The third generation Panda grows a little, gets more efficient engines and feels a whole lot better bolted together.
Other than that, it reprises what has been a phenomenally successful theme. It will continue to be bought by those who recognise that cheap can still mean stylish.
The third generation Panda sensibly concentrates on efficiency and utility rather than headline grabbing performance. The two cylinder TwinAir engine that debuted in the 500 and which walked the International Engine of the Year award in 2011 is present and correct, this time in two separate guises. The entry-level Twinair powerplant is the 65bhp normally aspirated unit, or you can opt for this engine with a turbocharger which lifts its power to 85bhp. There’s also a rather more conventional, not to mention cheaper, 69bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine. Those looking for a diesel powerplant will enjoy the 75bhp 1.3-litre Multijet 2 engine.
As yet there’s no word on whether the cheeky 100HP model will see a replacement, but it hasn’t been ruled out. What is most certainly in the pipeline is a four-wheel drive variant, which continues a theme that has run through both first and second generation Panda models.
Fiat has striven to comply with the original compact design brief but the latest Panda has grown by a few centimetres in order largely to comply with increasingly stringent safety regulations. Whilst its designers were at it, the temptation to improve passenger and luggage space was impossible to resist. With an overall length of 365cm, width of 164cm and height of 155cm, the Panda can seat five people and rather than the rather apologetic capacity of its predecessor, now features one of the largest luggage compartments in the city car segment. Practicality is boosted by a sliding split/fold rear bench. The Panda has always been a city car that can easily tackle more than just a scoot to the shops. Now that ability is further underscored.
It’s easy to forget quite what a marker the Panda has laid down. It was the first city car to win the European Car of the Year award (in 2004) and was the first such car to get a diesel engine (1986). Other firsts? How about the first to offer four-wheel drive (1983) in the iconic Panda 4x4, later carried through to the neat Panda Climbing. This third generation car gets a more flexible interior that features much superior materials quality and attention to build integrity. The build process has been improved to ensure quality and vehicle reliability should be better than before.
The Fiat Panda probably didn’t need to be replaced as early as it had been. Despite having been on sale for eight years, the Panda was still selling well. Admittedly, the 500 had made its interior look a little functional, and the latest car’s cabin is a good deal more classy. This third-generation car is better in virtually every regard but we’ll need to get some miles under our belts before we can give a definitive verdict as to whether this car retains the cheeky appeal.
The signs look good though. Fiat can’t sell over six million Pandas without gleaning a definitive insight into what typical customers want. Everything looks to be in place for a continued run of success. Watch this space.