Parkers overall rating: 2.1 out of 5 2.1
  • Mild hybrid or turbocharged twin power
  • Panda is available as a 4×4 model
  • Speed demons apply elsewhere

The Panda’s had a fair few engines over the years, but at the time of writing it comes with a choice of two. Standard models get a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with mild hybrid technology, while 4×4 models come with Fiat’s 0.9-litre TwinAir turbocharged petrol.

The latter makes for a really interesting car. It sounds like a motorbike, and thanks to its 85hp output performance is surprisingly strong even though the engine itself is tiny. We can’t really recommend the Panda 4×4 as a sensible everyday car due to its lack of refinement, low fuel economy and high price, but we also wouldn’t blame you too much if you took one for a test drive and fell in love…

The 1.0 mild hybrid makes a lot more sense. It uses a small battery and a combined starter/generator to give it a bit of a boot from a standstill and to enable the stop/start system to work more effectively. If you select Neutral when an ‘N’ light is illuminated in the dials, it will also coast safely with the engine off. But it doesn’t feel as seamlessly integrated as the Suzuki Ignis’ system, nor does it return anywhere near such good fuel economy.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Panda excels in the city
  • Handles well for a tiny car
  • Slow and numb steering means it’s not a pleasure, though

Fiat’s built the Panda to be the ultimate city car and for the most part it delivers. Its suspension is rugged enough to make short work of speed bumps and big potholes and the feather-light steering (lightened even further with the application of the ‘City’ button on the dashboard) means manoeuvres are effortless. No wonder it’s so popular with Italian city-dwellers. We think the Volkswagen Up and Hyundai i10 are both better to drive, though.

There’s less body roll than you’d expect from a car with such a high shape, but don’t expect sporty handling – even from ‘Sport’ models, which gain a cosmetic makeover and 16-inch alloy wheels but no more power or suspension changes.

A special mention does have to go out to the 4×4 model, though – not for its on-road handling, which is much the same as two-wheel drive Pandas, but for its ability in the rough stuff. Its light weight, tiny dimensions and seriously effective AWD system means it’ll take on obstacles that’d stymie many a full-sized SUV. You’re only really limited by its ground clearance, which at 150mm isn’t as high as a proper off-roader’s would be.