Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Fiat Panda: The perky 4x4 has come of age

Fiat Panda
Fiat Panda

It’s been three decades since the first Fiat Panda hit our streets. In the ensuing years more than half-a-million examples of the iconic little 4x4 have rolled off the production lines.

Early Pandas were pretty basic, no frills machines, with pressed out salmon tin bodywork and flimsy trim, but they were eminently practical and undeniably cutesy.

In its latest iteration the brand still exudes a perky image but has grown from somewhat quirky teenager into a self-confident adult. In short, the Panda has come of age.

Bigger overall, more spacious inside, far better equipped, it’s no longer nothing more than a motorised shopping trolley, it’s still great for nipping around town but it can now more than hold .ts own in the motorway maelstrom too.

Nimbleness and efficiency combine with 4x4 all-weather ability to make this an appealing buy for both town and country motorists.

Power in the 875cc TwinAir diesel version we lived with for a busy week comes from a two-cylinder engine that can be run in normal or fuel-efficient ECO mode. Power output is a modest 85 bhp but a six-speed gearbox helps the Panda crack the 0-62 mph barrier in 12.1 sec and attain a top speed of 104 mph.

Given the car’s relatively blunt nose and high roofline, fuel consumption figures are not especially frugal but 57.6 mpg in the combined cycle is not bad.

A low insurance rating and modest running costs plus a generous luggage capacity, space for five occupants and a £15,330 purchase price make for an appealing package.

The list of standard equipment is impressive and includes an electric differential locking device, hill-hold capability, mud and snow tyres mounted on smoked finish alloy wheels, Bluetooth and USB controls mounted on he steering wheel, roof rails, height-adjusting steering wheel, start-and-stop, central locking and electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors.

And the negatives? The Tuscan green body colour looked like an ex-Vietnam army shade and would not be to most people’s taste though I have to confess that it rather suits the Panda’s distinctive, stand out from the crowd, personality.

A more serious complaint centres on the extremely hard to read main instrumentation – and with all those cameras planted across our green and pleasant countryside you do need clear indication whenever you stray over the speed limit.

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