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.
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.
The Panda is a bit out of its depth on the motorway but, on the other hand, it excels around town
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.