Fiat PandaMarch 5, 2012
Fiat Panda Green Car Review
Model/Engine size: 1.3 MultiJet2 Easy
Fuel economy combined: 72.4 mpg
Beating Spirit rating: 9/10
The new Fiat Panda is here and it offers a refreshing choice for people wanting a practical city car with good fuel economy and low running costs .
The Panda first appeared 32 years ago in 1980, yet this new model is only the third generation in all those years. It was the original Panda that lasted the longest: 23 years. The less distinctive second-generation model had a relatively short 9-year lifespan in comparison. The Panda is Europe’s best-selling car in its class and in total 6.5 million Pandas have been sold worldwide.
The Fiat Panda has always had charm and character. The first model was square and boxy, but very memorable. The second iteration lost some of its design character and looked rather bland. The latest version definitely has more personality than the outgoing model, and the vast majority of the weaknesses of the old model have also been addressed.
Key changes, apart from a more characterful exterior design, include a new platform with a body that’s slightly longer, wider and taller, with a higher quality interior and better seats.
The last time that I got into a Fiat Panda with a colleague we turned round face-to-face and burst out laughing because we were sitting so uncomfortably close to each other. The new Panda does feel sufficiently more spacious inside to help reduce that narrow sensation. Critically, the extra 66mm of width means that it can now accommodate three rear seats (as an option) rather than just two in the last model, making it a five-seater. You can also specify the option of sliding rear seats, as well as a front passenger seat that turns into a table. The boot is also noticeably larger, it’s got better aerodynamics, and it’s quieter.
There are currently three engines to choose from. There’s the 69 hp 1.2-litre СFIRE’ petrol unit, with 54.3 mpg and 120 g/kmCO
emissions, which is the cheapest route into Panda ownership. Then there’s the TwinAir Turbo engine, a two-cylinder, 875 cc, 85 hp petrol unit that returns 67.3 mpg and, in the Panda, emits just 99 g/km CO
. Finally there’s the 75 hp 1.3 MultiJet2 turbodiesel, which is the most economical, with an official figure of 72.4 mpg, which equates to 104 g/km CO
. The TwinAir Turbo and the MultiJet engines both come with a Start & Stop system and the TwinAir Turbo model also features an ECO button which reduces torque to 100Nm with the aim of minimising fuel consumption.
In the second quarter of 2012, the new Panda will become available with the Fiat Dualogic transmission – which is likely to offer even better economy. There will also be a non-turbo version of the TwinAir engine later in the year.
Fiat Panda Road Test
We tested the Panda with the TwinAir Turbo engine option and the diesel. Both versions are impressive to drive, with sufficient performance. The new Panda combines a comfortable ride with fun handling, and it’s generally a quiet place to be.
The TwinAir is undoubtedly an impressive engine for a two-cylinder unit, with much better performance than you would expect. However on mixed driving routes the TwinAir was revvy and noisy Ц albeit it in a characterful way Ц whereas the diesel was much more relaxing to drive.
If you buy a Panda for virtually exclusive use in the city then a petrol engine is likely to be your best bet. However if you also intend to use the car out of the city then you should consider the diesel – even though the diesel is likely to represent very small sales in the UK, primarily because it’s more expensive.One other reason that we’re keen on the diesel is that in real life driving we believe it will be more economical. On our test route we averaged 60 mpg with the diesel . The TwinAir only managed 40 mpg.
Did we have any complaints about the new Panda? Actually, very few , the main one being the seats; despite Fiat’s claims about the seats being better, they still feel too small, as though you’re sitting on them rather than in them, and that would be our main concern about how comfortable the Panda would be on long journeys.
A slightly quirky feature is the ongoing use of the СCity’ steering button which can be pressed to make the steering lighter; we’d prefer steering that varies its assistance depending on the speed, like most other cars.
The Panda is described as a Сcity car’, but although it’s ideal for use in the city, but you really can’t label it as a city car, as it turns out that it’s a car with many talents.
For instance, if you wanted a day out in the countryside, then the Panda can do that too. Because it’s such a practical shape, with lots of space inside, together with its relatively high ground clearance and short front and rear overhangs, it’s ideal to negotiate our uneven countryside and its bumpy roads. That’s why it translates so easily into the 4×4 version.
It’s also a city car that you can drive on long motorway journeys. That’s something that you certainly can’t do with any current electric city cars.
Finally, it’s a fun car to drive. Combining all these qualities in one package is quite a feat. But there’s more. The Panda is also cheap to buy, with prices starting at just £8,900. It’s also economical and will have low overall running costs.
With its cheeky looks it also has character Ц much more so than the outgoing car, and the interior feels much better quality than in the previous model. So it’s probably the most practical all-rounder in its class.
Your main decision will be which engine to choose from. The 1.2-litre petrol unit is the cheapest Ц and most popular – route into Panda ownership. The two-cylinder TwinAir Turbo petrol engine emitting just 99 g/km CO 2 is ideal for the city, and for mixed driving there’s the diesel.
As well as the three engine choices, there are three trim levels Ц from Pop, through Easy, to Lounge Ц and depending upon engine and trim combination the new Panda starts from just £8,900 and rises to £12,250.
One interesting item of equipment that’s available as an option is a Low Speed Collision Mitigation system , which is rare for a car in this class.
There’s also Fiat’s Blue&Me system which allows Bluetooth-equipped devices such as phones and MP3 music players to be linked into the car, as well as the TomTom2 LIVE portable navigation device.
At least three more versions of the Panda are due to arrive; there will be a model that looks cosmetically like a 4×4 but which is only two-wheel drive; there will once again be a real 4×4; and there’s likely to be a Сhot’ version.
The Fiat Panda has always combined charm and character with practicality and that has given it more of a universal appeal than most city cars could manage. The first model was square and boxy, but very memorable. The second iteration lost some of its design character. The latest version definitely has more personality than the outgoing model, and the vast majority of the weaknesses of the old model have also been addressed.
We’re very fussy about city cars that we’d be happy to take out of the city, and the Panda is one of the very few that we’d be happy to take that risk with. It’s also cheap to buy, and with its good levels of economy it should be cheap to run. The result of all this is that it gets a Beating Spirit rating of 9 out of 10. We look forward to the 4×4 version arriving in due course as that always brings a smile to our face.
Car Facts & Figures -Fiat Panda
Fuel economy extra urban: 80.7 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 60.1 mpg
emissions: 104 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – First year £0
Weight: 1100 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 13%
Insurance group: 11
Power: 75 hp
Max speed: 104 mph
0-62 mph: 12.8 seconds
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