The Fiat Panda may appear like a “baby car” model in its 3650mm length, but its features set it apart from many of its competitors. Most vehicles would make the claim of being an economy vehicle or a city car, but the Panda achieves the right practicality in being an “essential” car for anyone who only really needs one ride for their daily needs. Olivier Francois sums up its purpose succinctly: “the official car for doing whatever the hell you like.” In the last 30 years, Fiat has produced more than 200,000 Pandas and has gone over 6.5 million units in terms of production. But the latest model is just on the third generation—how will the current outgoing Panda compete given the market’s new demands?
The third generation Panda sports the same hardware as the second-generation model, but still features enough improvements to bring new features to the table. The body is 114m longer, the waistline wider by 65mm, its weight heavier at 60kg, and its height increased by 11mm. Other design improvements have been made to reducing vibration and noise from the engine as well as enhanced body stiffness. Aerodynamic qualities have also been enhanced, along with the handy ability of the body to deliver modern crash.
The interior design finds a suitable balance between practicality and style, with the dashboard redesigned for better use and an easier look for the layout. Controls and dials can be easily operated. Plus 14 different compartments have been included for gadget storage. You can even order a Panda model that features the more colourful cabins that sport a wider dashboard and stylishly done instruments. There’s even a faux piano-black finish on the main switch control pack, if you can afford the higher-series models.
The Panda comes in three engines: A 1.3-litre MultiJet II unit at 75bhp, the parallel twin-cylinder TwinAirengine at a turbocharged 85bhp, and a 1.2-litre FIRE engine at 69bhp. The TwinAir is just as engaging as its previous generation, enabling great low revs, proper fuel economy, and an overall fun drive at higher revs. The drive gets even more engaging when you go beyond the recommended city limits. The smoothest engine of the three is the 1.2 FIRE unit, with its distant rev limit at 6300rpm. And although the diesel unit is the stoutest performer, the 1.3 MultiJet is able to give a broader band in torque and can effortlessly go through cruising speeds. The 1.3-litre unit is recommended for anyone after a long-distance car.
Although the Panda has been improved for a smoother and quieter ride, it tends to be not as impressive when you’re at middling speeds. You’ll experience some trouble with the wheel pattering a bit along wet, post-rain roads. But in spite of the Panda’s height, the vehicle is able to respond precisely in its steering. The downside is steering tends to be light and not as informative. Reduced understeer can be expected, resulting in front wheels being pushed wide. Thankfully the vehicle makes up for this in reducing body roll, even if it can still be felt at some moments.
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