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Fiat Panda Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2012
      Body type
      City car
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Spacious but ageing basic runabout

Best bits

  • Loveable design
  • Decent practicality 
  • Comfortable ride

Not so great

  • Not as refined as the best city cars
  • Poor crash safety rating
  • Standard car only has one engine

Read by

Fiat Panda Exterior

Overall verdict

Fiat Panda Interior Front

On the inside

Fiat Panda Back

Driving

Fiat Panda Gear Stick

How much does it cost to run

Fiat Panda Back

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"Fiat knows a thing or two about building city cars. Between them, the 500 and Panda models have been winning metropolitan fans across Europe for decades; one the chic style icon, the other a loveable utility car."

Fiat Panda Exterior

The current Panda is only the third generation to appear in the past 40 years, so obviously it's almost as shy about reproducing as its black and white namesake. It's been on sale since 2012, in which time the city car class has undergone a seismic change. Buyers on a tight budget are spoilt for choice, and will no longer accept paper-thin building quality, poor dynamics or a dodgy safety performance for the sake of good value.


Not that the Panda has too many of those undesirable qualities. It's a much better car than its predecessor, with a charismatically simple interior, fun-yet-comfortable driving dynamics, plus a good dollop of practicality. It was also one of the original mini-SUVs; we've reviewed the rough-and-tumble Panda 4x4 and Cross here.


Part of its appeal is its unusual size. Small and easy to manoeuvre like a runabout should be, but with a tall roofline and blocky profile that makes it feel relatively spacious inside, even with adults sat in the back. Boot space is merely average though, with a smaller capacity and less flexibility than the best cars in this class.


The trouble is, it's a very old design now. Where once its poor equipment levels and basic interior were countered by its keen pricing, it no longer looks a smart buy compared with newer, better-appointed rivals. Entry-level 'Pop' trim is inexcusably sparse, and we'd recommend the Lounge trim to the majority of buyers.


Fitting a child seat is possible, but a rear-facing infant seat or larger toddler seat will make it impossible for an adult to sit in front of them - there just isn't enough space - and the ISOFIX anchors are well hidden. The load bay is quite deep but also fairly short too, so you'll struggle to fit a baby stroller in the boot while the rear seats are up.


On a positive note, the car is perfectly suited to driving in congested urban streets. With superb visibility thank to its high-set driving position and boxy shape, softly sprung suspension that soaks up the worst road surfaces, and light controls. As with other city cars of this vintage, it soon feels a bit out of its depth on the motorway; slow and unrefined. It gets buffeted about easily, and wind and road noise make their presence known at a steady 70mph cruise.


A mild-hybrid model was added to the range in 2020 to improve its CO2 emissions, but it's only available on the Panda Cross. The standard car uses a basic 1.2-litre engine with 69PS that's smooth but feels very slow. Overtaking is not advisable, and the lack of a punchier turbocharged unit in the range limits buyer's choices.


This engine is relatively cheap to run, with low insurance, and average fuel economy (Fiat claims an official 44.1mpg) but again, it's showing its age, since plenty of newer rivals are even more affordable to own.


There is no doubting the Panda's personality, and it's a charmingly honest city car that sticks to its brief. Still, times have changed, and it's fallen behind in so many key areas that in 2020 it's a difficult car to recommend.


Ready to get your top quality Fiat Panda?

  • All cars come with a warranty
  • Selected dealers only
  • All quality checked

Fiat Panda

1.2 Easy 5dr

  • 2018
  • 31,079 miles
  • Stoneacre Fiat, Jeep Peterborough
  • Northamptonshire, PE15HE
Price:£5,495
PCP: £104.20/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £104.20, Customer Deposit: £824.00, Total Deposit: £824.25, Optional Final Payment: £2,139.47, Total Charge For Credit: £1,115.72, Total Amount Payable: £6,610.72, Representative APR: 11.3%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 5.81%, Excess Mileage Charge: 0.87ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Is the Fiat Panda right for you?

If you want a small car for a small price, the Panda fits the bill but comes with a number of compromises. A nicely designed interior doesn't disguise the cheap materials on board, and it's woefully equipped in Pop trim. 


On the plus side, it's perfectly adapted to life in the city. The tall shape and big windows make it feel light and spacious, giving you a great view out. A soft ride and finger-tip light controls make it easy to drive and park. There's even an off-road version - the Fiat Panda 4x4.


However, standard equipment is really stingy (even on higher-spec cars) and it has a dreadful crash safety rating from Euro NCAP - a major concern for family buyers, or parents looking to get a first car for a teenager. If

What’s the best Fiat Panda model/engine to choose?

While its low entry price might make it look attractive, the Pop trim is one of the most basic new cars it's still possible to buy, and will be too compromised for the vast majority of buyers - file under 'something to avoid'.


Unless your monthly budget is very tight, it's worth upgrading to at least the Easy model to get air-con and rear headrests. The Lounge spec is the only regular Panda to get a leather steering wheel, Bluetooth, Aux input and alloy wheels, so if you want a few creature comforts in your life, that's definitely the one to go for.


They all share the same engine and five-speed manual gearbox, and while the 1.2-litre is reasonably refined, it's also very slow, making hard work of keeping up with traffic on faster roads. It's not especially frugal either.


If you're buying a used Panda then we'd seek out the 0.9-litre TwinAir. Its unusual two-cylinder layout makes it sound a bit gruff around town, but a turbocharger means it's usefully quicker than the 1.2 on country roads.

What other cars are similar to the Fiat Panda?

In its cheapest forms, the Panda is no-nonsense basic transport, giving its buyers a bit more space and useable practicality than compact city cars such as the Kia Picanto, Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Volkswagen Up.


The Volkswagen is the best to drive, with fun handling and hushed cruising refinement that makes it perfect for those who need a town car that can still pass muster on longer trips - it's an excellent all-rounder. Newer rivals like the latest Hyundai i10 make better use of their interior space. It also has a five-year warranty, and in SE Connect trim it gets the kind of on-board technology the Panda can only dream about.


For a bit more space the Dacia Sandero is also a keenly priced, no-frills option, with a 'Stepway' version that has the same mini-SUV styling cues as the Panda City Cross, raised suspension and a wider engine range.


If you're willing to spend a bit more money to cut your fuel costs, then a lot of brands now offer this type of car with battery electric power, including the Skoda Citigo e iV, Smart EQ Forfour and (much pricier) Honda e.

Learn more

Fiat Panda Interior Front

On the inside

Fiat Panda Back

Driving

Fiat Panda Gear Stick

How much does it cost to run

Fiat Panda Back

Prices, versions and specification

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

What is the Fiat Panda and is it any good?

Fiat’s most iconic city car is the 500. The Panda was supposed to be a more utilitarian, no-frills small car that was basic, but also tough and dependable. It’s still all those things, 40 years and three generations after it was first introduced, and hugely popular too.

heycar editorial team

Answered by

heycar editorial team

Can you buy a Fiat Panda in the US?

No. In fact, US customs went as far as putting a 25-year exemption on the second generation (2003 - 2012) Panda to restrict any imports, even though the Fiat 500 was briefly sold there.

Russell Campbell

Answered by

Russell Campbell

Is the Fiat Panda 4x4?

The Panda is available with four-wheel drive, but only on the 4x4 and Cross models. Both the Trekking and standard car are front-drive only, although the Trekking can still go off road.

Andy Brady

Answered by

Andy Brady

How much boot space does the Panda offer?

In standard guise, the Panda has a decent 225-litre capacity, but it also has a few tricks if you need to carry more. The seats slide forward to increase that to 260 litres, and fold down too.

Dan Powell

Answered by

Dan Powell