What is it?
This is a lovely little car. Here at TopGear, we were big fans of the old one, but it lived on too long without replacement. That’s how models such as the Kia Picanto have been able to grab its buyers, with the VW-Skoda-Seat trio upping the challenge further. This latest Panda, new for 2012, is Fiat’s response.
In all honesty, it’s not that different to the old one, taking the increasingly familiar route of evolution rather than reinvention. But, given how it was still so able, you can’t fault the logic this time round. The latest Panda is barely any pricier than the old car, is better equipped and has the high- tech options buyers demand in this class. Best of all, Fiat’s zappy two- cylinder engine is available, too.
Praise be, this is an Italian car that actually does the vibrancy part well. Pert suspension shows a charming spirit when darting about town and it can even raise a smile out of city limits too. The trade-off is a ride firmer than, say, a VW Up, but we think it’s worth it. As before, there is a DualDrive button to make the steering ridiculously light, but why Fiat feels you’d want to trade the interaction is lost on us.
On the engine front, 1.2 is the cheapest and best, but the punchier 0.9 TwinAir is the most intriguing. Its odd engine note is cute and turbo- assisted torque provides muscle beyond its means. Don’t bother with the clattery diesel though. It’s torquey too, but vocal with it, and
lacks the necessary immediacy. In all Pandas, if you do switch off, Fiat has debuted a low speed collision mitigation option, which will emergency-brake if it detects a looming prang. Clever.
On the inside
The Panda has always been about practicality over style, in contrast to its 500 sibling. It’s five doors only, the interior swallows five, it’s easy to access as it stands higher than the city car norm and, inside, it’s exceedingly practical throughout. The dash is designed to stow as much clutter as you care to carry, while the design is stylishly utilitarian. It all looks and feels much more upmarket than the old Panda, and this time round it’s actually made from solid plastics, rather than packing materials.
There are six interior colour combinations to go with the 10 exterior hues, as Fiat tries to bring in a bit of Mini-like personalisation.
Fiat has broadened the model line- up with the addition of the TwinAir engine. Pop, Easy and Lounge trim lines mirror the 500, with Easy being the, err, easiest choice as it comes with air con, remote locking, roof rails and a better stereo. Choose this with the 85bhp 0.9 TwinAir and you’ll also get
99g/km CO2 and economy of 67.3mpg: perfect.