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, and now provides the backbone that Fiat 500 and the Ford Ka have both used - admittedly, with varying degrees of success.

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

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200 2018 review hero front
    First Drive
    20 June 2018
    Mild hybrid engine completes an extensive facelift for Mercedes’ fourth-generation junior saloon, but the C200 isn’t the most convincing choice in the line-up
  • Mercedes-AMG C43 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    19 June 2018
    Greater shove and some subtle styling tweaks for the 'baby' AMG C-Class, but the C 43 Coupe makes less of a case for itself than the saloon or estate
  • Citroen Berlingo 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    19 June 2018
    Boxy, slightly quirky van-based car returns to top form in only third iteration in more than two decades
  • Porsche Cayenne 2018 UK first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    19 June 2018
    Performance doesn't come at the expense of comfort and composure in Porsche's mid-range Cayenne
  • Skoda Kodiaq
    First Drive
    18 June 2018
    High-spec seven-seater Kodiaq begins its family life with a lot to prove — for Skoda and SUVs