£9,589 - £12,839 Price range
55 - 68 MPG
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. The Fiat is already a cheap car, but if you buy it via carwow you stand to make an average saving of £2,050 if you buy your it via one of our trusted franchised dealers.
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.
Cheapest to buy: 1.2-litre Pop petrol
Cheapest to run: 0.9-litre TwinAir Duallogic Lounge petrol
Fastest model: 0.9-litre TwinAir Easy petrol
Most popular: 1.2-litre Pop petrol
The Panda’s body design is inspired by what Fiat dubs a “squircle” theme, and this has been carried over to the interior – the dial binnacles, button layouts, gear lever and even the steering wheel have a rounded square shape! Thankfully, the Panda’s cabin isn’t just funky to look at, it also feels robust if a little low on the soft-touch materials that you get in an Up.
Fiat Panda passenger space
Practicality is also 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.
Fiat Panda boot space
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 power steering also 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.
As the Panda shares quite a lot with the retro Fiat 500, a similar array of engines is on offer in the range – you get two petrols (a 1.2-litre and the 0.9-litre TwinAir) along with a 1.3-litre diesel.
Fiat Panda petrol engines
Basic Panda’s come fitted with a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol engine that’s quiter 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 14.2 seconds, 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 that translate into road tax of £30 a year.
The TwinAir model is a better 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 – 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 mean that road tax is free and official fuel economy is an impressive 67.3mpg.
Fiat Panda diesel engines
The 1.3-litre diesel costs £20 to tax a year, but 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.
Being the least potent engine in the range, the 1.2 motor does feel a bit slow at times, especially during overtaking manoeuvres at motorway speeds. However, critics say there’s enough poke on offer to permit decent pace, and the ‘lack’ of grunt is almost imperceptible when driving in towns and cities.
It’s also much more refined than the more expensive engine options in the range, especially at higher speeds, and is quite cheap to run – Fiat claims up to 54mpg is possible on the combined cycle, and the 120g/km of CO2 means it only costs £30 a year to tax. It you really need some extra power in the Panda, then you may be better off with the TwinAir or the 1.3 diesel motor.
Although, given that they’re noticeably more expensive to buy, we reckon that the entry level engine is still worth having a look at. Overall, it’s a great little unit that’s cheap to run, and suits the car’s “mature yet cheeky” character.
With a wide torque band from 1,500 right up to 4,000rpm, the 1.3 turbo motor can boast a surprising amount of pulling power, which is especially useful if you intend to take the diesel Panda out of its primary urban habitat. Refinement is also quite good for the class standard, though the engine can be a bit rattly when you really work it.
The MultiJet engine promises to be fairly cheap to run – Fiat claims up to 74 mpg is possible, and it only costs £20 a year to tax thanks to the low emissions output.
However, there are some downsides – some reviews thought that it didn’t ride or handle quite as well as the petrol powered cars, and it is one of the most expensive Panda models you can buy.
The diesel does make sense if you regularly do long journeys, particularly on motorways, but we’re more inclined to recommend the petrol options if that isn’t the case.
Thanks to some clever engine tech, the tiny turbo engine is surprisingly pokey – the 84bhp and 104lb/ft of torque figures are mightily impressive for a 0.9 two-pot motor, and has a decent amount of pulling power up to about 5,500rpm. Critics also like how its buzzy soundtrack suits the Panda’s cheeky character, though do admit the noise can become quite tiresome after a while.
There are some other downsides as well. Most of the tests state that it’s not quite as refined as the 1.2 petrol model, and is a tad unrefined at lower revs – some critics said that a noticeable amount of vibration enters the cabin at anything under 2,000rpm. Others also weren’t too impressed with the economy figures, as quite a few of the test cars failed to achieve anything close to the 72 mpg that Fiat claims is possible.
The TwinAir motor does have quite a few appealing aspects, and is definitely worth considering if you’re interested in owning a Fiat Panda. However, we’d recommend having a look at the other engines as well, especially the cheaper and smoother 1.2 petrol motor.
When tested in 2011, the Panda rated a four-star overall performance, let down by the fact that lots of desirable safety kit is an optional extra. Stability control – a vital part of the current Euro NCAP test is a £315 option unless you buy the Trekking or 4×4 models, as are two of the six airbags.
However, since the test, Fiat has added electronic brake force distribution, autonomous city braking (at up to 19mph) and active whiplash reducing headrests. If only they were specified as standard, the Panda could be into the five star range!
With central locking and a CD player the only notable pieces of equipment that come as standard, there’s no denying the Panda is basic but then it’s also cheap.
Fiat Panda Easy
Cheap or not, we would recommend upgrading from Pop to Easy spec. It comes with air-conditioning (a godsend during hot summers), handy remote central locking and has a light in the boot. Arguably, the last of those should really be included on all models.
Fiat Panda Lounge
Lounge-trimmed cars look much smarter thanks to their 15-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights, while body coloured heated wing mirrors and door handles go some way to dispelling the budget appearance of the more basic models.
Overall, the new Panda is a charming and well sorted supermini 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 do pose a significant threat 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.