FIAT’S Panda has always been rather special to me because over 20 years ago I was the proud owner of one of the earlier models that created a lasting impression - which is probably why I was so impressed by the third generation Panda, writes Bryan Longworth.
The Panda, which was first launched in 1980, has been a big success story for Fiat and the latest more rounded version is certain to be as successful because it is such a nice loveable little car that now is more curvy.
My Panda, which sadly left my ownership as part of a divorce settlement, had a boxy shape but the latest model although has retained the charm and versatility of the earlier models and is of course a much more technically advanced car.
It is also very roomy both for those inside and the load area and I found it such an enjoyable car to drive being very comfortable with top marks for its handling qualities and use of space.
New Panda is available with two petrol and a diesel engine but the star is the award winning 875cc 85bhp two cylinder petrol TwinAir Turbo with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km which means there is zero road tax.
My test car, the 0.9 TwinAir 85bhp Panda Lounge costing £11,250 on the road had this engine with a top speed of 110mph, zero to 62mph time of 11.2 seconds and a combined fuel consumption of 67.3mpg although the computer showed it to be quite a bit less than this figure.
For a twin cylinder power unit with the start/stop fuel saving facility it is remarkably lively because of the turbo charger and it is quite noisy in a sporty way under hard acceleration which Fiat describe as “a characterful throaty sound track”.
With options such as climate control, techno pack, metallic paint and dark tinted privacy glass the price of the test car came to £13,210 although Panda prices start at £8,900 on the road.
The new Panda has very comfortable seats and very user friendly controls and instruments although I thought the speedometer could have been easier to see especially in very bright weather conditions - a frequent complaint of mine with other test cars.
Overall new Panda is larger than the previous model which has provided more space in the boot and also for rear passengers - it now accommodates three people in the rear with most rivals only having room for two in the back.
There is an upmarket feel about the interior and I liked the new style handbrake between the front seats which was very easy to use especially when it needed plenty of pressure to make sure the Panda was safely parked on steep hills and drives.
I really liked my time with the new Panda and would be quite happy to own another one although I think I would choose the diesel powered model which has a slightly better fuel consumption and only costs £20 to tax after the free first year.
My Verdict: A really loveable cute new Panda.