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.

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