Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2014 Fiat Panda.
The Fiat Panda has been a hot favorite in Europe and specifically in Italy for over three decades. During this period it has clocked up some six million sales.
Now, the third generation Fiat Panda has finally been added to Fiat’s Australian line-up.
While it cannot be described as funky like the Fiat 500 range; it is a good car at just the right time.
Up against strong competition in the small car market, the Panda needs to be sharp and the first impression is strong. The design, both inside and out, is dominated by the “squircle” – Fiat’s name for a square with rounded off edges.
The shape can be seen on the headlights and throughout the cabin – dials, air-conditioning controls, cup holders… the list goes on. It may sound like overkill but it works to give the Panda a cohesive design theme that belies its sharp drive-away starting price.
The base model in the line-up is the Pop, fitted with Fiat’s ageing 1.2 litre four-cylinder petrol engine and paired with a five-speed manual gearbox.
It may not be cutting edge but the combination gets the job done. The engine is surprisingly strong, feeling better than the 51kW and 102Nm it has on paper and, like a lot of Italian engines, it’s happy to be revved and driven hard, pulling the five-door hatch along briskly.
The gearbox shifts easily, with a short throw and direct action. But if you plan on doing a lot of freeway miles then you’ll find yourself wishing for a sixth ratio.
There is a significant shudder from the gearbox and engine when you slow down or take-off from standstill though, which makes it feel as though the engine is about to stall.
On several take-offs from traffic lights there was a noticeable shake through the steering column too.
The steering is nicely weighted and responsive but the optional ‘City’ mode is left only for parking because it makes the steering fingertip light and lacks any feel.
Another positive for the Panda is the ride. It’s comfortable and controlled, but the taller body does mean the car leans when cornering vigorously. Compared to the bumpy ride of the 500, the Panda feel luxurious.
Fiat has managed to squeeze 14 storage spaces into the Panda’s compact cabin but, like most Italian cars, there still isn’t a cup holder big enough for an Australian-sized cup!
Another area tight on space is the back seat – headroom is fine but legroom is at a premium in the back which rules the Panda out as a family car option. The boot isn’t all that big either, at 225-litres, but it is on par with your average city car.
While it is a car that will serve the city driver well, and even provide a good weekend outing option, if you are a long distance driver, once again this is not the ideal choice for you.
But summing up, the Fiat Panda is a fun car with lots of “goodies” at a very attractive price.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 1.2 litre four cylinder petrol producing 51kW and 102Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual or five-speed auto
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $16,500