What is it?
It’s not the briskest engine, nor the most economical and it comes with the most conventional of the engine quartet offered in this third-generation Panda, but the 68bhp 1.2-litre four cylinder will be the cheapest model and is also probably the best all-rounder.
What’s it like?
It’s the smoothest spinning motor, has the most distant rev limit (6300rpm) and issues none of the Twinair’s thrummy vibrations nor the diesel’s admittedly distant rattle. True, the 1.2 misses the 1.3 Multijet’s torquey strength, but this is an engine whose soundtrack fades agreeably into the background.
Order the Panda in one of the more interesting cabin colour-ways and you have a pretty agreeable environment in which to travel, too. The dashboard’s wide, colour-coded perimeter, some subtly stylish instruments and a faux piano-black finish for the main switch control pack in the higher series versions all help you escape the fact that you’re aboard a modestly priced commuter car.
So does the Fiat’s refinement. It rides cobbles with unexpected pliancy and an impressive all-of-a-piece aura, the engine doesn’t shout and on the motorway both wind and road noise prove pleasingly distant. So the prospect of long distance trips should not prompt thoughts of the train. Strangely, the ride is sometimes less good at middling speeds than it is over battered urban Tarmac, the Panda’s wheels pattering slightly, and on the rain-slicked roads around Naples front end grip tended wash away like sand from an ocean-dipped seaside spade.
Surprisingly, ESP isn’t standard. But the Panda handles tidily enough, roll adequately countered despite its relative height and the steering responding with fair precision if little feel. All of which makes it modestly entertaining, and more than modestly comfortable. It’s a shame that the centre console carrying the handily high-mounted gearlever robs you of in-board kneeroom in an otherwise accommodating cockpit, but backbenchers will enjoy noticeably more room than in the previous Panda, and there’s a usefully enlarged boot besides.
Should I buy one?
Yes. The Panda is a budget machine that’s more savoury than most, can be had with a neat TomTom sat nav pod and some attractive options. It’s certainly got all the appeal of the old Panda, and as such should prove one of the best options in the class.
Fiat Panda 1.2 Pop
Price: £8700 est; Top speed: 102mph; 0-62mph: 14.2sec; Economy: 54.3mpg; Co2: 120g/km; Kerbweight: 940kg; Engine: in-line four, petrol, 1242cc; Power: 68bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 75lb ft at 3000rpm; Gearbox: 5spd manual