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Parkers overall rating: 3 out of 5 3.0
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Spacious, practical city car, but feeling its age now

Fiat Panda (12 on) - rated 3 out of 5
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PROS

  • Bold exterior design
  • Improved interior finish
  • Excellent TwinAir engine

CONS

  • Lowest possible Euro NCAP score in 2018 re-test
  • Thick windscreen pillars compromise visibility
  • Not as fun to drive as some of its rivals

PROS

  • Bold exterior design
  • Improved interior finish
  • Excellent TwinAir engine

CONS

  • Lowest possible Euro NCAP score in 2018 re-test
  • Thick windscreen pillars compromise visibility
  • Not as fun to drive as some of its rivals

Verdict

Distinctive styling and a spacious, practical interior set aside the third-generation Fiat Panda from its key rivals such as the Citroen C1, Ford Ka+ and Skoda Citigo, but it lags significantly behind its rivals in terms of safety.

Those with long memories will recall that the first-generation Panda reached the UK back in 1981, while the Mk2 Panda - almost called Gingo until Renault complained it sounded too like Twingo - arrived in 2004. Together those first two models found more than 6.4 million homes worldwide and the Panda name became synonymous with everyday city car flexibility.

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Even more attractive the third time around, the 2012-vintage Panda has a more rounded look to the exterior than its predecessor, while the interior feels much more grown-up with an improved finish. It has also grown in size meaning that there is more luggage space than before. Engine-wise there’s the choice of the venerable 1.2-litre petrol, the buzzy TwinAir or the fuel-miserly MultiJet diesel (now only available on four-wheel drive versions). All offer low running costs with surprisingly good performance, aided by the fact that the Panda doesn't weigh very much.

For those who want even greater ability, the four-wheel drive Panda 4x4 joined the range later in 2012, joined by a similar looking version with front-wheel drive called Panda Trekking, which was discontinued in 2016. Seemingly adding to the potential confusion was the Panda Cross in 2014, featuring an even beefier bodywork makeover with the four-wheel drive model's underpinning, with the visually identical front-wheel drive Panda City Cross arriving in 2017.

Fiat Panda interior

Fiat Panda: zero-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating in 2018

When it was first crash-tested by the experts at Euro NCAP in 2011, the Fiat Panda scored four stars, and even received a safety award from the organisation in 2013. Rightly so, safety standards improve as newer cars are launched and Euro NCAP's testing regime moves with the times. However, as the Fiat Panda's development from a safety perspective remained relatively static, it was inevitably going to receive a lower score when it was re-tested in 2018.

READ: are Euro NCAP crash-test results all that they seem?

What's a shock is in that 2018 re-assessment, Euro NCAP judged the Fiat Panda to be a zero-star car. Is it a less safe city car than many of its newer rivals? Yes, but it's not less safe than it was when launched. However, a poor Euro NCAP result is very damaging to a carl's reputation, and given Fiat has similar form with the Punto receiving an almost identical downgrade, we expect in 2019 there'll either be a suite of safety-related enhancements, or it'll be quietly dropped from sale. Time will tell.

Improved Fiat Panda interior

The Fiat Panda is all about practicality and in the past it has left the style and charm to its more glamorous sister, the 500. With the Mk3 cabin, Fiat injected a dose of fun and the 'squircles' theme of the exterior continues inside. The main dials in the dash have a hint of retro look, whole the rest of the dash has a clear-cut, more grown up feel about it. It’s also made from sturdy plastics and materials that are pleasing to the eye and touch. With all of this as well as the Panda’s generous space for passengers and luggage, it makes the Fiat one of the leaders in the city car sector. 

Although it might look unusual, that wide, flat handbrake is a bit of a faff to use - style over substance. Still, it's decently built and as you progress through the Panda trim levels of Pop, Easy and Lounge, it becomes even better equipped.

The Parkers VerdictShould you buy a Fiat Panda?

As a city car, the compact Panda is fairly good to drive thanks to its light steering and controls. However, the Ford Ka+ and Skoda Citigo are both more entertaining and handle corners with greater agility and enthusiasm than the Fiat, though the Panda exhibits very little body roll in bends, in spite of its lofty dimensions suggesting otherwise.

Approaching corners, the Panda doesn’t nip into them with the same finesse as the Ford or Skoda, which is what holds the Panda back from being considered in the same breath as these models for driving pleasure.

But, we can't ignore the elephant in the room: safety. Yes, the Panda's still the same car that received recognition for its strength back in 2013, but that won't resonate with many new car buyers in 2019 now that it's officially a zero-star car. 

Fiat Panda Trekking rear three-quarter

Read the full Fiat Panda hatchback review to find out if this is still one of the best small cars you can buy

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