Why have four cylinders when you can have three?
Fiat have taken this one step further with their TwinAir which loses another cylinder bringing the count down to two, or you could say, this Panda has half an engine! At just 875cc it’s pretty tiny but boasts up to 85bhp and average fuel consumption is said to be over 70 miles per gallon, but the question is whether it really is a fuel sipper when driving around day-to-day and also how good it is when fitted to the new third generation Panda.
Read on to find out
As far as looks are concerned this new Panda ticks all the right boxes. It’s grown slightly in every direction but is still absolutely dinky. It cleverly mixes new styling cues with those of the previous car. This time round elements from the 500 are evident in the cheeky face. Everywhere you look you will spot what Fiat call ‘soft cubes’ which include the wheel arches, door handles and window areas. The rear sticks with the eye-level mounted light clusters from before. Our cars looks were spiced up a little more by the standard 15 inch alloy wheels.
The biggest improvements have undoubtedly been made in the cabin. The old car although built well hardly got pulses racing. This new Panda is very different. The design itself is very attractive with good use of light and dark trim. Everything is logically laid out and works really rather well, the Lounge model I tried was well equipped for the price. I just wish the steering column would adjust for reach and the seat for height so that the perfect driving position would be easier to find.
Dotted about the cabin are lots of neat storage areas including a cavernous shelf above the glove box which pays homage to the original Panda. The slightly enlarged dimensions make for a surprisingly roomy cabin with enough room for four adults and a well-shaped deep boot that isn’t to be sniffed at.
Build quality is robust rather than sumptuous but few will want more. Once again everywhere you look there are ‘soft cubes’, even the steering wheel appears to be slightly square thanks to its clever stitching. If you look closely you will also spot the words ‘PANDA’ pressed into the dash and door plastics. There is no doubt that Fiat have put a lot of effort into this cheeky critter’s cabin and it really shows.
The highlight of the Panda I tried was clearly the tiny twin-pot TwinAir engine and it didn’t disappoint. Originally I found the performance on offer a little lacking but felt this was forgivable given the cars urban intentions, then I discovered the ‘Eco’ button hidden neatly ahead of the dash-mounted gear lever.
When enabled ‘Eco’ mode limits the torque on offer, which increases fuel consumption especially during acceleration. With ‘Eco’ off the Panda thrums along with real vigour and a seriously sweet two cylinder soundtrack bringing back memories of small cars of old. Power delivery is linear and there is always plenty of power on offer for most situations although there is no denying that the Panda’s natural habitat is around town. That said when cruising a motoring speeds the engine is barely audible making long journey surprisingly relaxed.
Whilst with me I am pleased to report that the Panda is incredibly fuel efficient. During mixed, careful driving in Eco mode I returned a very impressive 65mpg. Around town this reduced a little down to a still rather good 50mpg. With the Eco function deactivated for quicker getaways economy suffers noticeable at around 40mpg overall.
To drive, the Panda does very little wrong. It has feather light steering which can be made even lighter thanks to a ‘City’ button on the dash. The gearbox is a gem with five well-spaced ratios and a good solid action. The little Fiat’s ride is also wonderfully supple and well-judged never failing to deal with the worst road surfaces.
Handling is also pretty tidy with decent grip, relatively good body control and plenty of poise. It just falls short of serving up any genuine driver thrills as the controls are lacking in any feel and feedback, but few will be disappointed.
Price as tested: £12,315
Engine: 0.9 16v 85bhp – 0-60mph: 11.2secs – Maximum Speed: 110 mph –
Economy: 58.9mpg (urban) 76.3mpg (extra-urban) 68.9mpg (combined)
Emissions: 95g/km (Band A) – VED (12 months): £0
Dimensions: Length: 3,653mm – Width: 1,882mm – Height: 1,551mm – Wheelbase: 2,300mm