Our cars: Fiat Panda - June
Week ending June 28
Driven this week 11 miles
Fiat Panda review
'Muuuuuum! I can't put my seatbelt on' came the cry – in stereo – from my two boys in the back of the Fiat Panda.
I'd been spoiled after borrowing the VW Up a few weeks before, in which both kids could easily climb in and fasten their own seatbelts. Not so in the Panda – because it is designed to fit three passengers in the back, the width for each seat is less.
This isn't the only element that lets it down compared with the Up. Its seats are rigid and uncomfortable, and the ride is wobbly.
While it is more than £1000 cheaper than the Up, and offers an equivalent sense of roominess and boot space, it can't match the quality and refinement of the VW.
Week ending June 14
Driven this week 20 miles
Jumping into the Fiat Panda last night immediately took me back to memories of holiday hire cars and warm weather. I could almost smell the sea and feel the sand in the footwell.
Five miles later and I was firmly back in Surrey, cursing the hard seats, snatchy brakes and vague gearchange. What can be forgiven on a Greek Island grates in the UK.
Worryingly for Fiat, a glance at the list price once I was home made me admire the superb Dacia Sandero I borrowed a few weeks ago even more.
By Paul Garlick
Week ending June 7
Driven this week 32 miles
I think I can sum up this car best with that famous line from Forrest Gump: the Panda is 'like a box of chocolates – you never know what you're going to get'.
A silly analogy maybe, because on paper you'd think you could dismiss the Panda as an underpowered small car trying to be 'big', but after a few minutes of driving you soon realise that the 69bhp from the 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is just right.
I didn't find it sluggish, difficult on the motorway or noisy; in fact to my surprise I found myself enjoying the driving experience quite a lot and was amazed by how comfortable I felt. It really impressed me – despite a lack of air-conditioning, remote central locking and some other mod cons – it's a well-rounded city car full of character.
It's unfortunate then, that I feel the exact opposite about the 0.9-litre Twinair variant that, to date, is the only car to send me into a bout of motion sickness!
For me, it just goes to prove that if you don't know what you're going to get, you'd better try them all before you buy, just in case.
By Steve Hayton