Big boot. Clever interior. Easy trim offers good value for money.
The Fiat Panda is a pretty popular car in the UK. It is a vehicle of choice for the older generation and mums on a budget, thanks to its super low starting price of just £8,900. It's even available in 4 wheel drive for all of the happy campers out there. The trouble is, Fiat haven't been able to sell as many Panda's as they'd like, and even James May having bought one can't win everybody over. I guess it's up to me then?
I have picked the 1.2-litre petrol engine combined with Easy trim as my pick of the range. Discover why below.
The Fiat Panda is a chic city car that looks a lot cooler in real life than any photographs would suggest. This latest Fiat Panda is actually the 3rd generation and you can tell, as Fiat have worked hard to revise the front end in particular to make it more attractive to the modern buyer. It's tall and boxy compared to most city cars, but the Fiat Panda offers a lot of charm overall, with a rounded theme to the headlamps and bumpers. This continues towards the interior, where the instruments and switchgear are rounded. The Fiat Panda has a high ride height compared to the majority of city cars but this works in its favour out on the road, as you'll discover below.
There are three engines available in the Fiat Panda. These are a 69 bhp 1.2-litre petrol, an 84 bhp 0.9-litre TCE petrol unit, and a 1.3-litre diesel engine. Most buyers will opt for the cheapest of all three, the 1.2 petrol, and this is the one I'd recommend. The 0.9 TCE is faster but it's more expensive and the 1.3-litre diesel has more torque but it sounds rough. The 1.2 is zippy and fun around town and is more than happy to rev its socks off to get you moving. Handling has been much improved on this latest Panda and it corners with much more confidence than the 2nd generation model. It has a high ride height the Fiat Panda but because of this bumps, potholes and other road defects are ironed out, making the Panda a comfortable place to be on Britain's dodgy roads. The manual gear box in the Panda has a fairly long 4th and 5th gear, but second and third are fairly short to aid acceleration, something which some city cars miss out on. Overall, the Panda is a fun drive.
The Fiat Panda's interior is borderline budget French car and Borderline well designed. Highlights include a large main cubby storage area for belongings such as a children's toy or university books, and a decent sized glove box for more precious items or a bottle of water. There are two well sized door bins for both driver and passenger and everyday clutter is dealt with by the centre console, which has plenty of little nooks and crannies for putting things in. Other clever parts of the interior include the ability to fold the front passenger seat over on itself to create a table. The rear seats are comfortable and well cushioned for long journeys and the bench slides forwards and backwards to either aid leg room or create a bigger boot. If you fold the rear seats forwards, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the size of the Panda's boot, which is 870-litres. It isn't a top quality interior though - whilst everything is well put together, nothing is particularly nice to touch, and there's little to impress your BMW driving husband.
The Fiat Panda 1.2 Pop 5d is a city car and as such it belongs below 50 mph. If you do stick to those sorts of speeds, the 1.2-litre petrol engine is fairly economical, and will return 42.2 mpg according to Fiat. In the real world you can expect high 30's, so long as you don't completely stop, thus achieving 0 mpg. If you do hit the motorway your economy figures are likely to improve if you travel at 70 mph and you should expect to return 45 mpg. Any less than 70 mph on a motorway and you'll just hold people up, so keep your foot down Panda drivers, because there's nothing more annoying than seeing a Fiat Panda driver driving like their car is going to roll over at any given minute.
Trim and equipment
The most basic of trim levels, Pop, does not even include remote locking or air conditioning. That's why you should jump up to the next level, Easy, which includes air conditioning, remote locking, a CD player and an alarm. There are a range of optional extras available on the Easy Panda including a £720 electric sunroof, £265 climate control, £250 heated seats, £300 alloy wheels and £250 rear parking sensors. Ticking heated seats and alloy wheels on your new car form will ensure a higher resale value in the future. The top specification trim for the Panda is 'Trekking', but this is expensive and not worth it for the extra equipment on offer.
The Fiat Panda is a cute car to look at and it also handles well, despite its proportions. My pick of the range is the 1.2 petrol engine in Easy trim, which costs around £1000 more than Pop trim (the car still lands at under £10k new) but features reasonable equipment. None of the Fiat Panda engines set the world on fire but the 1.2 petrol is best; the unit is happy to rev and is fine around town, where lots of power simply isn't needed. Motorway users should consider the 1.3-litre diesel unit whilst purists should consider the clever 0.9 TCE unit. For families and children, the Panda offers a good safety rating and is also available in 4 wheel drive for peace of mind in slippery conditions.