Fiat Panda review - Engines, performance and drive
The Panda performs well in the city, but out on the motorway the lack of refinement comes to the fore
Around town, the Fiat Panda really shines thanks to its high driving position, excellent visibility and light controls. The soft suspension also means it easily soaks up bumps in the road.
The City button on the dash is also handy as it lightens up the steering – so much so that you can make light adjustments with one finger – and makes squeezing in and out of tight gaps in town much easier. It feels rather remote, though - so it's best avoided in normal driving and saved for parking.
The Panda handles well on the open road, too, but sadly the engines can struggle. It’s a shame, as their lack of refinement means rivals like the Hyundai i10, as well as the near-identical Skoda Citigo, SEAT Mii and Volkswagen up! city car trio, have a distinct advantage on longer motorway journeys, especially when compared to more affordable petrol-powered versions of the Fiat. The diesel is a little better in this regard, but you'll only be able to find this on the used market these days.
The Panda engine line-up used to comprise two petrols and a diesel, but an update to coincide with the latest European emissions standards saw the range pared back to just the 1.2-litre petrol alongside the new 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol Mild Hybrid. It's a shame that the 84bhp 0.9-litre twin-cylinder petrol TwinAir unit is no longer offered, as it's is the most fun choice; not only does it serve up the most responsive performance, it also makes an entertaining noise as it goes about its business. It's definitely the engine you should go for if you're looking at used Pandas.
While the TwinAir model is the fastest in the line-up, you still shouldn’t expect earth-shattering performance. It claims 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds, has the highest top speed at 110mph and the turbocharger provides more mid-range grunt than other engines in the line-up. We've never found the TwinAir engine anywhere near as efficient as Fiat's official figures have suggested, either.
The 68bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine needs to be worked hard, and at motorway speed it sounds thrashy. It’s also pretty slow, with a 14.2-second 0-62mph time. The Mild Hybrid model delivers 69bhp, but is a touch slower from 0-62mph and has a top speed of only 96mph. Its primary focus is to deliver a model with improved emissions, which it does at 89g/km.
That just leaves the 94bhp 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel, which left the line-up towards the end of 2016. Although it delivers more power and torque than the TwinAir, it has nothing like the rev range and so takes a couple of tenths longer to sprint from 0-62mph. That’s just enough overtaking pace, and the engine will settle down to reasonably refined cruising speeds on the motorway, too. It’s just not nearly as engaging as the Panda TwinAir.
In this review
- 1Fiat Panda reviewThe Fiat Panda is a characterful city car with lots of practical touches
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe 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, but has polled well for reliability in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys