You have the choice of three engines: a 68bhp 1.2 petrol, a 0.9 Twinair with 84bhp and a 74bhp 1.3-litre diesel. The 1.2 petrol is no ball of fire, but it’s fine around town. If you regularly head beyond the city limits, consider either the diesel or Twinair units. They feel stronger and more flexible, so are better at keeping up with traffic on faster roads.
The Panda will spend most of its time in town, so it’s a shame the ride is unsettled. Body control is good, though, and the Panda doesn’t lean over unduly in bends. The light steering is great for parking, but it’s also vague, which makes it difficult to judge front-end grip at higher speeds.
The 1.2- and 1.3-litre engines become rather noisy when worked hard, although the diesel is quieter than many rivals, especially around town. By contrast, the Twinair engine is noisy at most speeds. It’s not very smooth, either. Wind and road noise become increasingly insistent as speeds rise, which means the Panda isn’t as hushed as a VW Up.
Prices aren’t particularly competitive when compared with those of the Panda’s most obvious rivals. At least decent fuel economy, modest emissions, low insurance groupings and respectable resale values mean the Panda is cheap to run.
Most of the plastics and fabrics used in the interior are of reasonable quality and appear well put together. The body’s shutlines are fairly tight, while the doors and switchgear have a solid feel. However, there’s a slight concern that the previous-generation Panda scored below-average marks for mechanical reliability in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
All models come with twin front and head airbags as standard, but you have to pay extra for side airbags. Stability control is a cost option on all but the 4x4 and Trekking models, too, and you even need to pay extra to get rear head restraints on Pop-trimmed cars. It's especially disappointing that the car only scored four out of five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.
The Panda’s funky, airy cabin features a large centre console that keeps most controls – including the gearlever – within easy reach. The raised driving position isn’t to all tastes, but it does ensure a good view out. A height-adjustable steering wheel is standard, but driver’s seat-height adjustment is only an option.
The Panda’s tall body ensures plenty of headroom all round and there’s reasonable legroom in the front. However, legroom is a little tight in the back, despite the upright seating position, and you’ll need to spend extra if you want a five- rather than a four-seater. The Panda’s boot is small yet well shaped, but you’ll also need to venture to the options list if you want some sort of split-folding rear seat.
Entry-level Pop models come with a CD player and electric front windows, but we think it’s worth stretching to an Easy model, which has air-con, a better stereo, remote locking and roof rails. On top of that, Lounge models get body-coloured mirrors and side mouldings, and alloy wheels, but it seems a lot to spend on what amounts to basically a smarter look. The 4x4 and Trekking versions come with plenty of kit, but are the most expensive models.
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