If you’re in the market for a cheap-to-run, practical, fun but simple city car, you should definitely consider the Fiat Panda. Here’s everything you need to know about the Italian icon.
The Panda is Fiat’s greatest hit. And it’s everything a small car should be: fun, functional and completely unpretentious.
It’s great to drive, but don’t let its cutesy, small look fool you, because this car is designed with no wastage when it comes to space.
And although it may not have the greatest pulling power – the basic Panda taking 14.2 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph – for a small, value car, Fiat has it spot on.
Fiat boss, Oliver Francois once said of the Panda it’s “the official car for doing whatever the hell you like” – and he wasn’t wrong.
While the majority of cars out there are finely honed and marketed to appeal to a specific group of customers, the Panda isn’t. It’s got the price and size of a little city car, but depending on the model you opt for, it can appeal to anyone, which is what it set out to do in the first place.
This is a car that is always evolving and yet still keeps its cheeky charm and refuses to lose any of the features that makes it practical, reliable and efficient.
Design & styling
The Fiat Panda is instantly recognisable thanks to its quirky shape and is entirely built for function.
Despite it being only a little car, its boxy exterior design and bold, almost shouty cartoon-like, features make it stand out.
And although it may not be as sophisticated in design as some of its rivals, or even have the cute retro look of its sister car; the Fiat 500, the Panda is a simplistic and solid nod to a car that was originally built for the masses.
The current Panda has been with us since 2011 and has been joined by three trim levels – Pop, Easy and Lounge – the range-topper.
While the entry-level is very basic, the Easy model adds air conditioning, roof rails and central locking to the mix.
Opt for the Lounge and you’re looking at 15-inch alloy wheels and Fiat’s all-encompassing Uconnect infotainment system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
All have a rounded theme to its headlamps and bumpers instantly making it recognisable. Fiat has spent time revising the front end to make it more attractive for customers, but it still retains the synonymous tall boxy stance that keeps it unique from other city cars.
Fiat also introduced some equally funky looking models to its range. The chunkier, rugged Panda 4×4 took the attractive-looking car and raised it for off-road.
But they stuck to their small-car roots, with just 150mm of ground clearance – so this “off-roader” isn’t going to go far from the beaten path.
The Panda Cross, meanwhile – building on the 4 x 4’s success – made some distinct top-of-the-range styling changes with chrome paintwork for skid plates and double red tow hook under the bumper grille.
It wasn’t the end of the overhaul for the humble Panda, as the Fiat Panda City Life model came along with 15” alloy wheels and black exterior trim pieces.
Finally, the sleekest of the bunch, the Panda Sport. With an exclusive optional matte grey finish, 16-inch alloy wheels, red brake callipers, titanium-coloured dashboard and tinted windows, it amplifies fun and gives a little more sophistication to the range.
Although, perhaps surprisingly, no more power, sharing the same 70hp 1.0-litre engine as the entry-level model.
MPG, running costs & environmental impact
It may not be the most competitive small car on the market, but when it comes to running costs, whichever version you go for, the Panda fairs well.
The entry-level 1.2-litre with its 47mpg isn’t as economical as newer engines, but won’t cost too much to keep on the road. While the mild hybrid 1.0-litre is more efficient taking that up to 50.4mpg.
As far as the Panda’s environmental impact, all do well for emissions. The hybrid naturally comes out best with CO2 emissions as low as 126g/km.
You won’t face any big road-tax bills and low emissions put it into the middling Benefit in Kind bracket, making it a good choice for company car drivers, too.
Engines, drive & performance
As we’ve already touched upon, the Fiat Panda comes with a range of three engines, all designed for urban motoring.
The cheapest of all three – the small 1.2-litre petrol engine – is good for darting around town, however, doesn’t quite measure up for long-distance motorway driving.
Taking it’s time to go from 0-62mph (a lengthy 14.8 seconds), it can be quite hard work and noisy. However, there’s no denying it’s a zippy little thing at low speeds.
Even the TwinAir model – the fastest in the range – doesn’t come close to breaking any records with a top speed of 102mph and taking 12.7 seconds to go from 0-62mph. However, with a tighter engine also comes better handling.
And to finish off there’s the hybrid. The part-electric powertrain has been quite clearly designed with clear emissions in mind rather than power – with a top speed of a mere 96mph.
However, saying that, where the Panda underdelivers in power it makes up for in reliability. It’s a city car, and can make the most mundane drive around down a joy, with a soft suspension that handles bumps admirably which providing a nimble performance.
The Panda can pull from low speeds cleanly and the stop/go system is easy to manage. Add to that a ‘City’ button, which takes the weight out of the steering system making three-point turns effortless, it’s a great car for around town.
Fiat Panda 1.2 Litre Petrol
Fiat Panda TwinAir
You can’t talk about the Fiat Panda without mentioning the squircle. And you certainly can’t drive one without noticing them, because this iconic look has inspired almost every aspect of the car’s exterior and interior.
A square with rounded edges, it lends a pleasing look to the interior while opening it out to a great deal of interior space.
You’ll even find squircles on the seats, incorporated into the design but with practicality in mind – helping air circulate between you and the backrest.
Jaunty square circles aside, everything to do with the Panda focuses on practicality and making life easier.
For a small car, it has a lot of compartments of varying sizes – 14 to be exact. Something the designers frequently boast about.
The passenger seat is designed to max out space and practicality, folding over on itself to create a table when not in use. The rear seats also split in the higher models, while all slide forwards to offer more boot room if you need it.
The dashboard is settled in a colourful frame with a roomy storage pocket found in front of the passenger seat. But unlike most modern cars, you won’t find a central screen here, just a stereo.
The pillars around the front windscreen are a little chunky, so the Panda isn’t the best for visibility. However, the higher seating position does give you a clearer view of the road than most other city cars.
And although the seating is comfortable enough to avoid complaints, it’s far from plush – which typifies the Panda’s purpose; practicality.
In terms of interior quality, the Panda seems a well-built and solid car, it comes with lots of plastic which may not necessarily feel like the most luxurious material in the world, but will at least be hard-wearing.
While it isn’t really what anyone would consider a top-quality interior, very few city cars features especially luxurious fittings. It helps keep the cost down.
On the whole, the Fiat Panda puts everything together well and is appealing to those who relish simplicity, practicality and space.
Practicality & boot space
As we’ve previously mentioned, for such a small car, the Panda does space well.
The rear bench slides up to 16cm, so whether you’ve got extra people or extra bags, you can make a little more room.
With this option, and the seats forward, boot space increases to an impressive 260-litres. And then there’s a little bit more storage under the floor, too.
If you’ve opted for a plusher trim, you can split-fold the rear seats. That frees up a huge 870-litres of total space. As well, with the rear seats flat, there’s an extra 2 metres of loading length.
And on the off-chance you need even more length, there are models in which the front passenger seat also folds, too.
In order to create all this extra space, seating is higher. At this higher ride height has, the added bonus is a better view and smoothing out the feel of bumps and potholes.
Reliability & Safety
The Panda has proven itself to be a relatively reliable car over the years. Although some of the internal plastics come across as a little unsubstantial, it’s a solid car made to last.
The engines are also largely tried and tested, with great success in both the Panda and Fiat 500 over the years.
Fiat has also gone to great lengths to make you feel like you’re in a big car and claim it’s the only car in its class to have 99% of its interior surface lined. This leads to an incredibly low amount of road and engine noise.
However, despite all this, the Fiat Panda does have quite a large issue – safety.
During its Euro NCAP safety test in 2018, it scored a mind-boggling zero stars. This test is designed to see how well a car prevents and deals with a collision from adult, child and pedestrian perspectives.
The Panda’s biggest flaw at the time was the lack of safety equipment available on the vehicle – as well as no rear-seat seatbelt warnings.
However, things have improved slightly since then. You can now add an optional Active Safety Pack. You can also equip your Panda with rear parking sensors, hill hold as well as an autonomous emergency braking system.
So while the added extras can put your mind at ease, be warned, if you go for the basic model, its safety equipment will be scarce.
Fiat Panda 1.2 Litre Petrol
Cost & deals
Overall, the humble Fiat Panda offers pretty good value for money with a low starting price of just £12,025.
Priced and sized as a city car, it’s cheap to insure – ranging from group 4 to 8. Even the Panda 4×4 sits in a lowly group 10.
A new Panda comes with a three-year warranty as standard and is cheap to run. And while a few new arrivals may be cheaper and more refined – none more so than the Fiat 500 – the Panda continues to please those looking for no-frills driving.
Here at Hippo Leasing, we have a large Fiat Panda selection available. You can lease a brand-new Fiat Panda from as little as £153 monthly.
Or if you’re looking for an Approved Used option, you can get behind the wheel for less than £100 a month.
If the Fiat Panda isn’t quite what you are looking for and you know exactly what you are looking to lease, then why not hit ‘Apply Now’ and start your Hippo Leasing journey now.