In-depth reviews

Fiat Panda hatchback review

"The Fiat Panda is a roomy and affordable city car with a strong sense of fun"

Carbuyer Rating

2.5 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.4 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Low purchase and running costs
  • Great to drive in town
  • Funky interior design

Cons

  • Zero-star Euro NCAP safety score
  • Could be better equipped
  • Not great on the motorway

The Fiat Panda is a more practical and utilitarian alternative to the Fiat 500 city car. However, given it was launched back in 2012, the Fiat Panda is starting to look and feel dated compared to major rivals.

Those considering the Panda will also have plenty of alternatives to choose from in its class. There’s the Volkswagen up!, Peugeot 108, Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto – all of these cars are closely matched on price and specifications. The Dacia Sandero Stepway is also a more spacious alternative with raised SUV-esque styling. There’s also a raft of electric superminis now on the scene, including the Fiat 500, Honda e and MINI Electric. That said, the Panda does offer a slightly different take to rivals with its upright shape providing plenty of space and an airy feel inside.

The Panda’s conventional petrol engine was replaced with a mild-hybrid petrol drivetrain in 2020, but it’s still not particularly efficient. While the newer 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with mild-hybrid assistance produces 70bhp compared with the discontinued 1.2-litre engine’s 68bhp, you still have to use all its power just to keep up with traffic. There was also a Panda 4x4 that we reviewed separately.

The mild hybrid system is a 12-volt starter generator that can harvest energy as the Panda slows down, storing it in a small battery and then re-deploying it to give the engine a small boost, or help the stop and start system work more effectively in traffic.

The Panda has been designed to excel in the city, and it shows, with light steering and supple suspension that soaks up potholes. A tall roofline makes visibility excellent, but the car’s shape also means that at higher speeds you experience crosswinds more than in less upright vehicles – the more compact Volkswagen up! feels more stable on the motorway, for example.

On the flipside, there’s lots of headroom for a city car, but there isn’t a huge amount of space for rear-seat passengers, even though the back seats can slide backwards and forwards, which is pretty unique for a city car. The main advantage of this feature is the ability to increase boot space, but it’s worth noting split-folding rear seats are an optional extra on all but the top two trim levels.

The Panda range was quite broad before, but as of mid-2022 it’s been largely slimmed down – the standard Panda is only offered in City Life trim, and then there’s the Panda Cross and two special editions which are based on it. These are the (Red) and Garmin editions. The Fiat Panda 4x4 is no longer available. It’s possible to end up with quite an expensive Panda, but we’d recommend sticking to more affordable trims, particularly as the little Fiat can depreciate (or lose its initial value) quite rapidly.

With Euro NCAP running more stringent testing, the Panda received a zero-star rating in the latest tests. This is due to the safety standards set by the newest cars on the market. The Fiat Panda had previously been awarded four out of five stars for safety, with standard kit including anti-lock brakes, traction control and tyre pressure monitoring. In our 2019 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey (the last time it appeared in our results), the Panda came 67th out of 100 models, scoring well for front-seat comfort, interior versatility and visibility. Owners were less impressed with infotainment and the sat nav (if fitted) - they were rated 97th and 98th, and many similarly cheap city cars are much better connected.

It's characterful then, but overall the Fiat Panda is hard to recommend and badly in need of replacing with a newer generation. Compared to rivals, it's slow, lacks technology and has a poor safety rating. The Dacia Sandero Stepway is cheaper, more powerful and has a more spacious interior with a better infotainment setup.

Recommended

New Fiat Panda and Tipo Garmin Editions mapped out
Hero
News
13 May 2022

New Fiat Panda and Tipo Garmin Editions mapped out

New 2023 Fiat Panda SUV one of several cheap EVs planned
2023 fiat panda render
Fiat
21 Jan 2022

New 2023 Fiat Panda SUV one of several cheap EVs planned

Fiat launches new RED versions of Panda and Tipo
Fiat Panda RED
Fiat
11 Jan 2022

Fiat launches new RED versions of Panda and Tipo

Most Popular

New electric MG4 hatch to start at £25,995
MG4 Front driver side
News
5 Aug 2022

New electric MG4 hatch to start at £25,995

Kia EV4 SUV to take on the Volvo XC40 Recharge
2024 Kia EV4 - front
News
5 Aug 2022

Kia EV4 SUV to take on the Volvo XC40 Recharge

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers
Renault Clio hybrid
Deals
5 Aug 2022

Best new car deals 2022: this week’s top car offers

More on Panda

New Fiat Panda and Tipo Garmin Editions mapped out
Hero
News
13 May 2022

New Fiat Panda and Tipo Garmin Editions mapped out

Fiat’s latest collaboration brings outdoor-inspired styling and an accompanying smartwatch
New 2023 Fiat Panda SUV one of several cheap EVs planned
2023 fiat panda render
Fiat
21 Jan 2022

New 2023 Fiat Panda SUV one of several cheap EVs planned

The next-generation Fiat Panda will be based on the Centoventi concept and may be available as an SUV and a regular hatchback
Fiat launches new RED versions of Panda and Tipo
Fiat Panda RED
Fiat
11 Jan 2022

Fiat launches new RED versions of Panda and Tipo

After the Fiat 500 range gained RED versions in October, Fiat’s other hatchbacks have got the same treatment
Top 10 best cars for winter 2022
Top 10 best cars for winter - Dacia Duster
Best cars
12 Oct 2021

Top 10 best cars for winter 2022

We select a great group of 4x4 cars to help keep you on the road and moving this winter
Refreshed Fiat Panda breaks cover
2020 Fiat Panda Sport - front 3/4 view
Fiat Panda
23 Oct 2020

Refreshed Fiat Panda breaks cover

Updated Fiat Panda range gets a new Sport model, revised technology and styling tweaks
2020 Fiat 500 EV starts from £19,995
Fiat 500
23 Oct 2020

2020 Fiat 500 EV starts from £19,995

The new electric Fiat 500 goes on sale this December, with a range of up to 199 miles
Suzuki Ignis updated for 2020; prices start at £13,999
2020 Suzuki Ignis SUV front 3/4 static
Suzuki Ignis SUV
11 Aug 2020

Suzuki Ignis updated for 2020; prices start at £13,999

Refreshed 2020 Suzuki Ignis gets tougher looks, new instruments and an updated mild hybrid petrol engine
Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback review
Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback
12 Jun 2020

Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback review

"Despite its tiny size, the Fiat Panda 4x4 is more capable off-road than many larger SUVs"
2020 Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda mild hybrid prices confirmed
Fiat 500C mild hybrid
Fiat
24 Jan 2020

2020 Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda mild hybrid prices confirmed

Sales of the new mild-hybrid Fiat 500 start in February; Panda arrives in March
Best cars for winter
Best cars
3 Jan 2020

Best cars for winter

We select a great group of 4x4 cars to help keep you on the road and moving this winter.
Fiat Panda receives zero-star Euro NCAP safety rating
Fiat Panda
5 Dec 2018

Fiat Panda receives zero-star Euro NCAP safety rating

Fiat Panda joins Fiat Punto in being awarded no stars at all from Euro NCAP
Special-edition Fiat Panda Waze announced
Fiat Panda
21 Jun 2018

Special-edition Fiat Panda Waze announced

Fiat joins forces with Waze navigation app for high-spec Panda
New Kia Picanto X-Line launches with SUV cues
Kia Picanto hatchback
5 Sep 2017

New Kia Picanto X-Line launches with SUV cues

Kia Picanto city car gets crossover treatment with X-Line mods; 15mm higher, SUV-inspired bumpers and silver skid plates
Fiat Panda City Cross unveiled
Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback
3 Jul 2017

Fiat Panda City Cross unveiled

Panda City Cross offers mini-SUV looks with city-car running costs
Watchdog: Panda owner loses cool over new heater costs
Fiat Panda hatchback
22 Sep 2015

Watchdog: Panda owner loses cool over new heater costs

Reader was shocked when Fiat dealer quoted almost £2,000 to replace faulty heater
Fiat Panda Cross
Fiat Panda
9 Mar 2015

Fiat Panda Cross

The Fiat Panda Cross doesn't just look tough - it is tough. Few will believe how capable it is off road, yet it's as practical as a normal Panda.
Fiat Panda Cross price and specs revealed
Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback
18 Jul 2014

Fiat Panda Cross price and specs revealed

New Fiat Panda Cross offers better off-road performance and rugged looks
Suzuki Celerio revealed in India
Hyundai i10 hatchback
6 Feb 2014

Suzuki Celerio revealed in India

The Suzuki Celerio goes on show in New Delhi ahead of Geneva launch
Fiat Panda 4x4: Winter Car of the Week
Fiat Panda 4x4 hatchback
26 Nov 2013

Fiat Panda 4x4: Winter Car of the Week

The Fiat Panda 4x4 is CarBuyer's first Winter Car of the Week
Fiat Panda hatchback (2004-2011)
Fiat Panda hatchback
28 Jun 2013

Fiat Panda hatchback (2004-2011)

"With its no-nonsense design and capable chassis, the Panda is a value for money and spacious small car."
New Fiat 500L Trekking available now
FIAT 500L mini MPV
25 Jun 2013

New Fiat 500L Trekking available now

The tougher Fiat 500L Trekking is now for sale, priced from £17,905

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
23 Mar 2022

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
5 Nov 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Car buying
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
20 Jun 2022

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2022
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022
Ioniq 5
Best cars
12 Jul 2022

Top 10 best electric cars 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022
Nissan Leaf front
Best cars
12 Jul 2022

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022
Audi RS 3 driving - front view
Hot hatches
24 Jun 2022

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2022