Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
There’s only one engine, a mild hybrid petrol that’s shared with the closely related Fiat 500. In this context, though, mild means mild; little more than a faint whiff, even. You can’t plug this car in and it can’t travel on electric power alone – a Toyota Yaris Hybrid will let you potter without firing up its petrol engine. In fact, the Panda’s 69bhp mild hybrid system is of the kind that's seen in the Suzuki Ignis; its naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is aided by a minuscule lithium-ion battery and tiny electric motor that, in theory, boosts acceleration.
However, you wouldn't know it from driving the Panda. You really have to work the gears hard to make any meaningful progress and, even then, 0-62mph takes a tardy 13.8sec. That's quite a bit slower than a Dacia Duster TCe 130 if you’re looking at the SUV side of the spectrum, and versions of the Kia Picanto if you're more focused on a city car rival. And while the Toyota Aygo and Volkswagen Up aren't any quicker, their shorter gearing means they at least feel a little more enthusiastic to rev out than the Panda.
The i10 also rides a lot better. It's not that the Panda thumps alarmingly over potholes – it takes most of the sting out of any sharp edges pretty well – but it bounces and fidgets around over most surfaces. That makes it rather wearing to drive for any great distance.
While its light steering is ideal for parking, it’s also vague when you are looking for that sense of connection to help you guide the nose confidently through faster corners. Combine this with significant body lean, and the Panda isn't a car with driver appeal by the bucket load; if you enjoy zipping about in a rewarding-handling car, the entertaining Kia Picanto demands a test drive.
If off-road handling is high on your list, then you'll be disappointed to know that the Panda is no longer offered with four-wheel drive, despite its all-terrain looks. We’d suggest four-wheel-drive versions of the Dacia Duster if mud-plugging is in your plans.