Fiat Panda

The Fiat Panda is a giant among cars - well, it is if you take it to Legoland and park it next to scale models of the London landmarks! Joking aside, this is a small car that thinks big. Already a group test victor on more than one occasion, it's also Auto Express's reigning Car of the Year. So with that in mind, we thought it only right that we find out how the baby Fiat fares when faced with the daily grind.

  • Build quality, practicality, cute looks, City steering mode, road manners, dash-mounted gearlever
  • Awkwardly positioned throttle pedal, fiddly volume control, too much grey plastic inside

The Fiat Panda is a giant among cars - well, it is if you take it to Legoland and park it next to scale models of the London landmarks! Joking aside, this is a small car that thinks big. Already a group test victor on more than one occasion, it's also Auto Express's reigning Car of the Year. So with that in mind, we thought it only right that we find out how the baby Fiat fares when faced with the daily grind. I have to say I'm absolutely delighted with it. As a member of the road test team, I'm used to hopping in and out of cars of all shapes and sizes, but the Panda never fails to please. This machine's cheeky attitude and nippy nature make it real fun to live with - there's never a dull moment. Inside, the first thing you notice is how well laid out the dashboard is. Grey plastic may feature heavily, but it fails to lower the tone of the upbeat cabin. It's wearing remarkably well, too, with only the slightest scuffs here and there. The dash-mounted gearlever is in just the right position, and the chunky idiot-proof controls are exactly that. One niggle is the radio, which seems to have a complete mind of its own, changing stations at will. What's more, to operate the fiddly volume knob you need fingers the size of a child's. I have yet to find time to read through the handbook to work out how to handle the errant tuner - but I will win this battle in the end! The frustrating radio fails to put me in a bad mood on my commute, though. Travelling 23 miles from Cobham, Surrey, into central London can be frustrating to say the least, but the Panda is probably one of the best-equipped cars for the journey. The first 15 miles are all multi-lane carriageways, which the little Fiat handles without fuss, keeping up with traffic admirably. Ride quality really is very good; even at speed it soaks up lumps and bumps, and never gives any worries. The Panda is also incredibly stable when cruising, putting many of its small car rivals to shame, with none of their vague steering and susceptibility to side winds. It's a constant battle against roadworks and congested rush-hour traffic for the final eight miles of my laborious drive, but the diminutive Panda is so nimble that it can dart through gaps where larger cars fear to tread. Better still, one press of the City button boosts assistance to the electric power-steering, making it even easier to twirl from lock to lock and allowing me to buzz in and out of the jams in true city car style. The perky little 1.2-litre engine delivers enough power to get you away from the lights easily, and ensures pulling out of busy junctions is safe and quick. I wouldn't go as far as calling the Fiat fast, but with the four-cylinder petrol unit mated to a light gearshift, it delivers snappy enough acceleration for most circumstances, and doesn't mind high revs at all. In fact, despite spending hours at the wheel, the only problem I have with the driving position is that the accelerator is mounted slightly too high, causing my shin to ache after a while. That aside, with a height-adjustable seat and steering wheel, getting comfortable is easy. And with 8,000 miles having already passed under its neat little wheels, there isn't a single quality issue to report. Nothing has fallen off, given way or worked loose. The only mechanical concern I have is that the clutch judders if you don't apply enough power when pulling away in first gear. Other colleagues have been equally complimentary about the Italian charmer. The back seats are big enough for full-size adults, the boot easily copes with a weekly shop, the carpets handle muddy footprints and the door and seat trim has so far proved to be child-proof. Best of all, you don't feel as if you're driving a budget city car. So the Panda has already made many friends around these parts. It's a stylish, modern, funky little four-seater that deserves to do well. Now, while we're here, let's find out how Fiat's baby copes with the tight turns of Legoland's streets...

Most Popular

New 2021 BMW M3 launched with huge grille and 503bhp
BMW 3 Series M3 Coupe

New 2021 BMW M3 launched with huge grille and 503bhp

The new sixth-generation BMW M3 Competition saloon gets a 503bhp straight-six engine and four-wheel-drive
22 Sep 2020
New 2020 Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV revealed with up to 323 miles of range
Volkswagen ID.4

New 2020 Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV revealed with up to 323 miles of range

The new Tiguan-sized Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV becomes VW’s second ID. model, rivalling the Tesla Model Y
23 Sep 2020
New Range Rover Velar PHEV launched with 33-mile electric range
Land Rover Range Rover Velar

New Range Rover Velar PHEV launched with 33-mile electric range

Land Rover has given the Range Rover Velar an update, with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain and an improved infotainment system
23 Sep 2020