Review

Fiat Panda hatchback

Price  £9,095 - £13,795

Fiat Panda hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Well-designed interior
  • Easy to drive in town
  • Cheap to buy and own
Cons
  • Poorly equipped
  • Four-star Euro NCAP safety rating
  • Struggles with motorway driving

At a glance

The greenest
0.9 TwinAir 85hp Dualogic Lounge 5dr £12,660
The cheapest
1.2 Pop 5dr £9,095
The fastest
0.9 TwinAir 85hp Easy 5dr £11,095
Top of the range
1.3-16v Multijet Trekking 5dr £13,795

"The Fiat Panda is a cheerful city car with a versatile interior and thrifty engines."

The Fiat Panda is one of the best-selling cars in Europe thanks to its charming design, impressive versatility and its economical running costs. With a starting price of £9,095 and an annual road tax bill of £30 or less each year, there are few cheaper new cars to run.

Sharing much with the Fiat 500, the Panda is its more practical sibling, with a boot between 225 and 260 litres in size thanks to sliding rear seats. It also has a tall roof, improving legroom and headroom for passengers and giving a great view out.

The pick of the range is the 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol, because not only does it offer the best performance, its distinctive exhaust note also adds to the Panda's character. Impressively, the TwinAir is also the only version with free road tax. It's not for everyone, though. We’d recommend the entry-level petrol to low-mileage drivers thanks to its lower price, while the diesel should suit motorway drivers thanks to its economy. 

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.4 / 5

You’ll pay £30 or less in road tax

The Fiat Panda should be exceptionally cheap to run, whichever version you go for. Low mileage drivers may be best off with the cheapest 1.2-litre engine, returning 54.3mpg and costing £30 annually to tax. The quicker 0.9-litre TwinAir model is more expensive to buy, but its 67.3mpg fuel consumption means it should go further on each tank, while low emissions make it free to tax, so you will recoup its cost over time. High-mileage drivers might also want to consider the diesel, as it’s more economical again (72.4mpg) and costs just £20 each year in road tax.

Fiat offers fixed price ‘menu’ servicing to help you budget for routine maintenance. The only fly in the ointment could come at re-sale time, as the Panda is expected to retain slightly less of its value than the Hyundai i10 and Skoda Citigo.

Engines, drive & performance

3.7 / 5

Great in town, but the Panda struggles at higher speeds

The Fiat Panda feels light on its feet and happy to be driven with gusto, traits making it fun to thread through city traffic or down a country lane. At lower speeds, pressing the City button on the dashboard lightens the steering so you can turn it with one finger, making the Panda ideal for parking. Out on faster roads, dual carriageways and the motorway the Panda feels less at home, with a fair amount of wind noise and a tendency to get blown around in strong crosswinds. The Panda is fine for occasional longer trips, but the up! and i10 are more refined at higher speeds.

With 68bhp the 1.2-litre engine is best suited to town driving, taking 14.2 seconds to reach 62mph. The 0.9-litre TwinAir is considerably livelier, taking just 11.2 seconds thanks to its 84bhp, but an off-beat soundtrack (it’s an uncommon two-cylinder turbocharged engine) won’t suit everyone, and it requires some driving skill to extract the best economy and performance from it. Fiat’s 1.3-litre diesel feels more conventional in comparison and has acceleration somewhere between the two petrol engines. The diesel also feels best suited to motorway driving. All three versions come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, but the TwinAir is also available with an automatic, but we’d avoid it unless really necessary, because it can make quite jerky gear changes. A four-wheel drive Fiat Panda 4x4 is also available for those who enjoy the great outdoors.

Interior & comfort

3.2 / 5

Great visibility aids city driving

With a tall roof and boxy proportions, the Panda has a very light and airy feel inside, with excellent all-round visibility out of the tall windows. This is a great feature for driving in congested towns, making the Panda easy to manoeuvre and park. The whole interior is littered with attractive rounded squares, including the buttons on the dashboard and even the gauges. It’s a pleasant design, but it can’t hide some cheap plastics, particularly lower down and towards the rear of the cabin.

The front seats can accommodate people of most sizes, but the steering wheel adjusts only for reach, not rake. The seat squabs are also quite firm and flat, so while they are fine for shorter trips, the i10 and Citigo offer more comfort for longer trips. Fiat has improved its suspension and the current model is far less bouncy than the old Panda, soaking up lumps and bumps reasonably well for a small car.

Practicality & boot space

3.5 / 5

Impressive versatility for a city car

It’s possible to alter the Panda’s boot space by sliding the rear bench forwards (to give 260 litres) or backwards, giving rear passengers better legroom and leaving 225 litres of boot space. The Volkswagen up! and Citigo have 251 litres, while the i10 gets 252 litres. It’s also possible to fold down the rear bench, although it doesn’t stow flat into the floor, leaving a lip to push large items over. If you want a 60:40 split and fold rear bench it’s a £50 optional extra.

Four adults can travel in the Panda with the bench slid back, and while headroom is excellent, rear legroom is not quite as great as you’ll find in the up! A total of 14 compartments are dotted around the cabin, from the door pockets to cubbies for loose change. The Panda also comes with a “Smart Fuel” filler nozzle as standard, doing away with a screw cap, so you don’t have to get your hands as dirty at the petrol station.

Reliability & safety

3.2 / 5

A four-star Euro NCAP score is a worry

Fiat climbed three places to 27th out of 33 manufacturers in the 2014 Driver Power survey, so while it’s improving, Fiat still has lots of work to do to keep owners happy, particularly as the brand received low scores for build quality. But, Fiat finds itself ahead of MINI, in 30th place. The Fiat Panda was ranked 70th out of 150 models, with 87.2 per cent customer satisfaction.

Its four-star crash test score could be a cause for concern, even if anti-skid brakes, front and side airbags are fitted as standard. The Panda was marked down because ESP skid prevention technology is only available as an optional extra, while it also offered only “weak” chest protection in side pole impact tests. The up! and Citigo both received five stars, however the Hyundai i10 only received four because protection in the side pole impact and whiplash tests were described as being “marginal”.

Price, value for money & options

4.2 / 5

Entry-level versions are very basic

The Panda has a slightly higher starting price than its rivals of £9,095, and the entry-level Pop trim doesn’t come with air-con, remote central locking or alloy wheels, but it’s still a very cheap car and some attractive finance deals are available. The Easy trim sticks with hub caps, but gets air-con and six speakers instead of four, boosting its popularity with customers.

Meanwhile the Lounge grade adds body coloured exterior trim, 15-inch alloy wheels, electric and heated door mirrors and front fog lights. Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in connectivity is a £265 option and includes steering wheel controls, but this seems a bit stingy, as Bluetooth is standard with the i10 Premium and up! High up trim levels, models also including standard split and fold rear seats across both their line-ups.

A Trekking model with a raised ride height, mud and snow tyres and off-road body styling is available as well as the Panda 4x4 with four-wheel drive and impressive go-anywhere abilities.

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4.0 / 5
"Cheap to buy, efficient TwinAir engine and fun to drive, but limited rear legroom, not enough kit, and a cheap interior."
"Fiat brings the unique Twinair engine to bear again here. It pulls like a bubbly little locomotive, and in the lower gears out-performs the ability of those little tyres to apply all the surge. In fifth, no other tiny car has this sort of effortless motorway fast-line smarts. If you drive it like that the economy won’t be special, but if you go gently you can stretch fuel. And the notional economy potential is what gets it its low-tax 99g/km CO2 rating."
4.0 / 5
"In practice the Panda is indeed comfortable. Even over some genuinely terrible road surfaces it never actually became jarring, and while it certainly woggled around quite a bit it remained controlled and generally engaging."
"It's now a more attractive design with rounded off edges and an attractive interior, complete with square steering wheel (very Austin Allegro) plus square design detailing across the dashboard. Materials have been improved and Fiat says attention has been paid to ensuring the Panda works well not just in town but outside of it too."
Last updated 
10 Sep 2014

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