Fiat Panda review
Building excellent small cars is something Fiat does extremely well, so it’s no surprise to find the Fiat Panda is one of the best models in a class that includes the Skoda Citigo, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10.
What's not so good
Fiat Panda: what would you like to read next?
It might not have the retro looks of the Fiat 500, but the Panda is stylish. Its upright body means there’s plenty of room inside and all models come with five-doors for great access. Interior quality might not be up to the standards of a Volkswagen Up, but it’s fair to say that Fiat has harnessed a decent amount of charm.
The Panda feels at its best in the city, where its small dimensions make it perfect for weaving through congested streets and squeezing into tight parking spaces. Small engines mean the Panda is also cheap to run, but not best-suited to fast-moving motorway traffic, where it can feel a little out of breath.
Pandas are cheap cars, which means standard equipment is pretty basic and includes items such as central locking, six airbags, a CD player and power steering that can be lightened at the touch of a button.
The Fiat Panda is a quirky small car that's affordable but above all else fun
Overall, the new Panda is a charming and well-sorted small car that has plenty of appealing traits. The space on offer is quite impressive for such a small car, it’s cheap to buy and run and is abundant in style and character.
There are a few rough edges here and there, and rivals such as the Kia Picanto and VW Up are very tempting alternatives to the funky Fiat. However, the Panda has a lot going for it, and is a much more capable only car than the alternatives. It’s definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for such a car.
The Panda is a bit taller than many of its alternatives, but that translates into loads of room for passengers inside. On the other hand, the boot space is only average
The Panda is proof that fun and function can go hand-in-hand. It's a fun little thing to get around town in, and if you have any passengers with you, they'll be enjoying it, too
Practicality is quite good for such a small car – the seats for the driver and passenger are comfortable and offer plenty of room, although the steering wheel only adjusts for height. It’s also pretty roomy on the back seat and the rear bench can be slid backwards or forwards for more passenger space or a larger luggage capacity.
Everyday junk – pens, spare change, maps and the like – are easily stowed away and the Panda offers 14 storage cubbies in total.
Depending on how far back you have the rear seat, the Panda’s boot capacity ranges from 225 to 260 litres – so it’s about average for a class that includes the Skoda Citigo (251 litres), Hyundai i10 (252 litres) and Kia Picanto (200 litres). Total load space sits at 870 litres with the rear seats folded down.
A city car at heart, the Panda is very easy to drive in built up areas – visibility all round is excellent, the fairly tall driving position makes parking simple and all the controls are nice and light.
The Panda is a bit out of its depth on the motorway but, on the other hand, it excels around town
Since the Panda shares quite a lot with the retro Fiat 500, a similar array of engines is on offer – you get two petrols (a 1.2-litre and the 0.9-litre TwinAir) along with a 1.3-litre diesel.
The TwinAir model is the best bet if you don’t mind paying a little extra. With 85hp at its disposal, it knocks three seconds off the 1.2-litre model’s 0-62mph time of 14.2 seconds – feeling a lot more spritely for it. Its twin-cylinder design means it also produces an enthusiastic thrum that gives the Panda added character. It is even cheaper to run than the basic model – CO2 emissions of 99g/km and official fuel economy is an impressive 67.3mpg.
Basic Panda’s come fitted with a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol engine that’s quieter than the more sophisticated TwinAir unit fitted to more expensive petrol models. What it isn’t, though, is quick. The lurch from 0-62mph takes quite a bit of time, which is fine in town but means the Panda quickly runs out of puff on the motorway. Like all Pandas it is cheap to run, with fuel economy of 55.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km.
The 1.3-litre diesel has the best fuel economy in the range – at 72.4mpg. It’s slightly slower than the TwinAir to 62mph, but is a quicker overtake. It costs more than the other models in the range, though, so you’ll have to cover a lot of miles for it to make financial sense.
The Panda is a really good town runabout because the power steering features a handy city button, which makes it light and easy to use when completing low-speed manoeuvres such as three-point turns and reverse parking.
It’s also surprisingly capable on motorway journeys – you’ll have to wring the engines out to make brisk progress, but there’s an impressive amount of refinement at higher speeds.
That being said, there are a few niggles with the way the Panda drives. Although it’s quite fun to steer down twisty roads, the tiny 14-inch wheels fitted to basic models are wrapped in small tyres that run out of grip quite quickly if you really hoof it down your favourite country road. The ride quality can also get a bit fidgety at times, though admittedly it does smooth out as you go faster.
Some of the plastics are disappointingly hard and scratchy but the funky design more than compensates for small shortcomings