Fiat Auto’s new Panda, which went on sale here at the start of the year, has swept the board at Auto Express magazine’s Annual New Car Honours, coming away not only with top spot in the Budget Car and City Car categories, but also winning the coveted overall supreme honour of Auto Express Car of the Year.
New Panda, voted Car of the Year 2004 by a wide ranging international jury of senior motoring journalists late last year, has already attracted a string of awards from the media, which has been repeatedly impressed by its winning combination of build quality, space, refinement, big car feel, comfort, driving pleasure and value for money. Now comes the ultimate accolade from Britain’s biggest selling weekly car magazine, Auto Express, which was unstinting in its praise:
"It’s not every day that a new model comes along and sets such high standards that many rivals instantly appear obsolete. However that has been the case this year. Despite stiff competition for this coveted award, the Panda stood head and shoulders above its opponents. So what makes it so good? Well, it’s a small car that thinks big, acts tough and puts some zest and fun back into your daily driving.
"Undoubtedly the Italian firm’s best small car since the original Fiat 500 in 1957, the Panda represents a giant leap forward. This is a city car that excels on the open road, and a budget car that feels anything but cheap. The styling is neat and eye-catching, the interior quality impressive and despite extended testing, we couldn’t find any trace of loose or poor quality trim. The cabin is not only spacious, comfortable and attractive, but you feel secure and well protected despite the car’s diminutive size. Nor does this impression fade when you start driving. The Panda is effortlessly easy to drive. Better still is the way it behaves out of town. On motorways it’s as stable and refined as cars costing twice as much, the ride is impressive and along twisting B-roads it feels keen and eager.
"And all this for less than £7000? Packed to the gunnels with character and mature enough to cope with the stresses of British motoring, the Panda is a huge return to form for Fiat."
It is not just the media which has been impressed by new Panda, however, as Fiat Auto’s new supermini is a huge sales success throughout western Europe. In the nine months leading up to the end of June this year, 154,000 had been sold. Over 5000 new Pandas have been sold in less than six months since the vehicle went on sale here in the UK.
In June this year, Fiat Auto’s European market share reached 6.7%, an increase of 7.4% in comparison to June sales last year, while in the first six months of 2004 Fiat Auto’s registrations have increased by 5% in comparison with the same period last year. In the European city car segment, (A), new Panda is at No.1 with 32.2% of the segment. In B segment the Fiat Punto is at No.6, while in the new compact MPV segment, the Fiat Idea is at No.2.Published 29 July 2004