Like all cars, the Panda has grown in size throughout its lifetime, but the ethos of the original remains. True, the square edges have been smoothed over with curved wheel arches and a softer front end, but the unmistakeable boxy upright stance remains.
The current range has four trim levels: Pop, Easy, Lounge and Trekking, and three different powertrains: two-cylinder TwinAir units (65 hp and 85 hp), a 1.3 litre diesel and a four-cylinder 1.2 litre petrol (tested here).
With only 69 hp and 102 Nm of torque, predictably this engine is no ball of fire, but it is nevertheless a sweet little 1.2 motor which is eager and willing and doesn’t get thrashy, even when worked hard… which is what you’ll be doing if you plan on keeping up with faster moving traffic on A-roads and motorways. Despite the comparative lack of performance though, there’s unquestionably a certain pizzazz to how the little Fiat drives, from the slick gear change of the 5 speed gearbox and nicely weighted steering, to the eager thrum of the motor.
From the moment it went on sale in the early 1980s, the Fiat Panda was a hit, thanks to its cute compact looks, interesting interior design and frugal running costs.
Although quite capable of longer journeys, it’s around town and in urban areas where this Panda feels most at home. Here you’ll be truly impressed with its great visibility, compact dimensions, light steering and smooth pliant ride – which all combine to making navigating the urban jungle utterly painless. It’s economical, too: we returned an average 48 mpg across a range of driving routes and up to 54.3 mpg is officially claimed.
Standard equipment on this 1.2 Easy model includes air conditioning, front anti-whiplash head restraints, window airbags, ABS & EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) and Dualdrive power steering, along with Radio/CD/MP3, which sounds surprisingly good for a car in this class.
Step inside the Panda and you’re met by a functional, funky interior design, which feels individually styled, with its own personality. A mixture of textures and colours have been used to great effect, while the Aircraft-style handbrake is an appealing design feature. Overall quality of cabin materials are good, although some hard plastics can be found lower down the dash, including where you rest your left leg, and the front seats could make use of a bit more lateral support.
In terms of usability, most of the controls and switch-gear are well-placed and easy to hand, including the radio, which is clear and intuitive to operate. Less impressive is the speedometer – which depending on the seating and steering column position – can become partially obscured from the driver’s view. The only way around this is to lower the driver’s seat to its lowest setting. It’s a shame as the rest of the dashboard is well designed and boasts the van-like feature of a top surface sloped towards the windscreen – to prevent loose items sliding off.
For such a small car, the Panda makes very good use of its dimensions: the high roofline and large glass area combining to result in an airy and spacious feeling cabin, with generous headroom front and rear, although rear legroom is tighter for people over six-foot. There are a total of 14 cubbies dotted around the cabin and the 260 litre boot has good load access. It’s worth remembering that as standard the Panda Easy only comes as a four-seater, the £500 optional ‘5-Seat-Flex-Pack’ also adding 60/40 split rear seats, cargo box, passenger seat folding table driving seat slipcover with zipped pouch.
Refinement levels are pretty good – given the class of car. At higher speeds there’s a fair bit of road and wind noise, but no worse than many of its competitors.
The Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy is a highly effective city car, thanks to its compact dimensions, manoeuvrability and decent practicality. It has a sense of fun, too, which eludes many of its rivals. Just make sure you pick the best trim and engine option for your needs. For urban driving this 1.2 makes perfect sense but the 1.3 diesel is the better bet for motorway work.
Fiat Panda 1.2 8v 69hp Easy
OTR PRICE: £9,550
Max Power: 69hp @5500 rpm
Max Torque: 102Nm @ 3000 rpm
Max Speed: 102mph
Acceleration: 0-62 in 14.2 seconds
Claimed MPG (combined) 54.3
CO2 emissions: (g/km) 120
Insurance Group 4
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