Our cars: Fiat Panda - September
Week ending September 28
Driven this week 150 miles
Fiat Panda review
Most mornings I help trim a few minutes off my girlfriend's commute to central London by dropping her off at the tube station.
It's only a short drive, but she sometimes uses the journey to put the finishing touches to her make-up. She usually uses the vanity mirror in the sun visor to do so, because it is often larger and better lit than any compact version.
However, she flipped down the Fiat Panda's sun visor the other morning to find there was no mirror on offer, lit or otherwise.
Fair enough, thought I, this is a sparsely equipped low-trim Panda, perhaps this was one way of keeping costs down, albeit an irritating one.
Out of curiosity, I checked the driver's sun visor and discovered there was a mirror there. This doesn't seem like the most helpful place to have a mirror – I'm certainly not going to need to check my reflection while the car is moving. The most likely explanation to me is that this is where the mirror is on the left hand drive Panda, and Fiat has just left it there for the right-hand drive British version.
By Will Nightingale
Week ending September 21
Current mileage 3045
Miles driven this week 200
These days, most cars have a lane-changing function – if you flick the stalk rather than locking it in place, the lights flash a few times and then self-cancel.
On most cars, the lights flash three times. On the Panda, however, you get five flashes.
Initially, I thought there would be strengths and weaknesses to this arrangement. On the plus side, it means you never have to rush your manoeuvre. On the other hand, I wondered if having the signal going for longer might make other drivers think you intended to move across two lanes rather than just one. As it turned out, this worry was unfounded, and the system actually works rather well.
It also made me wonder why this arrangement isn't common to all Fiats. The Bravo I drove last night has the same arrangement, but my girlfriend's 500 ticks only three times. Strange.
By Ivan Aistrop
Week ending September 14
Driven this week: 435 miles
As soon as you set eyes on the Panda, you're struck by its shape – boxy, but with curved edges. That's a theme you also see a lot of inside, because it's been used as the basis for the car's interior design.
Everywhere you look in the cabin, you see what Fiat calls the 'squircle' – a square shape with rounded corners. The dials, the steering wheel hub, the ventilation and radio controls – even the handbrake – all carry this theme.
It looks good and somehow gives the car a charming feel. Importantly, though, it doesn’t detract from the ergonomic performance of the controls.
Week ending September 7
Driven this week: 230 miles
I was keen to get behind the wheel of our long-term Panda, because I haven't had a chance to drive one of these cars since the launch in Italy.
It's always interesting to see if first impressions are backed up by the experience on fickle UK roads.
In the most part the Panda copes well; I find its ride quality comfortable enough around town, and while there's plenty of body lean in faster corners, I expect that anyway from such a narrow, tall vehicle. The 1.2 feels a bit thrashy at motorway speeds, but it's so smooth and keen to rev otherwise that I'll forgive it that.
I also love the Panda's unashamed ruggedness and focus on everyday utility. There's a huge 'bin' above the glovebox that's perfect for accommodating clutter, and the grey-ish dashboard finish is made of a material that appears impervious to nail scratches and finger marks. In a small car like this, that's a stroke of genius.