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Fiat Panda 100HP Car Review | November 2, 2006

Driven November 2006

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There was something about the old Fiat Panda that stopped you taking the piss out of it (well, too much, anyway). Its disarming simplicity and all-round cheapness persuaded you to forgive its boxy looks and resonant tinny ringing noise with every slammed door - despite the fact it was probably rusting around you.

When Fiat resurrected its still-charming and considerably less boxy hatch three years ago, all the charm of its predecessor remained - and this time it was properly screwed together. For a Fiat, at least. And now, with the launch of this hottish 100HP version, it should thaw even the coldest Fiatophobe heart.

It's the sporty derivative the cheery Panda range has been crying out for. Using, funnily enough, a 100bhp version of the 1.4-litre Starjet engine found in the Punto and a selection of useful chassis mods, the 100HP is an addictive go-faster shopping hatch that you'll park at Tesco with a smile on your face.

Suspension has been dropped by 20mm and stiffened by 25 percent at both ends. Larger brakes have been fitted front and rear and there's an amusing little Sport button on the dash that sharpens throttle response and reduces the steering assistance for a bit more feel. That, coupled with an infectious (but not too invasive) induction roar, gives the 100HP some of the character of Abarth-tuned Fiats of old.

I'll be the first to admit that 100bhp doesn't sound like much these days, but the Panda only weighs 1015kg. On paper, that means it'll crack 62mph in 9.5 seconds and nudge 115mph flat out in sixth. On the road, you have just enough power to entertain and a chuckable chassis that won't let you get into any real trouble - or make you bite off your own tongue over potholes.

And it looks good too. It's quite easy for sportier variants of cars to end up being beaten a bit with the chav stick, but Fiat has subtly enlarged the wheelarches, added an in-keeping bodykit and a tasteful set of 15-inch alloys. Can't really defend the chrome tailpipe, though.

Still, at less than ten grand, it's hard to knock Fiat's new flagship Panda for anything. It's cheap, it has five doors, genuine driving appeal and a certain indefinable cool. And this time even the doors shut with a clunk.

Paul Regan

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