If a very compact city car that must also swallow long distances is your requirement, then this oil-burning Panda could be the answer

What is it?

This is the turbodiesel version of Fiat’s latest Panda, a rare breed in the budget city hatchback class. The engine in question is the 1.3 Multijet II diesel that’s much-improved over the original version, and it rides in a Panda that at its core shares hardware with the second-generation model (which is likely to remain on sale for a while after the new version makes the showroom) but has nevertheless been very substantially reworked. So although its wheelbase remains the same it has grown, to provide a bigger boot and more interior space.

The new body delivers better crash performance and it’s more aerodynamic, too. Also new is a stylish and practical dashboard – it provides several of the 14 on-board storage spaces – extensively revised front suspension that benefits from a stiffer shell, tweaks to the rear axle and a much wider equipment choice. This will include a collision mitigation system that emergency-brakes the car from below 19mph, a dashtop-mounted TomTom Live sat nav, a glass sunroof, heated windscreen and climate control. The Multijet also comes with standard-fit stop-start, to yield a 104g/km CO2 figure and combined consumption of 72.4mpg.

What’s it like?

There’s an aura of sophistication to this cabin that’s rare in budget cars of this class, and while hard-feel plastics prevail, order the Panda in the right colours and you definitely won’t feel that you’re travelling economy. Excellent visibility, stylish seat trim and a diesel that’s reasonably subdued at idle reinforce this impression, too.

The diesel also feels the stoutest performer of the Panda’s quartet of engines, its mid-range tug more than compensating for the fact that the turbo Twinair can outsprint it to 62mph. These days the 1.3 Multijet serves a much broader band of torque that demands far less matching of revs to gears. And makes for an altogether more effortless climb to cruising speeds that make this Panda an entirely credible long-distance car. Very low wind noise, modest road noise and decent diesel refinement all contribute too, as does assured directional stability.

Which is partly down to the greater weight of the Multijet, which you feel in corners if you look for it and a ride that’s marginally less composed at speed than it is aboard the petrol powered versions. But if going further in a straight line is your requirement, then the Mutlijet is the version – its performance is more relaxed than the 1.2, and it’s less peaky than the Twinair.

Should I buy one?

If a very compact city car that must also swallow long distances is your requirement, then this oil-burning Panda could be the answer. It’s civilised, pleasing to sit in if your avoid the base specification – though that is far from unacceptable – roomy and potentially very well equipped. More than any Panda past, it’s a city car that can be your only car. And you can’t ask a lot more of budget wheels than that.

Fiat Panda 1.3 Multijet Easy

Price as tested: £13,200 est; Top speed: 104mph; 0-62mph: 12.8sec; Combined mpg: 72.4; Co2: 104g/km; Kerbweight: 1035kg; Engine type: four cylinder in-line turbodiesel; Power: 74bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 140lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox: 5-speed manual

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850T5 20 December 2011

Re: Fiat Panda 1.3 MultiJet

It has a "Quartic" steering wheel. Fiat are obviously targeting elderly drivers with fond memories of early Austin Allegros.

Mario B 20 December 2011

Re: Fiat Panda 1.3 MultiJet

Given that the Panda has put on weight, the deisel may well be the one to have now especially as it is now a bigger car. However, this is a basic car so there are limits and the old 1.2 with aircon was to me spot on. The 4x4 has it's appeal but it is thunderously overpriced and the performance of the old 1.2 was just too weak for everyday use though quite sufficeient when the going or weather got rough.

Overdrive 20 December 2011

Re: Fiat Panda 1.3 MultiJet

Going by the review it looks like a pretty impressive all rounder for a small car. But at over 13 grand the Panda is getting pricey. You could buy a proper warm hatch, like the Swift GTi, for that kind of money.