The Fiat Panda may not be the most popular choice of small cars on the market, but opt for one and you might be pleasantly surprised with what you get for your money.
While it may come with a choice of petrol and diesel engines in other markets, the Fiat Panda comes with just one petrol option here in Ireland. This is the 1.2 three cylinder option with just 69bhp. You don’t even get the choice of Fiat’s smaller more spirited petrol option, the TwinAir which would suit the Panda’s character much better. The 1.2’s performance in terms of speed may not be its strong point, but around town, the Panda handles well, it’s easy to manoeuvre in tight spots and there’s a button to make the steering even lighter.
Out on the open road, the Fiat Panda shows a little heartbeat. While the engine may lack any sort of spirited driving potential, its suspension setup soaks up lumps and bumps really well. It can handle itself in the corners too and body roll is vaguely evident despite its slightly elevated appearance and feel. The 1.2 can get a bit raucous when eagerly trying to get up to cruising speeds on the motorway, but when up there, it’s not too bad. The Panda is perfectly capable and borderline fun on the road.
The Fiat Panda comes in three different trim levels Pop, Easy and Lounge. The entry level Pop does feel quite sparse and the pic of the bunch in terms of value for money is Easy trim. Refinement in the engine department is great at normal town and village speeds but above that can be a different story. Inside the cabin, the seats provide good comfort if little support. Fiats ‘squircle’ (square circles) design ethos evident throughout the cabin and is also the chosen pattern for the interior too. The driving position also feels elevated offering great visibility.
While the ‘squircle’ design throughout the interior of the Panda provides a quirky fun factor, most of the materials used do not feel of a very high quality. Fiat’s have always offered a customisable interior and the Panda gets similar nice touches like a two tone dashboard to match the door cards and upholstery. Aesthetically it looks good, but feels disappointing to the touch. It’s not quite to the same standard as you will get in the likes of the Volkswagen Up! The Panda however does trump its competitors with its unique feeling of having a bigger more spacious cabin than it actually is.
The Fiat Panda scored 4/5 stars in the Euro NCAP crash test and the only reason it dropped that crucial fifth star is the fact that electronic stability control is only available as an option, which is a bit of a missed opportunity by Fiat in retrospect. Its competitors like the Skoda Citigo and Volkswagen Up! all score the full five stars. It does however get a full host of airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard.
The Panda has an upright box style design from the exterior and the seating position of the driver gives that same sense of elevation and space within the cabin. But despite the small Fiat’s airy environment it actually packs a smaller boot than the Skoda Citigo. The rear bench can cleverly be slid back or forward to create more legroom or boot space, but boot space at its max capacity is a tight 225 litres. That said, additional storage space throughout the cabin is good. Legroom is ok too whereas, there is an abundance of headspace thanks to its higher square roof design.