The Panda has a cheeky character in a budget price five-door hatchback body styled rather like a mini-MPV.
Cars are becoming ever more sophisticated, but there is something rather appealing about a model that supplies all the essentials with less of the froth in a compact, practical package. The Fiat Panda is such a car, and there is an enticing honesty about this boxy little charmer. The latest in a long line of small Fiats with personality, the Panda has a cheeky character in a budget price five-door hatchback body styled rather like a mini-MPV.
Roomy for its diminutive size, and endearingly chummy to drive, this new Panda continues the same theme as its predecessor, but it has been updated to smarten its style and smooth a few rough edges. Significantly, it has also returned to its roots as an Italian car. The previous model Panda was manufactured in Poland, but this one is produced in Italy at Fiat’s southern factory in Naples.
The Panda range includes both 1.2 litre petrol and 1.3 litre diesel engines, and features a choice of trim levels: Active, MyLife, Dynamic, Pop, Easy and Lounge. Prices start from £8,445 for a 1.2 Active and rise to £12,250 for a range-topping 1.3 MultiJet Lounge. The version we test here is a mid-range Pop model with the excellent MultiJet 2 diesel engine.
Fiat’s 1.3 litre MultiJet 2 engine is very well-regarded, and it does a decent job of delivering perky performance in this relatively light-weight little car. This engine is carried over from the previous model Panda, and it suits the car very well. The MultiJet 2 is a compact unit weighing only 140 kg, and it pulls strongly with plenty of torque for the engine size, but it is also good from a fuel economy viewpoint. The power output is 75 bhp peaking at 4,000 rpm, and the maximum torque of 140 lb ft occurs at 1,500 rpm.
The top speed capability is over 100 mph, but more relevant is the 0-62 acceleration time in just under 13 seconds, which is not exceptional but is perfectly respectable for a small economy hatchback. Most owners in these tough economic times will be more interested in the car’s meagre thirst for fuel, with an official combined economy figure of 72.4 mpg. The CO2 output of 104 g/km puts this version of the Panda in group B for the VED annual road tax, meaning a free tax disc in the first year and £20 a year subsequently.
It is worth noting that the little Panda is capable of towing 900 kg.