From £8,896
New Fiat Panda is considerably more versatile and a big improvement on an already useful and engaging car

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.
11 December 2011

What is it?

Well it’s not just a baby car, whatever the diminutive overall length of just 3650mm implies. The Fiat Panda has 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 Francois sums it up as “the official car for doing whatever the hell you like.”

The Panda is essential to Fiat in the sales sense, too. The company has averaged more than 200,000 Pandas a year for over 30 years. Production recently passed 6.5 million units, yet the new model due to hit British showrooms at the end of February is only the third generation.

What’s it like?

Fiat has preserved the essential Panda mechanical layout and many cost-saving chassis and suspension parts for the new model. The wheelbase is unaltered at 2300mm but the body is 114mm longer, 11mm taller and 65mm wider at the waistline. Aero drag factor is cut from an unimpressive 0.40 to 0.33. Body stiffness is improved, and Fiat also claims major cuts in noise and vibration from engine, wind and road. The new Panda now weighs 930 kilograms, about 60kg more than the equivalent outgoing model.

Inside, the emphasis is on stylish practicality. Fiat has redesigned the dash to improve layout and ease of use, and the fascia design is both appealing and extremely practical. Designers make great play of providing 14 different compartments for gadgets big and small.

There are big revisions to the Panda’s suspension (still MacPherson struts in front; coil-sprung twist-beam behind) that reduce understeer by 20 per cent, cut body roll by 35 per cent and make the electric power steering a lot more sensitive.

Fiat is backing up its 2WD models with a new generation Panda 4x4 with extra-strength suspension mountings and unique spring/damper/anti-roll bar rates delivering increased wheel travel. Drive to the rear wheels is through a hydraulically actuated multi-plate clutch ahead of the rear diff.

Three different engines are offered. Base engine is Fiat’s ubiquitous 1.2-litre 69bhp FIRE engine, there are two versions of the parallel twin-cylinder TwinAir engine, turbocharged (85bhp) and normally aspirated (65bhp), both of which use a developed version of Fiat’s uniquely flexible valve timing system, dubbed MultiAir II. Each emits less than 100g/km CO2. There’s also a turbodiesel option: the familiar 75bhp, 1.3-litre MultiJet II unit, producing just 103g/km CO2.

The Panda feels tall when you first slide behind the wheel, but much more roomy than the current model. Visibility is spectacular, the controls/dials are simple to operate. Even at low speed, the NVH improvements are instantly obvious. In particular, the Panda is much quieter than its predecessor on coarse surfaces and rides flatter.

The steering, still light, is far more informative. For all the talk of reduced understeer, the Panda will stlll push its front wheels, and body roll remains noticeable though never a problem.

The TwinAir turbo is as engaging as ever: you can drive it for economy and change up at amazingly low revs, but it’s more fun to drive using the revs. The 1.3 diesel is familiar from other Fiats: smooth, and frugal. The normally aspirated MultiAir is a bit of a disappointment. Probably better to choose the cheaper 1.2-litre FIRE. Our favourite in early tests was the 4x4, which rides high on big tyres, has long suspension travel, and generally behaves like a small Land Rover Discovery.

Should I buy one?

Depends on the role you plan for the car. The Panda doesn’t have quite the slick city style of the new Volkswagen Up, but is considerably more versatile and a big improvement on an already useful and engaging car. Another Fiat success beckons.

Fiat Panda Twinair II Turbo

Price: £9000 (est); On sale: February 2012; 0-62mph: 11.2 sec; Top speed: 107 mph; Economy: 67mpg; CO2 emissions: 99 g/km; Kerb weight: 970 kg; Engine layout: in-line 2cyl, 900cc, turbo; Installation: transverse front-wheel drive; Power: 84bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 107lb ft at 1900rpm; Gearbox: five-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
48

14 December 2011

Wider and heavier than its predecessor, I thought new cars were meant to move things forwards.

Myk

14 December 2011

I think the size of this is just about acceptable (including the weight). Any bigger or heavier though and we're getting away from what a Panda is about. Fiat will need to be careful when replacing it.

14 December 2011

Those impressive figures make the VW up! seem a bit last year! Looks practical and roomy but I think I still prefer the look of the previous car.

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

14 December 2011

These impressive figures have sadly enough nothing to do with the real figures with the twinair engine! Keep in mind that the Up! will soon get 4 doors and then its versatility will be much better.

R.Jeroen

14 December 2011

As the owner of a current Panda, I think this is a brilliant update, and cures the worst aspect of the current car for me by adding width.

However, have you seen the current list price for a Multijet - over 12000, so what will the new one cost? Ours was bought as a pre-reg, 3 months old in 2006 for 6200

14 December 2011

I find your review pretty basic to be honest. Nothing is said at all over the quality (or not) of the interior???

14 December 2011

[quote deppi]I find your review pretty basic to be honest[/quote] I agree, nice car bad review.

14 December 2011

the interior is beige and black, with some trendy seats, too many buttons on the steering wheel, and a plastic dashboard !!

www.KOOOLcr.com

 

14 December 2011

Looking forward to taking a test drive; even if it's only 80% as engaging as it's predecessor it will still be a hoot.

  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

14 December 2011

Anyone know where these are built? I think the last ones were built in Poland or Hungary or somewhere.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run