If you used the Fiat 500 as a family car, and found it a little dysfunctional, the Fiat Panda is for you. It’s part of the contemporary “city car” movement, and since its debut in 2012 there’s been a lot of fierce competition. Despite all the choice available to drivers, the Panda stands out in terms of usability. There are a mix of different qualities here. Combined, they make for a highly spacious, comfortable and practical family car.
Image from Wikimedia
If there’s any hatchback out there which is well-suited to towns and cities, then it’s the Panda. It’s made of exceptionally lightweight materials, and most people will find it easy to handle. If you’re having to nip between rural areas and built-up urban environments, then it accommodates for that. One of it’s cool features is a “city” button on the dash. Press this, and your steering will become more sensitive than usual. This allows for better control when you’re negotiating tight corners. You’ll also find all those tricky parking spots much easier to slip into. If you’re looking for a certain guarantee of comfort, then the Panda certainly has that. The suspension on the Panda is a lot lighter than other Fiat models. Speed bumps and potholes are much more cushioned, and you barely notice when you’re trundling over uneven road surfaces. The engines available for the Panda are small, and intended for spritely, nimble performance in built-up areas. Here, we come to the Panda’s one big drawback. Compared to other hatchbacks, this car doesn’t perform as well for long-distance motorway trips. Also, due to its tall, sheer sides, the Panda is pretty liable to be buffeted by strong crosswinds.
The entry-level engine for the Panda is 1.2 litres, and 68bhp. It does zero to sixty in 14 seconds, and peaks at around 100mph. I’m sure you weren’t intending to enter your Panda into any races, but you should bear the low acceleration in mind before buying. The feel of it can take some getting used to, and overtaking anyone takes quite a bit of planning. If this sounds like something you want to avoid, you don’t have to rule out the Panda completely. It’s also available in a 0.9 litre TwinAir turbo-charged petrol engine. This is more expensive, but you’ll know what you’re paying for. It’s much more responsive than the 1.2 litre version, but also offers better fuel economy. It does zero to sixty in 11 seconds, and maxes at 110 mph.
Image from Wikimedia
The interior of the Panda is fairly distinctive amongst its rivals. The dashboard is full of squares with rounded edges – a prominent design signature among Fiat models. All the buttons and dials are in this shape, which makes for a youthful, modern feel to the car. There’s a lot of acrylic panels, which can make the interior feel a little cheap. However, the durability in these areas will do well against the wear and tear of driving your kids everywhere! Even if you get your Panda from a used outlet like Thames Motor Group, you’ll notice that the interior really stands the test of time. For the driver and the person in the passenger side, there’s a good amount of space. You should bear in mind that the wheel can only be adjusted inwards and outwards, not up and down. This means that you may not be able to find the driving position which you’ve gotten used to. The seats are a little firmer than what you’d get in an executive saloon, but you’ll only really notice after several hours of driving. All Pandas come with power steering, four air bags and a CD/MP3 unit. Although the basic “Pop” model is great when you’re on a budget, the “Easy” version has a few beneficial features. With this, you’ll get roof rails, central locking and air con. The storage and practical features are blatantly geared towards the family unit. Four adults can travel very comfortably in the Panda, which you can’t say about many other hatchbacks. You can get three kids in the back pretty easily, and there’s a good amount of head room. There’s also a lot of little storage spaces scattered around the interior, which comes in handy for all those bits and bobs.
Think of the great driving experience and fuel efficiency, along with a spacious and practical interior. The Fiat Panda makes for a brilliant family car. If you’ve recently had kids, the compact “city car” style might be a challenge to get used to. After a while though, I’m sure you’ll see its merits!