Drove the Fiat Panda today, and what really stood out for me was the improvement in perceived quality.
The materials feel good, refinement has improved and it feels as unpretentious and cheerful as the old Panda, but just as practical and a bit more grown up.
I tried the TwinAir motor that we're familiar with from the 500, which is as characterful as ever even if the gearing in second left you lagging outside the power range too often at low speeds. You can read the first drive and see the video on autocar.co.uk imminently.
If anything left an impression more than the improved and, much to my relief, still loveable Panda it was the reaction the locals in Naples had to the car. This is where the Panda is now built, following massive investment from Fiat, and it's very obvious the appreciation that people have for this car.
While Brits have an open fondness for our automotive icons, the Italians only just stop short of building monuments to the Panda in town centres.
Granted, much of the elation we saw in passers by that glimpsed the curvy 2012 Panda is to do with it's just-launched freshness. But if any nation does patriotism it's the Italians, and they show a loyalty to the Fiat brand that I'm not sure you'll find anywhere else. It's a heartening thing to see.
More importantly, the Panda is still a total charmer, and deserves to be the success that it's bound to be.