Although not too dissimilar in size, the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda are inherently different cars.
The 500 is an eye-catching city car which embodies style and playfulness. Meanwhile, the Panda is a no-nonsense utilitarian which is built for practicality. You can even have it with four-wheel-drive.
Between the 500 and Panda, which one you lease will depend on your needs.
If you value retro looks and standing out from the crowd, as well as enjoying new tech and a fun drive, the Fiat 500 is the one you want.
Whereas, if you want a straightforward, no-frills experience, which feels comfortable on almost any terrain, but you don’t want to shell out on a big SUV, the Fiat Panda is the right choice.
However, if you’re somewhere in between, or just like them both, we’re going to go through all you need to know to help you decide which one you should go for.
Design & styling
The Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda share the same building platform. They’re similar in size – with only a few millimetres between them – but that’s where the likeness ends.
The Fiat 500 is a reimagined icon. It’s based on the old Fiat 500, which was loved all over Italy in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
Its primary purpose is to help you stand out from the crowd. And through chrome detailing, a huge range of colours to pick from and loads of customisation options, it achieves that.
It’s unapologetically adorable. You see one on the road, it makes you smile. It drives emotion – and you can’t really top that in a car.
The Panda, on the other hand, is robust and simple. That’s not to say it’s dull or lifeless. It’s a quirky car which has a big personality.
Depending on which version of the Panda you go for will decide its looks.
You can have the standard, city-friendly models. Or there’s also more rugged-looking options with black plastic wheel arches to highlight its small SUV characteristics.
The overall shape of the Panda is a lot more ‘boxy’ than the 500. But then again, that adds practicality.
So which is right for you will again depend on your personal preferences and circumstances.
If you’re a fan of the more simple styling, the Panda is undoubtedly the best choice. Whereas, if you like a bit more detail, or prefer your car with a sleeker look, the 500 wins every time.
MPG, running costs & environmental impact
Both the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda come with the option of a 1.0-litre hybrid engine.
That not only means better driving economy, making them cheaper to run, but they’re also kinder on the environment through lower CO2 emissions.
In the hybrid 500, you can expect a return of around 53mpg. Meanwhile, in the 1.2 petrol, that drops to 50mpg.
In the Panda, it’s slightly less. The hybrid powertrain gives you 50mpg, while the petrol engine will return 47mpg.
Out of the two, the Fiat 500 is cheaper to run. Although the Panda is in a lower insurance group, meaning you’ll pay less.
But as the 500 has historically held its value better than the Panda, it’s the one you want if long-term value for money is your main buying motive.
Engines, drive & performance
In the Fiat 500, the 1.0-litre hybrid engine is available across the range. And it’s actually the cheapest, and most powerful, option.
It comes with 69bhp, which is a whole 1bhp more than the other engine choice – a 1.2-litre petrol.
The Fiat Panda has the same power options – although the hybrid engine only comes with the higher-spec models.
But if petrol isn’t your thing, you should be able to get hold of a 1.3-litre diesel Panda without much fuss.
To drive, despite them sharing the same underpinnings, there are noticeable differences.
The Fiat 500 feels more agile thanks to its lower centre of gravity. It handles windy roads better and is a lot of fun behind the wheel, despite not being overly powerful.
The Fiat Panda, meanwhile, struggles to tackle corners at higher speeds due to its slightly bigger body and higher sides.
But if you’re just tootling around town – which is where these cars feel most at home – then the difference is marginal.
The 500 is slightly quicker away from the lights – covering 0-62mph in 13.8 seconds with the hybrid engine. While the Panda does the same in 14.7 seconds.
There’s also little to split the two in terms of gearbox options.
The Panda comes with both a five or six-speed manual, while the 500 also has an automatic option in the high-spec Dolcevita.
Again, it’s hard to argue against the Fiat 500 when it comes to engines, drive and performance.
The cleaner, more powerful hybrid option is available throughout the entire range, whereas you have to go higher up in the Panda.
It’s also faster off the mark, great fun behind the wheel, and has more gearbox options. And because of that, it’s the one we’d pick.
Despite being the same car underneath, the Fiat 500 and Fiat Panda couldn’t be more different inside.
If you want it to, the Panda has enough room for five, whereas the 500 can only fit four.
And the styling is worlds apart, too.
It does depend on which model you choose, but on the whole, the Panda’s looks are more reserved.
Both have the option for body-coloured dashboards – which adds a touch of vibrance to the interior – but the knobs and switches in the Panda seem dated.
There’s also a huge gulf in terms of specification.
At entry-level, neither cars come with much as standard. But it doesn’t take much to have a nice touchscreen system and a few extra comforts in the 500.
Whereas in the Panda, it’s built for simplicity. And that’s what you get, pretty much throughout the entire range.
There’s no touchscreen infotainment system at any trim level, which is disappointing in today’s age, no matter how cheap the car is.
Whereas in the 500, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto feature on every model apart from the Pop, which gives you access to your smartphone’s maps – essentially adding sat-nav to your car.
The 500 is also a lot more city-friendly, with parking sensors coming as standard in the mid-spec range – something that’s only ever an optional extra in the Panda.
On the whole, the Fiat 500 feels a better quality car than the Panda. It’s got more to it, comes with more kit and is a nicer space to be. There’s also the option for a panoramic roof or full convertible should you wish.
However, one big drawback is the fact the 500 can only ever accommodate for four – something you can’t really get around if you need five seats.
Practicality & boot space
Practicality is where the Fiat Panda really comes into its own compared to the 500.
The Panda’s cabin is airy and light, and you sit high – giving you a great all-round view of the road.
You can choose between either space for two or three in the rear, as well as the option for a split seating option – which comes in either 60:40 or 50:50.
Legroom, both in the front and back, is good for a car of its size. Although, if there are three adults in the rear seats for long periods, prepare for the odd groan of discomfort after a while.
The back bench also slides forwards and backwards, creating more legroom or boot space.
With the seats back, there are 225 litres of boot space, which is increased to 260 litres with them forward. Although, with the seats forward, rear legroom is virtually non-existent.
With the seats down, the Panda can accommodate up to 870 litres. That’s enough for more than 15 carry-on bags.
In the 500, meanwhile, although it does appear roomier than its size would suggest, there’s not the same space as in the Panda.
Two adults will struggle in the back for much longer than a short trip, and with the seats up, there are only 185 litres of boot space.
Things get worse if you choose to have a panoramic or fixed glass roof, with it eating into the car’s available headroom – which in the back is already in short supply.
But for two adults and two small children, the 500 is more than comfortable. We just wouldn’t use it for much more than that.
Reliability & safety
The Fiat Panda is known for its reliability. But it’s also known for its shocking NCAP safety rating.
When it was tested in 2018, it scored 0/5. Yes, zero.
And considering there aren’t a lot of features you can add to the Panda – particularly from a safety point of view – it has to be a cause for concern for any buyer.
The 500, meanwhile, gets to enjoy the reliability history of the Panda – as they’re built on the same platform – but has a higher three-out-of-five NCAP safety rating.
So if safety is important to you – as it is with most of us – the 500 is the only one of the two we can recommend.
Costs & deals
When it comes down to cost, the Fiat 500 again takes the spoils.
From new, you can lease Fiat 500 from just £141-a-month. Admittedly, that’s for the entry-level Pop.
But if you want a bit more inside, the Sport is only £25-a-month more, and that includes the all-new hybrid engine.
Meanwhile, for a new Panda, £160-a-month is around where you’d expect to find the entry-level model. But if you’re looking for hybrid technology, you can expect to pay around £30-a-month more.
If you’re browsing the used market, you’ll find the Panda often works out cheaper, as they don’t hold their value as well as a 500.
Here at Hippo Leasing, we have both new and Approved Used Fiat 500s and Fiat Pandas available, all of which come with £0 deposit options and a 7-day money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied.
Find your perfect Fiat 500 or Fiat Panda
On the whole, we prefer the Fiat 500 over the Fiat Panda. But we know that doesn’t mean you will.
That’s why, whether you’re looking for a new or Approved Used Fiat 500 or Fiat Panda, we can help.
Simply click the respective button below depending on which model you want to learn more about, or click ‘I’m Still Deciding’ to ask us any questions you may have.
But if you’ve got your heart set on the Fiat 500, we can help you find the right model for you.
Click the button below to read our guide on which Fiat 500 model is best for you.