Road Tests

Handbook: Fiat Panda

Time 8:17 am, May 22, 2012

Thirty-two years on from the launch of the original Panda, here’s the third generation version. James Batchelor reports.

WHAT IS IT?

In a nutshell, an all-new version of Fiat’s much-loved supermini. Under the bigger, more sculpted body lies a revised version of the previous-generation Panda platform, but in comes the 500’s TwinAir unit and a range of personalisation options. Think of the Panda as agricultural transport that can be blinged up if required. Fiat expects to sell 9,000 in a full year.


WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET?

There are few surprises – except the addition of a brand-new normally-aspirated TwinAir variant that’s coming later this year – so there’s the perennial 69bhp 1.2-litre Fire unit, the 0.9-litre TwinAir Turbo from the 500, and a diesel variant in the form of the 1.3- litre MultiJet 2 unit. The fashionable TwinAir Turbo may grab the headlines, but it’s the 1.2-litre that’s more in keeping with the Panda’s character.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?

Customers can slip into the new Panda for £8,900. That’s for the entry-level Pop 1.2-litre which comes with 14-inch steel wheels, MP3 connectivity and electric front windows. Mid-spec Easy comes in at £9,550, and Lounge at £10,050.


Prices top out at £12,250 for the Lounge 1.3- litre MultiJet which boasts front fog lamps, 15-inch alloys and electrically-adjustable and heated mirrors.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

The Panda may well have grown up a little with a better interior, but the previous generation’s charming driving qualities remain. Handling is predictable, and well-weighted steering makes for confident driving.

The 1.2-litre is our favourite. It is noticeably cheaper than the TwinAir and just as economical. It also better suits the Panda’s personality. The diesel is a little too noisy.

WHAT DO THE PRESS THINK OF IT?

Auto Express was complimentary, saying: ‘As cars become increasingly complex, the Panda remains a refreshingly simple choice,’ while Autocar said: ‘It’s certainly got all the appeal of the old Panda, and as such should prove one of the best options in the class.’ Car Magazine remarked: ‘It’s an absolute joy’, adding ‘city car customers have never had it so good.’

WHAT DO WE THINK OF IT?

With its cutesy curves, we were worried the new Panda would have lost its individuality and would have had too much of the 500-treatment.

Luckily we were wrong as the new car continues where the old car left off – but it’s better made, as fun to drive, and gives other small city cars – such as the Skoda Citigo – a serious run for their money. It’s sure to prove a hit for dealers.

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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