Currently reading: Electric Fiat Panda previewed as one of five shock new concepts
Fleet of five 1980s-inspired concept cars includes City Car, which hints at electric Panda ahead of July unveiling

Fiat has previewed the new electric Panda as one of five radically styled concepts that look ahead to a range of new affordable cars due on sale worldwide by the end of the decade.  

Fiat's new concepts have been revealed on the eve of the Geneva motor show – from which the Italian brand will be absent, along with each of its Stellantis sibling brands.

Notably, the headline unveiling at Geneva will be the production version of the Renault 5, a similarly conceived retro electric supermini that will be a close rival to the new Fiat Panda.

In a new video released by Fiat, CEO Olivier François takes to the streets of small Italian town dubbed 'Ginevra' in a current Panda as he presents his company's alternative take on the international motor show.

"Today I want to take you all with me to one of the biggest appointments of the year: the Geneva auto show. In Italian, 'Ginevra'," he says.

"It's a very big deal for us car makers. Loads of people will be there: French, Chinese, Japanese, and they all will spend big money displaying the future of their business, because it's a press event so everyone wants to impress. It makes sense.

"But for today, even if you are not a journalist, just come on board. There's plenty of room in my little Panda."

The first of Fiat's new-era models – which are all described as "children of the Panda" – will be revealed in July as part of the brand's 125th anniversary celebrations, followed by one new car every year until 2027.

They will share a common architecture, which can accommodate combustion, hybrid and electric powertrains. 

This platform is expected to be the cost-effective Smart Car platform used by the latest C3 from sibling brand Citroën, which was originally designed for the Indian and Latin American markets but has since been adapted for European sale. 

The Panda, expected to be the car Fiat will show in June, has been previewed by a retro-futuristic concept dubbed the City Car, which takes obvious inspiration from the 1980s Panda 4x4. 

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Confirming that it has a larger footprint than the current car, Fiat refers to the City Car concept as "a sort of mega-Panda", but it's still expected to be among the smaller full-sized cars available in Europe. 

The Panda is expected to morph into an ultra-compact crossover, like the Citroën to which it is related, riding higher and with a greater focus on cabin space.

The concept's upright stature, chunky proportions and contrasting lower bodywork suggest the Panda will lean into the rugged, utilitarian cues that have defined its namesake since it arrived, three generations ago, in 1980.

Fiat explained that raising the Panda up off the ground for its next generation will broaden its appeal: "The high driving position and robust design make this city car the perfect ally for customers all over the world, especially in crowded urban environments. But at the same time, it offers roominess and versatility for family weekend trips and holidays."

Fiat hasn't gone so far as to hint at the new Panda's technical specifications, but like the C3, it's set to be offered with a choice of ICE and EV powertrains as Fiat strives to ensure its products remain accessible to as wide a demographic as possible and to cater to differing needs in different markets. 

Citroën hasn't yet fully detailed the C3's combustion offering, but the EV produces 111bhp and is available with two batteries, giving ranges of 124 and 199 miles. 

Crucially, the ë-C3 is expected to be one of the cheapest full-sized electric cars on sale, with a starting price of less than €20,000, and the electric Panda is expected to roughly match that.

The petrol version of the Panda could cost as little as £15,000. 

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The City Car's design departs radically from the Centoventi concept that Fiat unveiled in 2019 as a preview of the Panda's future. Not only does it sit further from the ground, but it also adopts a raft of 1980s-inspired design cues, including a pixel-style front light bar, chunky flared wheel arches and even a new interpretation of Fiat's classic slatted badge. 

Fiat's historic factory in Lingotto, Turin – no longer in use – is said to have been a driving influence on the concept's design, with designers drawing on the building's "structural lightness, space optimisation and brightness" as they created the interior.

Notably, the factory's famous rooftop test track is referenced in the oval steering wheel and dashboard design. 

The cabin majors on sustainability, with materials including bamboo and recycled plastics used for the main structures - features that will come to be common to all Fiat products in the new era. 

Fiat also hinted at one unique feature that could appear on the production version: a self-winding charging cable that retracts into the bodywork when not in use.  

The City Car's retro cues and chunky form are carried over to each of the other concept cars that Fiat has unveiled, suggesting a ground-up rethink for its electrified line-up following the launch of the 500 supermini and 600 crossover. 

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The Pick-Up concept, for example, previews a striking new pick-up truck that will replace the Strada - Brazil's best-selling vehicle. 

Intriguingly, Fiat said it's "certain that this type of vehicle can replicate its success at a global level, even in Europe", all but confirming plans to bring its next small truck here. 

Said to "put the fun into functionality", the Pick-Up is clearly more overtly aimed at the lifestyle market than the commercial vehicle sector, and indeed Fiat says it blends "the concept of a pick-up with the functionality of an LCV and the comfort of an SUV in a size that is suitable to urban environments all over the world". 

There's also the Fastback concept, a rakish compact crossover "with a sporty flair" that aims to prove "Fiat can improve its sustainable commitment without giving up on performance".

Fiat noted that it would be a successor to the Fastback and Tipo model lines but, unlike the existing coupé-SUV, could come to Europe. 

The more straight-backed SUV concept is presented as a "giga-Panda" that would no doubt be pitched against the likes of the Dacia Duster when it makes production.

It is, Fiat said, "another confirmation of the special emphasis the brand is putting on the needs of family transport".

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The barrage of concepts rounds off with the Camper – "the ultimate do-it-all vehicle". Blending elements of 4x4 off-roaders, MPVs and vans, it's said to pay homage to the "fun-ctionality of the Panda from the '80s, recalling the versatility of a car that was made for the city with the feature of an SUV and the soul of a trusty companion".  

François said: “Fiat is a global brand, with 1.3 million cars sold last year and solid leadership in many parts of the world. We're in a global game, and our next step will be to transition from local products to a global offer that can benefit all of our customers everywhere in the world. 

"We're excited to share this glimpse into our future – a very near future, actually, since the first car will be presented in four months, during the brand’s 125th anniversary celebration. That car will then be followed by one new model every year.” 

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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rmcondo 20 April 2024

As it is with MINI, the 500, 600, Panda and Giant Panda take the brand everywhere that it needs to be competitively. Other Stellantis Italian brands, and the rest, complete the picture entirely. In any case, all that markets want today are real or phoney SUVs, with the occasionally 5 door supermini, and these sub-brands can provide an interminable supply of those. It makes one wonder, though, if there is any meaningful market position and space for Lancia and DS, amid Alfa Romeo, Opel, Citroen, Peugeot, JEEP and, of course FIAT. The two outsiders offer little that is not available from the better-established brands, unless Maserati wanted to expand its brand values downwards, Alfa Romeo and JEEP notwithstanding. Maybe a single, combined Lancia-DS brand could create a Volvo/Polestar/Lexus/Chrysler-type niche. I doubt it, though. Volkswagen does it quite well already.

Pietro Cavolonero 27 February 2024

Someone had a bumper Lego set for Christmas.......

Mikey C 26 February 2024

Interesting that this is no longer paired with the 500. Will the 500 platform just be used for that model only?