The Fiat Panda is not just a baby car, whatever the diminutive overall length of just 3650mm implies.

It's always been quite different in character from rivals similar in size and price. Others are called city cars or economy cars; the Panda is more of an ‘essential’ car, created for many who will use it as their only car. Fiat boss Olivier François sums it up as “the official car for doing whatever the hell you like”.

Fiat’s tradition of small car manufacture began in 1938 with the 500, known as the ‘Topolino’. Conceived by legendary engineer Dante Giacosa, it helped mobilise pre-war Italy. In the early 1950s, Giacosa designed the rear-engined 600 and then, in 1957, launched the classic Nuova 500, the tiny car that went on to capture the hearts of owners worldwide.

The 500 stayed in production until 1975, while various developments of the 600 followed (the 850 and its replacement, the 127). In 1980, the original Panda was born and, since then, the 1983 Uno and 1993 Punto have been big small-car successes.

Fiat's Panda is essential to the company in the sales sense, too. The company has averaged more than 200,000 Pandas a year for over 30 years. Production of the Panda has even passed 6.5 million units, yet this new model is only the third generation.

The previous Panda even won the coveted Car of the Year award in 2004. Can this all-new model recapture those charms in a familiar-looking package?

Top 5 City cars

  • The Volkswagen Up city car isn't revolutionary, it's just quantifiably better than the opposition

    Volkswagen Up

    1
  • Hyundai i10
    The Hyundai i10 is offered with either a 1.0-litre petrol engine or a 1.2-litre petrol engine

    Hyundai i10

    2
  • The Celerio is an all-new city car from Suzuki

    Suzuki Celerio

    3
  • Panda’s 4 star EuroNCAP crash score falls short of some rivals

    Fiat Panda

    4
  • Renault Twingo
    The Twingo is a compact, rear-engined city car

    Renault Twingo

    5

First drives

Videos

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Fiat range

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    2 September 2015
    Kia facelifts its Cee'd and drops its six-speed torque converter in favour of a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox in the process. We drive it for the first time
  • First Drive
    1 September 2015
    Kia has developed a better-mannered, more sophisticated Sportage for 2016
  • First Drive
    31 August 2015
    Thought the 3 Series was losing its edge? Well it's back, with a facelifted version that offers improved performance and dynamics. Does it reclaim its top spot after our drive on UK roads?
  • First Drive
    27 August 2015
    BMW gives its flagship 7 Series an extensive overhaul in a bid to tempt buyers of luxury cars away from the Mercedes S-Class, Audi's A8 and the Jaguar XJ
  • First Drive
    26 August 2015
    New Qashqai rival majors on practicality and usability and benefits from a long warranty, but lower-specification versions are the better bet