Review: Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012)
Compact and practical. Enjoyable and easy to drive. Narrow size makes it easy to park. Good space for those in the back.
Double folding rear seats not standard. Small boot.
Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012): At A Glance
It's cheap. It's cheerful. And it was a deserved European Car of the Year 2004.
The first thing that strikes you is its cuteness. It's smaller and sweeter than it looks in pictures. You instantly want to like it. Get inside and the central knobs and switches panel is simply the best in any car at any price. It's a model of clarity and every single button falls instantly to hand. So does the neat little dash mounted gear lever.
What does a Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012) cost?
Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012): What's It Like Inside?
The steering wheel is height-adjustable, but the rim is too thick. Smaller women with small hands are not going to like that at all. There are airbags for driver and passenger, and the passenger's can be easily switched off. Front windows are electric. Door mirrors are manual, tiny and don't have enough range of adjustment. Interior plastics look very basic, yet also thick and strong.
There's masses of headroom in the back and three can sit comfortably across the back seat, but there are only seatbelts for two and I didn't like the sharp exposed front seat runners that look like they could do a lot of damage to people's feet in an accident.
Annoyingly, you need the key to open the back hatch and in the basic Pistachio Panda Active 1.1 version I was driving, the rear backrest folds down but that's it. Even in upmarket versions, only the backrests flop down 50/50, so if you want more luggage space you have to unbolt the seat entirely and leave it at home. With the seats up there is more luggage space than in the Kia Picanto.
I'm a Panda fan. I like the Panda 1.1 Active. I like the Panda diesel. I like the Panda 4x4. So why did the indisputably cute Panda 100HP not quite push all my buttons?
It looks terrific. Like a souped-up small Fiat should. A basic, upright tiny utility car with fat alloys, chunky tyres and a special grille. It's good inside, too, with supportive seats, nice steering wheel and the same brilliant centre switchgear arrangement of all Pandas. Mine came in a gorgeous deep metallic ‘New Orleans Blue'. And it has a rorty exhaust.
I can't work out why they gave it six gears though, because they're all low. Even 6th only gives you 21mph per 1,000rpm. So it's no motorway cruiser. And they're all very close together, not just in ratio, but also in lever movement. It's hard to feel the change of plane shifting from 4th to 5th, though, strangely, much easier to slot from 5th to 4th, or 6th to 4th for that matter.
It hates speed bumps. Can't cope with them at all. Too narrow to straddle metre-wide speed cushions. And crashes badly over street wide flat-tops at anything more than 20mph.
But though it's a tiny car it feels big enough from the inside to mix it with motorway traffic. You aren't intimidated. I had to divert off the M25 a junction early and take the M4 to my destination in Oxfordshire rather than the M40. That left a tedious run up the A424 at the wrong time of day for traffic and overtaking. Yet on the way back, next day, somehow the little car redeemed itself.
It's not actually as perky as you think it will be. A bit flat in all the gears unless you rev the nuts off it. Yet somehow, on a clear, relatively open road, it's quite satisfying and will pull the ton no problem. It's also reasonably economical. I averaged 37mpg, then, in traffic most of the time from West of Oxford to Surrey, it averaged 41 on the trip computer. Keep to 60 - 70 and you would too.
Where the normal Panda's electric steering has an ultra light City mode and a normal mode, on the 100HP it's normal or Sport. At low speed Sport feels like someone with big hands had grabbed old of the steering column and is squeezing it as hard as they can to create a bit of resistance. Since the electric steering motor is clamped around the column rather than the rack this isn't too far from the truth, though in fact what is really happening is you are getting less assistance. It's not as bad as the Corsa's steering, but it's not as good as it could be.
And while you get such goodies as air-conditioning, Fiat doesn't dig deep enough to give you tumble folding back seats. The backrests flop down onto the squabs and that's it.
I kicked off wanting to like the Panda 100HP. Then I was disappointed. Then its charms grew on me and I ended up liking it after all. I can't make a rational case for this, except that for a sporty car the running costs are tiny. An official 43.5mpg combined, 154g/km so Group D VED and £125 a year. A tiny kerb weight of just 975kg.
A MINI's the expected way to have fun. The Panda 100HP is a cheaper, more cheerful way.
Child seats that fit a Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012) like to drive?
To drive, there's a bit of deadness in the steering, but it handles well enough, rides decently and there's a lot less road noise than from a Punto. Sure, you have to turn the radio up on the motorway, but for a basic 53bhp 1.1 litre car it's surprisingly refined; much better than a Punto, though not quite as good as the Kia Picanto.
Fiat states a top speed of 93mph, but in my experience either the speedo was extremely optimisitic or Fiat has been extremely pessimistic. The car actually seems to become smoother and quieter the faster you drive it. And, once you get used to the tall, narrow body, you can have a lot of fun with it too. The driver of a Porsche Boxster was very surprised to find a Pistachio Panda on his tail around one well-known quick corner.
There's something hugely fun to be had from getting the most out of a small, underpowered car. Though the gearbox is standard Fiat, the gearchange and the handiness of the high gearlever is fantastic.
|1.1||50 mpg||15.0 s||132 g/km|
|1.1 ECO||57 mpg||15.0 s||119 g/km|
|1.2||50–58 mpg||13.4–14.0 s||113–133 g/km|
|1.2 Dualogic||53 mpg||14.0 s||125 g/km|
|1.2 ECO||57 mpg||14.0 s||119 g/km|
|1.3 MultiJet||66–67 mpg||13.0–13.1 s||109–114 g/km|
|1.4||44 mpg||9.5 s||154 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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Fiat Panda 1.1 Active Serpentine Belt
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