"The all-new Panda has grown in size but retains the proven formula of 'simple is best'."
The Fiat Panda has been around since 1980. The latest, third-generation Panda is designed to be more practical and versatile than its predecessors, so it's bigger and more spacious, and has more rounded styling. Hopes are high that it can continue to be the huge success it's been in the past for the company. It has a great choice of petrol and diesel engines in either two, three or four-cylinder layouts and is very economical, offering excellent no-frills transport. It comes in three specifications – Pop, Easy and Lounge. The interior is stylish and not badly made for a car in this price bracket, although rear passengers do end up with slightly less legroom than in the Kia Picanto or Volkswagen up!. However, great features like the folding front seat do make up for a lot of deficits. It's also great fun to drive around town and, if you choose one of the twin-cylinder TwinAir models, CO2 emissions are low enough to avoid paying road tax.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Not only is the Panda cheap to buy, it's also cheap to run, insure and service. The two TwinAir petrol engines both emit less than 100g/km of CO2, so are road tax exempt, while the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine offers the best fuel economy, returning up to 72.4mpg, but just edging past the magic 100 mark to emit 109g/km of CO2. All engines also come with stop-start fuel saving technology that cuts the engine when idling. All models come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty. So, low maintenance costs and low insurance groups mean that the Panda is a very cost effective car.
Interior & comfort
Thanks to it being longer, wider and taller, the current Panda's interior is much more spacious than previous models, but oddly offers less legroom in the back than the VW up! or Kia Picanto. This is despite the sliding rear seats being fully adjustable. Inside, it's light and airy thank to the high roof and slimmer front seats. The standards of the interior materials have been improved, but it still can’t compete with its main rivals for quality.
Practicality & boot space
With improvements across the board, the new Fiat Panda is much more practical than the car it replaces. Up front, the dashboard has a large main storage cubby alongside a decent-sized glove compartment and two cup holders, while two reasonable doorbins and a centre console cubby provide a range of storage options for everyday clutter. You can also fold the front passenger seat forward to become a makeshift table. The rear bench feels a bit basic, but it does slide forwards and backwards to free up more legroom or create more boot space – which starts at 225 litres and goes up 260 litres, which is bigger than the Kia Picanto and on par with the Hyundai i10, but less than the VW up!. With the rear seats folded forward, the boot space expands further to 870 litres of luggage space. There's not a huge amount of legroom but headroom is plentiful thanks to the Panda's high body.
Reliability & safety
Fiat's reputation for reliability hasn’t been the best in the UK for quite a long time, but since the introduction of the popular Fiat 500 city car, Fiat has begun to strike back. The previous model Panda came a lowly 87th out of 100 in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with Fiat placing last overall. The current Panda shares a lot of mechanicals and parts with the 500, so should prove far less of a liability than ever before. Inside and out, build quality is much improved and it comes with four airbags, ABS with brake assist, rear headlights, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and daytime running lights, all fitted as standard. It's worth noting that it secured four out of five possible stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, getting 82 per cent for adult safety but a woeful 43 per cent for safety assist equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
The old Panda used to bounce about all over the place on bumpy roads, so it's great to discover that the new Panda is much more capable and easy to drive. The improved suspension settings have also sharpened up the handling and cut down the amount of body roll when driving around corners. The TwinAir petrol engines are pretty nippy and responsive (giving the range's top speed of 110mph), which suits the Panda, given its natural home zipping around city streets. It also has an Eco mode to increase fuel economy. However, all the engines on offer struggle to keep up with the faster traffic on the motorway. You get to choose between the 84bhp 900cc TwinAir petrol, a 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol and a 75bhp 1.3-litre diesel engine, which all come with a five-speed manual gearbox. They go from 0-62mph in 14.2, 12.8 and 11.2 seconds, respectively.
Price, value for money & options
The Panda is cheap to buy, simple. But there's always a flip side to rock bottom prices, so, the entry-level Pop spec doesn’t have air-conditioning or the rugged roof bars that are available further up the range. Pops do come with 14-inch steel wheels, electric front windows and an MP3-compatible CD player, however. Mid-range Easy cars are fitted with the roof rails and air-con, plus remote central locking, and rear head restraints. Matters improve further in the top-spec Lounge models, adding heated door mirrors, while also looking better thanks to 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and body-coloured wing mirrors and door handles coming as standard. For more cash, all models can be fitted with split-folding rear seats (for £50) and a leather steering wheel and gear knob (for £105) as optional extras.