Cute looks, good space, fun to drive, cheap to run. Delightfully un-sporty.
Dated infotainment and safety tech. The Hybrid isn’t a proper hybrid.
What is it?
Home territory for Fiat. It’s at its best building happy little city cars – the Panda and the 500, basically – with every attempt to do a bigger car usually landing in the ‘good but you’d rather have a ____’ pile. The Panda, however, is a stalwart. A consistently unpretentious, useful, charming little car with a long shelf-life. The current one’s been on sale since 2011, and there’s no sign of it being killed off yet. (Can you kill off a Panda? Surely it’s protected…)
In fact, the Panda’s just become a hybrid. That’s the big news. Except, it hasn’t the hybrid system is so mild, it’s like plugging in a wristwatch battery. Fiat’s ‘look how green we are’ marketing is unnecessarily heavy-handed, but every little helps, we suppose.
The Panda range is actually a little consuming. There’s the standard front-wheel drive Panda starting an under £11k, then the more rugged-looking Panda Cross, which is £13,655, then there’s a proper four-wheel drive Panda 4x4, at just over £15k.
Or, you can combine the Panda 4x4’s drivetrain with the Panda Cross’ rufty-tufty styling, for almost £17k. It’s unnecessarily complicated, but happily, life is made easier by the fact that every Panda is recommendable. Keep it simple, cheap it cheap, and simply decide whether or not you’d like four-wheel drive on hand for slippery weather.
Inside, very little’s changed since 2011, so you can’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (but you can plug your phone into a holder on the dash, which is kinda the same thing. But hey, that means there’s no native touchscreen inside, just lots of tactile buttons. There’s also big space, for a city car.
It’s all very… rounded. Especially the styling. Do you like squircles? That’s squared-off circles, boomer. If you like squircles, you got ‘em…
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
We like the Panda an awful lot, because of its honesty. It’s a useful, characterful, cheery car that was, until very recently, totally free of marketing flim-flam. That’s why Fiat’s clumsy ‘look it’s a hybrid!!’ ploy with the one-litre engine stings a bit, because it’s such a meagre amount of electrification, it’s unfair and almost disingenuous to pretend the car has two power sources. S
till, it doesn’t spoil the car with added weight, complication and cost, and that kind of loophole keeps cars this small viable, so much the better. This is a small car with big space, genuine off-road ability, cheap running coasts and a sense of non-aggression that makes it truly refreshing to be in and to be seen in. It’s also well-put together, and holds its value respectably. Don’t plump for a Dacia Sandero or a Suzuki Ignis until you’ve tried one of these – it’s a mini TG hero..