Lounge 0.9 TwinAir
and Prejudice might keep
you from trying out Fiats
but let Sense and Sensibility
overcome that and youll
a fun-to-drive and surprisingly
civilised five-door supermini...
OVERSHADOWED BY THE UNDENIABLY FUNKY Fiat 500, the Panda is back in the limelight
in an all-new guise. 'Sophisticated' and 'functional' are not terms that are
usually found in the same object, but they are now in the Panda.
Its distinctive angular lines combine fluently with rounded-off corners and
the overall effect is of a softly curvaceous body if Rubens had
painted cars and not full-figured women like The Three Graces and Venus
At The Mirror, he would have painted this latest Panda.
Slide behind the height-adjustable, three-spoke steering wheel and you'll immediately
appreciate the high driving position, particularly if much of your motoring
takes place in an urban landscape. The tall-ish roof gives the impression you're
sitting in an MPV and, in spite of its city-friendly 3.6-metre overall length,
this new-generation Panda is spacious enough inside with generous front headroom
and, at the other end of your body, plenty of foot room.
Skoda's (admittedly larger) Yeti, the Panda has a versatile and accommodating
character (think of it as an automotive Swiss Army Knife designed and built
by Italians); one that makes it possible for its owner to do, within reason,
whatever he or she wants to do.
Like Skodas Yeti,
the Panda has a versatile
character think of it as
a Swiss Army Knife
designed and built
Distinctive on the outside, the Panda is even bolder on the inside: the cabin
is stylish with colourful upholstery and the striking fascia (a rich red on
our test car, a colour picked up by the door panels and the two-tone seat upholstery)
is well laid-out with a high-mounted gearlever easily to hand.
The design theme is 'squircular' squared circles
and is present on most things from the dials to the headrests, from the steering
wheel to the embossed patterns on the seats. And, if you're planning on adopting
a Panda, you'll be relieved to hear that the squircular motif is carried off
Thankfully the Panda doesn't make a secret of its good points so, as with all
the self-evident controls and switchgear, you won't need to consult the handbook
to find anything. Driver information dials and displays are orange on black
and easily read at a glance, and you can cycle through the trip computer using
the button on the steering wheel.
Inside the five-door supermini body it's light and spacious and, good news for
driver and passengers alike, visibility is first rate; even rearwards. The red
and grey front seats are well shaped with supportive backrests. Seats are big
and although the steering wheel only tilt-adjusts for height, a decent driving
position is easily set.
The natty space-saving handbrake looks like a squared computer mouse but it's
no flight of fancy and fits naturally into your palm as you lift it like a lid
with your fingers, releasing smoothly and without effort when your thumb presses
the button at the side.
equipment on the Lounge brings AirCon with pollen filter (and provides a good
supply of quickly-served hot and cold air), daytime running lights, electric
front windows (auto one-shot; rears are manual wind-ups), Dualdrive electric
power steering, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors, radio with CD and
MP3 player, roof rails, front foglights and 15-inch alloys.
included are Start&Stop (smooth operating and easy to turn on/off), Fix&Go puncture
repair kit, a Smart Fuel refuelling system that won't let you fill up from the
wrong pump, driver and passenger airbags plus window airbags, front anti-whiplash
head restraints and height adjustable front seatbelts.
Like Noahs ark,
the Pandas rear cabin
is designed for pairs:
two seatbelts; two adult
For the record, its
actually wide enough to
number of option packs are also available including Climate, Winter, Techno,
Flex, and Comfort kits to add more desirable equipment. For example, the Winter
pack (£250) adds a heated windscreen and heated front seats. Alternatively,
specific items can be added individually: an electronic stability program with
hill-holder costs £315. Specify the Blue&Me TomTom 2 Live and you can use steering
wheel buttons or voice commands to operate your Bluetooth mobile and the infotainment-cum-navigation
Like Noah's ark, the Panda's rear cabin is designed for pairs: two headrests;
two seatbelts; two adult passengers. For the record, it's actually wide enough
to accommodate three and there's plenty of head- and shoulder-room; knee-room
is okay for sub-six-footers.
The boot offers a reasonable 225 litres of space: with the rear backrest folded
down there's room for 870 litres of cargo in a space approximately 39 x 44 inches.
Loading it is easy even though the folded seatback doesn't sit completely flat
and creates a six-inch step-up from the boot floor. The rigid but lightweight
rear parcel shelf also acts as a luggage cover and is easily removed.
The new Panda offers a variety of powerplants: 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol; 75bhp
1.3 turbodiesel; and a turboed 875cc two-cylinder TwinAir petrol engine with
a feisty 85bhp that emits an environment- and tax-friendly sub-100g/km of CO2.
test model was a range-topping Lounge with the 875cc twin-cylinder heart. While
you might buy this Panda for reasons of economy officially it
can return 67.3mpg in the combined cycle you may, like us, see
an average of around 40.4mpg.
is not down to any misrepresentation by Fiat but, and for this Fiat does have
to take full responsibility, the addictive eagerness of its engine to happily
rev round to the redline and entertain you with its sharp response to the loud
pedal and its joyfully rorty two-pot soundtrack.
that the five-door body tips the scales at 1,050kg, the characterful 875cc engine
punches above its weight to deliver 0-62mph acceleration in 11.2 seconds and
a top speed of 110mph. Torque of 107lb ft is on tap at 1,900rpm, and it endows
the twin-cylinder unit with zippy performance for nipping in and out of urban
Youd have to
be as heartless as
to say the TwinAir-
powered Panda is not
fun to drive...
Drive it as it encourages you to with plenty of revs and making
the best of the five gears and you'll get around 41mpg; drive
it with a greener right foot (it will prompt you to 'change up' at very low
revs at what feels close to labouring the engine) and you'll be rewarded by
50+mpg. And with just 99g/km, the Panda can visit London as often as it likes
without paying a penny in congestion charges. Oh, and no road tax either!
So, a willing engine that begs to be used, but is it matched by the handling?
The Panda is a 'puller' rather than a 'pusher': drive is through the front wheels.
While the electric power steering is on the light side, it's direct enough to
go along with some pedal-to-the-metal driving.
Yes, drive like this and there's some body lean but it is taller than average
and it's not a hot hatch although there's enough grip to keep it precise through
the bends and corners and you in the race. The brakes deliver all the stopping
power you need, as and when you need it. And you'd have to be as heartless as
Miss Havisham to say the TwinAir-powered Panda is not fun to drive.
Of course, the Panda is more about comfort in the city (press the City button
and the helm becomes lighter still for effortless parking) than charging about
the countryside. And the ride reflects this: the majority of pesky potholes
and other bumps are taken in its stride without rattling the passengers
and the word that comes to mind here is 'civilised'.
Fiat have been producing chic city cars for decades and this latest two-cylinder
TwinAir Panda is set to be yet another success. More versatile than many, it's
a very easy supermini to live with.
Fiat Panda Lounge 0.9 TwinAir | £11,250
Maximum speed: 110mph | 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 40.4mpg
Power: 85bhp | Torque: 107lb ft | CO2 99g/km