Our cars: Fiat Panda - February
Week ending February 22
Driven this week 330 miles
It’s a well-known fact in the publishing industry that sub-editors are control freaks. Some would even say a little obsessive-compulsive. It goes with the territory, I’m afraid; the world would be a much poorer place if we weren’t as fastidious with the words you read on whatcar.com.
The trouble is, my control-freakiness doesn’t stop outside the office. Take my long commute into work from Dorset. I don’t make the trip up the M3 every day, but when I do my sense of wellbeing is boosted if I can make it past Winchester Services by 8.18am and Fleet Services by 8.40am, to be in the office for 9.30am.
So, you may be able to appreciate why my facial tic went into overtime when, having thought I was bang on time, I discovered that the Fiat Panda’s clock was three minutes slow. Trouble is, despite endless fiddling and twiddling with the steering wheel controls and menus, I couldn’t work out how to correct it. Even when I parked up, the solution eluded me.
Unfortunately, it seems the Panda’s clock will be wrong for a little while longer. Colleague and fellow sufferer Barnaby Jones (his OCD is much worse than mine) admitted that he has also tried to correct it. The handbook seems to have gone missing, too, so if anyone knows how to sort the clock please get in touch before we turn into gibbering wrecks.
Week ending February 15
Current mileage 5990
Miles driven this week 200
If I’m honest, this week didn’t get off to the best of starts.
Monday morning rush hours are bad enough at the best of times, but trying to traverse the whole of Greater London when it's cold, grey and pouring down with rain, well, let's just say it’s enough to drive a strong man to drink.
Thankfully, my pain was eased somewhat by our long-term Fiat Panda. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of the Panda, because I find it too noisy and too frantic for my everyday 100-mile commute to and from Hampshire.
However, should you need to squeeze through a tight gap in traffic, or zip down a narrow side street with cars parked on either kerb, then the Panda is bang on the money. It's also surprisingly nippy away from the mark, something that is especially useful when you find yourself in the outside lane at the traffic lights and Mr TomTom suddenly pipes up ‘turn sharp left in 200 meters’.
The Panda’s short overhangs, lightweight ‘City’ steering function, upright driving position and large glass area also make it a breeze to park in spots that even motorcycle dispatch riders wouldn’t risk.
All in all, then, I guess it’s a case of horses for courses. Heading west to Hampshire I’ll take our BMW 3 Series long-termer every time, but if I’m taking my daughters for a day out at Regents Park Zoo, then I’ll take the Panda every time.
By Pete Tullin
Week ending February 8
Current mileage 5790
Miles driven this week 55
I'm not exactly the burliest bloke in the world, but it seems I'm too strong for the Panda's door handles. When locking the car the other day, I gave the door handle a gentle tug to double check that it was secure – and the handle promptly came out of its mounting on one side.
After a few minutes of mucking about, I managed to push the handle back into place, and everything seems to be working fine. Still, it's a little worrying how little force it took the cause the problem in the first place.
By Ivan Aistrop
Week ending February 1
Current mileage 5735
Miles driven this week 205
I like our Fiat Panda. I think it looks great from the outside, the high driving position means visibility is good (helped by the low window line), and the 1.2-litre petrol engine in our model is game enough for ducking in and out of traffic around town. The ride is unsettled, but it doesn't stop the Panda being a pretty decent urban runabout.
The thing is, for the same money after haggling, you could have a Skoda Citigo 1.0 60 S 5dr. It's better in almost every way – more comfortable, quieter, roomier, better built and cheaper to run – so that's where my money would go.
As good as the entry-level Panda is, it's not a patch on its similarly priced city car rivals.