is one of the easiest cars to drive quickly
- 6BMW M5 TouringThe estate version of the BMW M5 is no slouch, but it doesn't feel as special as previous M cars from BMW
- 7Lotus 2-ElevenThe Lotus 2-Eleven is an uncompromised trackday car - driveable, if not comfortable, on the road, but unsurpassed on a circuit
- 8Morgan Aero 8 AmericaThe most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for
- 9Vauxhall VXR8The Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun
- 10Nissan 350ZA previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
- 11MINI Cooper SNow a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
- 12Caterham Sigma Roadsport 125It's a perennial favourite of Greatest Drives, and this year's Caterham Roadsport is no different - brilliant on the track, a little rough on the road
- 13Fiat Panda 100HP - currently readingAs much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
- 14Mazda MX-5 RCIt's the top-selling two-seater of all time, but does the Mazda MX-5 still have the flair to challenge for the title of Greatest Drive?
- 15Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26The latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package
- 16Porsche 911 GT3 RSThe hardcore Porsche 911 GT3 RS is an unequivocal supercar. With incredible performance, the only doubt is its real-world usability - and price tag
- 17Renaultsport Clio 197 F1 Team R27If you thought the Megane was impressive, the hot Renaultsport Clio R27 manages to force its way into the top 5 with sheer poise
- 18Lamborghini Gallardo SuperleggeraThe Lamborghini was the most expensive car on test. Luckily the super-light Gallardo was also the most rewarding to drive
- 19Honda Civic Type RThe Type R version of the Honda Civic is not only the best hot hatch, its chassis makes it one of the best drivers' cars, full stop
- 20Audi R8The hottest car of the year, the Audi R8 isn't perfect, but driving it is such a thrilling experience, you won't care
- 21Porsche Cayman SDespite the presence of serious rivals from Lamborghini and Audi, the amazing Porsche Cayman S retains its title