Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012) Review

Fiat Panda (2004 – 2012) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
Small cars have always been what the Italian firm does best, and the Mk 2 Fiat Panda is a classic example. It’s a low cost, lightweight, cheap to run car that offers better build quality and more space and comfort than the original.

+Space, comfort and practicality in an engaging, affordable package.

-Diminutive loadspace, feeble 1.1 litre petrol engine.

Insurance Groups are between 1–11
On average it achieves 92% of the official MPG figure

The second-generation Fiat Panda not only outshines its older and younger siblings, but also pretty much every rival, making it one of the best city cars of its era. As our Fiat Panda review explains, it may be the only used small hatchback you’ll ever need.

The Mk2 Fiat Panda is more well-rounded than its utilitarian Mk1 predecessor in every sense.

It pulls off the neat trick of wearing four doors with ease, which even today many of the best city cars fail to do. It has an unusually tall glasshouse, removing all feelings of claustrophobia from the cabin.

And its chubby, vertically-cut rump not only introduced vertical tail-light clusters to the world, but also keeps the car’s overall length to the bare minimum.

The list of rivals for the Mk2 Fiat Panda became increasingly extensive over its nine year lifespan, and include the second-generation Ford Ka, sensible Honda Jazz and cheap and cheerful Hyundai i10.

Others included the Vauxhall Agila, Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107, Kia Picanto, VW Fox and Smart Fortwo.

Perhaps the strongest contender would have been the even cheekier Renault Twingo, had the company not foolishly decided to spurn RHD variants).

The Mk2 Fiat Panda first appeared in 2004 and promptly claimed the European Car of the Year award – a rare occasion when the accolade went to a deserving winner.

And everything that was good about it then remains a positive today. It’s rugged, durable and, but for the tiny boot common to all city cars, remarkably spacious. Indeed, some 68% of its overall length is devoted to the passenger compartment – a figure unmatched by any rival.

A choice of 1.1 and 1.2-litre petrol engines was all Fiat’s engine department originally had to offer, so the subsequent introduction of a 1.3-litre Multijet diesel unit and a mildly sporty 100PS petrol engine proved welcome additions. The 1.2-litre petrol engine is quoted as returning almost 57mpg, the 1.3 diesel nearer 65mpg.

The Fiat Panda’s a doddle to drive, further enhancing its city car credentials with a ‘City’ button that takes all the weight out of the steering for easier urban manoeuvrability.

Yet we really can’t write off the Fiat Panda as merely an urban runabout: not only does it ride extremely comfortably on the open road, but it also handles with surprising panache, devouring long distances with an easy lollop more usually associated with much larger cars.

The Mk2 Fiat Panda was launched in a choice of three trim levels – Active, Dynamic and Eleganza. Priced from just under £7000, it was something of a bargain, the pick of the bunch being the Dynamic AirCon, which added air-conditioning and a CD player for just under £8000.

This is still a hugely popular car, so a used bargain may prove pretty hard to find.

If you’re looking for a newer version, check out our review of the 2012 Fiat Panda here.

Ask Honest John

Is it safe to drive my Fiat Panda with the steering in city mode?

"My Fiat Panda has two steering modes. Around town (City) and normal. The normal mode is no longer working. Is the car still safe to drive on the City mode alone? "
The City Mode in the Fiat Panda simply increases the amount of power assistance to make it easier to drive in town, particularly when parking. Although it's not ideal that normal mode is no longer working, it is still safe to drive. We would suggest getting it checked out by a garage soon though - it may be a simple electrical fault.
Answered by David Ross

Fiat Panda 1.1 Active Serpentine Belt

"I own a 2007 Fiat Panda 1.1 Active. It's currently done 49,000 miles and I've just had the serpentine belt replaced as the old one was making a chirping sound. However I've noticed that since the new one has been fitted, there is still a chirping sound that is coming from the alternator belt area. Up until now it's been a very reliable car to drive. I'm wondering whether it might not have been tensioned correctly or if there is an issue with one of the pulleys? It's a very simple system as there's only two pulleys the belt rotates on, the alternator one and the crankshaft one (I think). Both pulleys look ok, but I'm not a car expert so I just wanted some general advice. Many thanks"
Logic indicates that either the alternator or one of the pulleys has a worn bearing. If there's any movement in and out on a pulley, that will indicate a worn bearing, just as the first test of a wheel wearing is movement in and out when the car is jacked up.
Answered by Honest John

Need a family car for under £3000

"We have just recently became grandparents and are looking to replace our old (Mk1) Toyota Yaris. We have a budget of around £2500. We have had a look at the Fiat Panda and the Ford Fusion, but can't decide. Can you recommend a used car for a baby seat and three adults?"
Pandas are surprisingly reliable, but there is a lot more room in a Fusion and the back seats of a fusion fold down properly to leave a flat floor is you ever need them to. Though based on the Fiesta, Fusions are taller and don't corner as well. Avoid the 1.4 diesel. (Very few small cars last as well and remain as cheap to run as a Mk 1 Yaris, so you might consider a Yaris 1.3 Verso.)
Answered by Honest John

Need a cheap used car with low insurance

"What is the best car to buy for a 21 year old with a budget of £2500?"
For cheap insurance, probably a Citroen C1/Peugeot 107/Toyota Aygo. Or a FIAT Panda 1.1 litre Active.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

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