Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2014 Fiat Panda.
While once Fiat was almost a niche of a niche in the Australian car market, today seeing a little Italian car is a pretty common occurrence.
With more new models on the way, and quite reasonable pricing, the lure of something a little exotic is proving strong enough to get Australians signing on the dotted line.
The Fiat Panda is quite a unique little offering that looks set to gain a strong following, especially among urbanites looking for something with a bit of character and, in the case of the Trekking, some very light off-road ability.
The Panda range is priced from $16,500 and 0.9 litre turbo and 1.2 litre naturally aspirated petrol versions are available, the Trekking, with its more rugged look and feel and 1.2 litre turbo diesel engine is the flagship.
Producing 55kW and 190Nm, the diesel only comes accompanied by a five-speed manual transmission. As the figures suggest, it is a bit slow off the line, but once that tiny little turbo is at work the diesel power plant provides reasonable levels of grunt.
With a reasonably good engine stop/start system, combined fuel economy comes in at 4.2L/100km!
On the road you quickly realize the Fiat Panda really is quite a tiny offering. Easily squeezing where many other vehicles wouldn’t dream of going, the Panda gets along quite well and handles more than reasonably.
The transmission though is a little ‘sloppy’ and the steering is quite vague – even more so when the City driving mode is selected. The Panda also features drum brakes on the rear, a pretty rare sight in passenger cars in 2014.
I thought the gauges were difficult to read on the go and the driver info screen was overly busy.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is good however and legroom upfront is reasonable. In the back, not surprisingly, three across would be a squeeze unless your passengers were particularly tiny! Legroom in the back is also quite limited.
The boot is also anything but big, though given the overall size of the Panda is respectable, disappointingly though there is nowhere for the jack and associated tool kit, thus they have to sit in a bag that sits freely in the boot.
Size isn’t a strong suit of the glove box either, though an open storage area in the dash is fairly usable, driver comfort is let down by the lack of a centre armrest/storage bin and the steering comes only with the tilt adjustment.
On a more positive note the Panda Trekking comes with satellite-navigation (a Tom-Tom unit mounted on top of the dash), heated front seats, USB and Aux audio inputs, Bluetooth and power windows (front only).
As yet the Fiat Panda doesn’t have a safety rating.
Summing it up – The Fiat Panda is a reasonably priced little offering with quite a tough and rugged feel about it. The features list is OK and for a couple of adults comfort levels are passable.
Aside from its tiny proportions it isn’t a particularly good drive, but that sensational fuel economy and the willing turbo-diesel engine keeps it in the game.
There are better micro and small car options out there that might actually cost you less, but if you’re going for personality and want a conversation starter then the Fiat Panda Trekking is at least worth a test-drive.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 1.3 litre turbo-diesel producing 55kW and 190Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual (only)
Safety: Not tested
Price: From $24,000 (Panda Trekking)