Fiat Panda hatchback
Price: £8,945 - £13,645
- Well-designed interior
- Fun to drive
- Cheap to buy
- Interior feels basic on entry level models
- Limited rear legroom
- Engines lack power on motorways
"The all-new Panda has grown in size but retains the proven formula of 'simple is best'."
The third-generation Fiat Panda is designed for greater practicality and flexibility compared to previous versions. It's got larger dimensions, which makes it roomier inside, and its exterior is more rounded. Fiat is hoping that it will continue the Panda's huge success story, which made it an iconic small car. There's a good range of petrol and diesel engines, in two, three or four-cylinder layouts, offering excellent no-frills transport. The Panda is available in three main specifications – entry-level Pop, mid-range Easy and top-of-the-range Lounge.
The interior is surprisingly stylish for a car of this price, but passengers in the back will have to stomach less legroom that in the Volkswagen up! or Kia Picanto. For every small negative there is a big positive, however, including the front seat folding down for extra carrying space. It's good fun around town and if you go for the twin-cylinder TwinAir models, CO2 emissions are low enough to exempt you from paying road tax.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Fiat's new TwinAir engines are very impressive
The Panda is cheap to buy in the first place but also inexpensive to run, insure and maintain. The two TwinAir petrol engines both emit less than 100g/km of CO2, so are free from annual road tax, while the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine is the most efficient, returning up to 72.4mpg in combined fuel economy but edging past the magic 100g/km mark, emitting 109g/km of CO2. All models are fitted with stop-start fuel saving technology that turns off the engine when at a standstill in traffic. You also get a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which means low maintenance costs. Lastly, low insurance groups mean that the Panda is a very cost-effective car.
Interior & comfort
Front passengers are well accommodated
You get much more space inside the latest Panda than in Pandas of old, thanks to its higher, wider and longer dimensions. Weirdly, though, you get less rear legroom than in the Kia Picanto or Volkswagen up! – especially odd when you can slide the rear seats and they’re fully adjustable. Other that that, the interior is bright and airy, fitted with slimmer front seats and uses much-improved construction materials throughout. It still can’t compete with its main rivals for sheer quality but is still an improvement.
Practicality & boot space
The interior is very well thought out
This is the most practical Panda yet – but it's still a small car. The dashboard has a big storage compartment next to the reasonably sized glove compartment, plus two cup holders, decent-sized door bins and a cubby in the centre console. The front passenger seat can be folded forward to become a makeshift table, and while the back seat is more basic, it does slide back and forth to create more legroom or expand the boot space. With everything in place, the boot offers 225 litres of space, which expands to 260 litres when the seats are slid forward – bigger than the Kia Picanto and the same as the Hyundai i10, but less than the VW up!. With the back seats folded down, it expands to an even bigger 870 litres of luggage space. Legroom is generally limited, especially in the back, but headroom is good thanks to the Panda's tall body.
Reliability & safety
Based on the Fiat 500 platform
When you think Fiat, you don’t really think reliable. However, since the massive success of the Fiat 500, Fiat has begun to claw back some ground. The previous Panda came a lowly 87th out of 100 in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with Fiat placing last in the manufacturers rankings. This time, the current Panda shares a lot of components and parts with the 500, so should prove far more reliable than ever before.
Inside and out, build quality is much better and it comes fitted with four airbags, ABS with brake assist, rear headlights, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and daytime running lights, all fitted as standard. However, you should be aware that it only scored 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
Nippy and fun to drive around town
This Panda is for more capable and easy to drive than Pandas of old, which used to bounce around lots, making the ride uncomfortable. The handling has been sharpened by the better suspension settings and body roll has dramatically reduced when driving through corners. The TwinAir petrol engines are nicely responsive, which suits the Panda, given its natural environment is city streets. There's also an Eco mode to improve fuel economy. However, all the engines on offer feel out of their depth and underpowered when driven on the motorway. There's an 84bhp 900cc TwinAir petrol, a 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol and a 75bhp 1.3-litre diesel engine, all of which come fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox. They accelerate from 0-62mph in 14.2, 12.8 and 11.2 seconds, respectively.
Price, value for money & options
Standard equipment levels are low across the range
The Panda is cheap but the budget price means the entry-level Pop doesn’t get air-conditioning or the rugged roof bars available on specifications further up the range. The Pop cars do come with 14-inch steel wheels, electric front windows and an MP3-compatible CD player, though, while mid-range Easy cars add roof rails and air-con, plus remote central locking and rear head restraints. Once you get to the top-spec Lounge, equipment levels are better, with heated door mirrors, 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, and body-coloured wing mirrors and door handles as standard. For more money, optional extras include split-folding rear seats (for £50) and a leather steering wheel and gear knob (for £105) as optional extras.
Resale values on the used car market are so-so, but considering its low starting price, you should still be able to find a reasonable second-hand deal.
What the others say
"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."
"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: 8 Jan 2014