Fiat Panda Hatchback full 9 point review
You have the choice of three engines: a 68bhp 1.2-litre 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, then you should consider the diesel; it feels stronger and more flexible than the petrol, so is better at keeping up with traffic on faster roads. The Twinair has a fair bit of mid-range muscle, but it's gutless at very low revs and breathless at high ones.
Ride & Handling
The Panda is built for the city, and here most versions absorb bigger bumps and ruts well enough; this is especially true of the high-riding four-wheel-drive models. The Panda never feels completely settled at higher speeds, however, where its body tends to bob up and down. It doesn't lean unduly in corners, though. The light steering is great for parking, but it's also vague, which makes it difficult to judge front-end grip at speed. The 4x4 versions are as capable off-road as many bigger SUVs.
The diesel engine becomes noisy when worked hard, and the 1.2-litre petrol also makes itself heard when revved, although the noise it makes isn't unpleasant. By contrast, the Twinair engine is noisy at most speeds. It's not very smooth, either, and sends plenty of vibrations into the cabin. Wind noise becomes increasingly insistent as speeds rise, which means the Panda isn't as hushed as a Hyundai i10 or Volkswagen Up.
Buying & Owning
Prices aren't particularly competitive compared with those of the Panda's most obvious rivals, but you'll almost certainly be able to haggle a big chunk off. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions also aren't great by city car standards, especially on the four-wheel-drive versions, although low insurance groupings and respectable resale values mean the Panda should still be cheap to run.
Quality & Reliability
Most of the plastics and fabrics used in the interior are of reasonable quality and appear well put together. The body's shutlines are also fairly tight, while the doors and switchgear have a solid feel. The Panda was rated below average for reliability in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
Safety & Security
Every version comes with front and head airbags as standard, but you have to pay extra for side 'bags. You even need to pay to get rear head restraints on Pop-trimmed cars. It's also disappointing that the Panda failed to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating; in fact, child safety is particularly poor by the standards of the class. Security experts Thatcham awarded the Panda just two out of five for its resistance to theft, and one out of five for its resistance to being broken into.
Behind The Wheel
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 (the wheel doesn't move in and out), as is height adjustment for the driver's seat.
Space & Practicality
The Panda's tall body ensures plenty of headroom all round, and there's reasonable legroom in the front. However, legroom is tight in the back, despite the upright seating position, and you'll need to spend extra if you want five seats instead of four. 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 version, which adds air-con, a better stereo, remote central locking and roof rails. Lounge models are pricey, but they also get body-coloured exterior trim, alloy wheels and electrically adjustable door mirrors. The 4x4 versions come with plenty of kit, although they are the most expensive Pandas.