From £8,896
Welcome to fun like it used to be - simple pleasure that doesn't come from masses of power. And you don't need masses of cash to buy one, either - the 100HP is under £10k.

Our Verdict

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

A very fine multi-use little car that offers an enticing ownership proposition

  • First Drive

    Fiat Panda 1.2 review

    Willing if modestly powered 1.2 is the probably the pick of Panda bunch
  • First Drive

    Fiat Panda 1.2 Lounge

    It is fitting that the Panda with the smallest price tag should be the best.
30 December 2006

What is it?

It’s the new Fiat Panda 100hp, and there aren’t enough cars like it in the world. At risk of sounding like a miserable old duffer, mainstream cars are typically nowhere near as much fun as they used to be. That they’re stronger, safer and more refined is beyond question. It’s just that they’ve lost much of their excitement along the way. So the arrival of the Panda 100hp is rather refreshing, because it’s a wee bundle of fun.

What’s it like?

Great to look at, we think. The wheels are where they should be, right bang in the corners; the body skirts and wheelarches are flared just-so; the cheeky wee chrome tailpipe, false diffuser and (real) rear spoiler are jolly without being oversized.

And the same goes for the alloys. Fifteen-inch wheels are small by today’s standards – even Corsas come with nothing diddier – but here they add just the right poise; helped no end by a 25mm suspension drop. It’s not aggressive – this is a Fiat Panda, after all, so it’s more Pirates of the Caribbean than Apocalypse Now. The autofication of swashbuckling nonsense.

With the ride height reduction comes 25 per cent stiffer springs and dampers and a thicker front roll bar (there isn’t a rear one). The bump stops are polymer rather than rubber and come into play sooner. Rear disc brakes are from the Panda 4x4, ventilated front discs come from the new Punto, as does the engine. The 1.4-litre FIRE unit here develops 99bhp (100PS), up by 5bhp over its Punto application.

The interior is rather more standard. Front seats are well bolstered, but although Fiat claims the grey trim looks sportier than usual and the steering wheel’s leather-clad, it’s the gearknob’s six indicated speeds and the discreet Sport button (of which more later) that are the only obvious indications this is anything other than a regular Fiat Panda. Which, actually, makes it reminiscently like a junior hot-hatch of old: fun comes from driving, not from velour headlining.

And, to a point, that’s what this car is about. The Panda 100hp is a genuinely lively car to punt along. All of its major controls are light and the ride’s just the right side of acceptable. True, it’s a little jittery on bad roads and, because of its compact size, speed bumps tend to unsettle both front and rear at the same time, but they’re small prices to pay to get a car that’s so willing to change direction.

The Panda 100hp is enthusiastic and eager; it ducks into turns with less roll than you’d expect and the front tyres, 195/45 GoodYear Eagles, hang on gamely. When it’s wet, as it was for most of our test, even the Panda’s modes 99bhp will make them scrabble out of second gear corners, but grip levels are generally very high. Stay neutral on the throttle and eventually the Panda will understeer and, though there’s limited throttle adjustability, there’s also ESP too and it can’t be switched off, so this is a car you steer with the wheel, rather than using deft footwork to tighten a line.

Which brings us neatly to this car’s biggest downside. The Panda’s electrically assisted power steering is short on feel and the level of assistance is variable, so it lacks proper, linear response. The Sport button I mentioned earlier does what it can to help here. It’s the antithesis of the regular Panda’s City button, so instead of providing lighter, more manageable steering, it lessens assistance by 20 per cent. Which is about 80 per cent too little, in truth, but it’s welcome to the extent that you’d probably just leave it on. It also sharpens throttle response below 3000rpm, but not by a great deal. And given the engine revs to 7000rpm, you’ll hardly notice if you’re driving enthusiastically.

Fiat’s figures say the Panda will reach 62mph from rest in 9.5 sec and go on to 115mph, both of which sound ambitious to me. Our test car revved towards the red line with less enthusiasm than I’d expected, but then, it had only covered 1500 miles, so might loosen into the junior hot-hatch the claims suggest it is. The gearbox gets the best from it. The shift is sweet; short of throw and accurate of shift.

Should I buy one?

There are plenty of reasons to. And if it hasn’t already made a decent case for itself, consider that it comes very well equipped (electric windows, air-con, CD player), returns 40-plus mpg, is insurance group five and costs £9995. Sounds like a winner to us.

Join the debate

Comments
13

5 January 2008

Blimey Autocar, have you really only just got round to testing properly this little gem?

A genuine fun small car which, as you described, is a welcome fun blast from the old school past!

The only reason I didn't buy one was down to the width of the cabin. I am quite broad shouldered and where I have to have the seat positioned, my shoulders hit the B pillar. Other than that, great car.

Personally I am at a loss as to what all the fuss is about regarding its sister car, the 500. Save yourself a good couple of quid and buy this little pocket rocket.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

6 January 2008

The MD of a company I do a little business with has one of these for his wife. Only things is she never actually gets her chance to drive because he insists of taking it first, leaving her with his new Brera V6.

He let me have a crack in it, what a fantastic little car. The thing that is really right about this car is it's looks. it does not rely on big wheels and large spoilers, yet it looks more sporting than alot of other so say other sports cars. Fiat really knows how to do small cars better than most others.

8 January 2008

I'd love one as a runaround.

5 October 2010

[quote Autocar]mainstream cars are typically nowhere near as much fun as they used to be. That they’re stronger, safer and more refined is beyond question. It’s just that they’ve lost much of their excitement along the way. [/quote]

Couldn't agree more. In fact, I'd have to say that this sums up just about all cars in the last ten years. Refinement, perceived quality, interior space and safety have all taken massive steps forward, however the increased weight has really taken a lot of the fun out of driving cars. Thankfully, the old school cars like the Panda allow drivers to enjoy the art of driving and become involved in the experience of it, rather than being isolated from it with sound deadening and soft touch plastics.

27 September 2011

I Have just bought one,with 21000,on the clock,its sheer fun to drive.I am very impressed with the build quality/paint work,(electroclash grey)which suits it admirably,I paid £4.47p extra on my insurance,over my Panda 1.2 litre.Have managed to eek out 49.7 m.p.g.as well.As my back up car for my Nissan Leaf,its ideal.The brakes,take alot of getting used to though!

27 September 2011

Brilliant little car. I've run a few standard Pandas as hire cars over in Italy and found them a hoot to drive. 100hp version sounds like about as much fun you can have with your cloths on.

Just out of interest what's it like on longer motorway cruises? The standard 1.2 petrol and 1.3 Multijet Diesel are both surprisingly refined at 140-150kmh on the Autostrada. I've heard the 100hp is a bit undergeared and noisey.

27 September 2011

The new Panda is set to have the TwinAir unit slotted under the hood. Should be interesting...

27 September 2011

[quote Fidji]

The new Panda is set to have the TwinAir unit slotted under the hood. Should be interesting...

[/quote]

The new Panda will be much improved no doubt. As far as drivers who enjoy driving are concerned though it will be a pale shadow of the current Panda in the same way the current BMW 330i is a pale shadow of the E36 328i I drove back in 1997.

27 September 2011

The current Panda has been around for a while, and although it has just three EuroNCAP stars, it's rock bottom prices, pure simplicity and rugged reliability have won it many fans. I do hope that the upcoming Panda sticks to these principles, as basic city cars are hard to come by these days, and that is why the Panda sold by the million. I know the access to the TwinAir engine is good, but that little motor's expensive, and the cheaper 1.2 would probably make the better choice, the TwinAir being the better option in the 500. It's a shame the 1.1 was axed; it was dirt cheap, and was actually quite clean. It did originate from the Uno, but it is still very capable by today's standards.

27 September 2011

[quote Fidji]The current Panda has been around for a while, and although it has just three EuroNCAP stars, it's rock bottom prices, pure simplicity and rugged reliability have won it many fans. [/quote]

Always been a fan of Giugiaro's penultimate creation - a rugged wee fighter, capable of traversing most terrains. Am running a lowly dust covered version all over southern Spain at the moment, Malaga, Cardoba, Seville, Coin, up and down mountain roads - Nirvana: not a single instance of traffic congestion anywhere, not even in the cities - but ... it falls backwards going uphill unless I rev the nuts off it.

Would prefer the 100 hp.

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