It is fitting that the Panda with the smallest price tag should be the best.

What is it?

This is the first time we've driven the Fiat Panda on British tarmac, and in a right hand drive configuration.

The 1.2-litre FIRE engine tested here will be the most popular engine in the Fiat Panda range, accounting for around 50 per cent of sales. It sits between the 875cc TwinAir and the 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel unit, and offers higher levels of refinement and NVH.

Most importantly, it’s the cheapest engine of the three and represents the best all-round choice.

What’s it like?

Surprisingly refined at speed. At 70mph, the engine is hushed and smooth, and sounds pleasant under moderate acceleration. Only when passing the 5000rpm mark on the way to the 6300rpm rev limit does it sound strained. The lack of torque – 75lb ft, versus the TwinAir’s 107lb ft and the diesel’s 140lb ft – is no problem around town, where the engine proves smooth and nippy, but at motorway speeds, overtakes need careful planning.

The Panda’s 14.2sec 0-62mph is pretty pedestrian, but it is largely a moot point in a car which will eek out its days slotting through traffic in town. It’s nice to know a city car can cut it on the motorway, where it feels stable. Low speed ride is good, and when the speed increases, the front MacPherson and rear torsion beam suspension continues to isolate the worst of Britain’s roads from the cabin. For all the talk of body roll, it’s never really a problem, and the steering provides enough feel to corner with confidence.

Moving the steering wheel from left to right has revealed a slightly off-set driving position, but after a morning behind the wheel, we were free from aches and pains.

Fiat’s marketing department is keen to trade on the back-to-basics nature of the original model, but the third generation wants for very little. The cabin is practical and well built - if lacking some of the tactility of the Volkswagen Up - and very stylish. Repeated use of "squircle" shapes around the cabin looks a little contrived in places, but the rounded-off square shapes for the instrumentation works well, if not for the steering wheel.

Although the new Panda shares the same basic frame construction with the second-generation model, Fiat says all other components are new. Despite this, interior space is improved, and slim seats add additional room in the back. The Panda will be sold as a four seater, but a fifth seat is a £100 option. Other peculiarities include the lack of a start-stop system on the 1.2-litre engine (it keeps costs down, and could make it easier for dealers to 'walk' buyers up to more expensive models, says Fiat) and the lack of standard-fit ESP on any model. As a result, Euro NCAP awarded the Panda four stars, while the Up achieved a full five star rating.

Should I buy one?

The raspy and eager TwinAir engine might grab the headlines, but most buyers want something that’s cheap to run, quiet and capable, which is where the 1.2 fits neatly. On paper, it might be the thirstiest model in the range, but it will certainly be easier to achieve the official combined cycle figure of 54.3mpg than it will be with the two-cylinder unit.

It’s also the cheapest engine in the range, and in a car that trades heavily on its honesty and the appeal of its basic nature, it is fitting that the model with the smallest price tag should be the best.

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Stuart Milne

Fiat Panda 1.2 Lounge

Price: £10,050; Top speed: 102mph; 0-62mph: 14.2secs; Economy: 54.3mpg; CO2: 120g/km; Kerb weight: 1015kg; Engine: 4-cyls, 1242cc, petrol; Power: 69bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 75lb ft at 3000rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual

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HighC 3 December 2014

Panda 1.2 Flat Spot Problem - WARNING !! DO NOT BUY !!

Unfortunately, as with the widely reported Fiat 500 flat spot (see Watchdog TV coverage and internet reports) the 1.2 litre Euro 6 engine fitted to the Panda is a dangerous horror with a massive flat spot at 900 - 1500 rpm. It is ok when cold and the choke is operating but once warmed up the car is simply dangerous.
It is virtually impossible to pull away on a slight slope and pulling out of junctions across traffic is highly dangerous. I dread the day when we face a junction on a serious gradient. We struggled to pull away from the dealers site and thought it was just a familiarity issue. Then when things did not improve began to research - tried Shell fuel as some say this helps but had no real improvement.

Pentagon and Fiat refuse to investigate or do anything under warranty unless we pay for diagnostics first ( 3 month old car with less than 400 miles!) and they say that the diagnostics will confirm that the car is as it should be and then they won't do anything so stalemate.

In summary - let down by Pentagon Dealer who refer you to the "special Fiat Help Line for this problem - 00800 3428 0000", who refer you back to your dealer, etc etc.

The dealer has confirmed several other customers having similar problems and presumably a tsunami of others, like us, are not visible due to the threat of charges for the pointless diagnostics.
Fiat "warranty" is worthless and not being honoured

My daughters previous Panda was fantastic, the new car itself is great but the New Euro 6 power unit simply makes it dangerous.


PhilM4000 2 March 2012

Re: Fiat Panda 1.2 Lounge

I just think this is about a grand too much, I think the Kia rio looks sharper and is perhaps a class above for less than this.

Crixter 27 February 2012

Re: Fiat Panda 1.2 Lounge

Agreed. Before i had the Focus, i had a 2002 Punto with the 1.2, i found it a sweet little engine. Really smooth and quiet, with enough pull in the mid range thanks to it's 8V nature.

I usually got over 50mpg too.