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Fiat Panda ECO

Road Test

Fiat Panda 1.2 Dynamic

Driven December 2008

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By 2012, the EU wants car manufacturers to have an average CO2 value across their range of 130g/km. Now, for some, this might be a little bit tricky – I can’t imagine a company like Bentley is overjoyed at this, with a current average of 426g/km. But Fiat is already well on the way with its line-up. The logic isn’t difficult to work out. Small cars don’t pollute as much, Fiat does small cars very well, etc. etc.

Fiat is no longer a company prepared to rest on its laurels, so it has now gone one step further and released the Panda Eco, to follow up on the Bravo Eco we drove earlier in the year. It’s not overstating things, though, to say that the tweaks have been minor. The, er, ‘big’ changes are that the Eco gets low-rolling-resistance tyres and low-viscosity oil which helps with the friction levels in the engine. None of this is ground-breaking stuff. Fiat hasn’t even bothered to alter the gear ratios.

However, the result is that the 1.2-litre petrol engine (the Ecois also available with the 1.1-litre petrol) now produces 119g/km,a drop of 14g/km. Fuel economy has also got better – both engines manage 56.5mpg, which is an improvement of 6.1. I have to say I’m slightly stunned by those figures – how doing so little to a Panda can change things so much. Makes you wonder why everyone else doesn’t do stuff like this. 

The main bonus to changing nothing else on the Panda is that, amazingly, nothing else changes on the Panda. Which means it’s still an awesome little town car. It’s so unobtrusive that people don’t mind if you just slot in ahead of them – it doesn’t seem to attract the resentment that certain other small cars do.Equally, the new tyres haven’t made the ride any worse.

It’s slightly puzzling that none of this eco stuff has been put on the diesel, but then that car already sits under the magic 120g/km marker, so there’s no incentive for either Fiat or customers to spend the money. 

As it is, the petrol Eco is £100 more expensive than the normal car with no gain in standard spec. This seems a bit steep for such minor alterations, but then the Eco does drop into a lower tax band, so you’ll get £85 back from the government straight-away. Which means that the oddest thing about the Panda Eco is what it does to the rest of the range, as the standard Panda is still on sale. You know, the one that pollutes more and doesn’t give you as much mpg. If you’ve got a conscience, this is the only Panda to get.

Piers Ward

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