Fiat Panda1

FIAT PANDA POP 1.2

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of driving BMW’s 640d to Northumberland and back. The 3litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine made light work of the near 700 mile round trip, the interior was a place of serenity and I arrived home feeling more relaxed than I did when I left. But what exactly has any of that got to do with Fiat’s new Panda?

The answer is: You can buy a new Panda; a complete car with warranty, 0 miles and factory fresh paint – even that new car smell – for less than the options fitted to my northern bound Beemer. Puts things in to perspective doesn’t it?  A Fiat Panda 1.2 Pop like the one I’ve spent the last week happily punting around the Shropshire countryside can be yours for £8,900 on the road. Probably less if you twist the dealers arm for a little discount. Don’t tell them I said that though.

Now don’t get me wrong I know as well as the next man how hard nearly nine grand is to find, but let’s think about things rationally shall we? The wheels alone on the 6 series were a £1,100 option and the comfort seats (I thought all seats were meant to be comfortable?) were another £830. Throw in the £330 reversing camera and you’ve spent nearly a quarter of a Panda on what most people would consider the essentials; wheels, seats and visibility. Arguably there’s more room for rear seat passengers in the Panda too.

So then what exactly do you get in your Panda £8,900? The truth is not a lot. The list of the luxuries we’ve become used to and that are sadly missing from the Panda reads like this: Air-con, Bluetooth, remote central locking, iPod connectivity, Sat-Nav, electric rear-windows, heated mirrors, centre rear seat belt – that’s an option – even the glove box lid is notable by its absence. But then the Panda Pop is the entry-level model. No-one ever buys an entry-level anything for luxuriating in.

Instead it’s better to think of the Panda as a car you use simply to nip about in, to pop to the shops in, or visit a friend; think of it as a second car – not that it’s not more than capable of longer journeys of course!  For a short commute to the office it’s perfect, and its size and excellent all-round visibility mean you’ll always be able to fit it in the car park, wherever it is you’re going. The boot will swallow the weekly shop, the steering is nice and light, the short stubby gearlever is a joy to guide around its dash mounted gate and for a small car, the Panda rides remarkably well. It grips well too, eventually giving in to the usual, predictable under-steer that seems to go hand in hand with front wheel drive city cars when they’re pushed that little bit harder. Not that I’d condone such behaviour of course.

But you will have to stir things up a little to keep the Panda on the go.  The 1.2 litre engine produces only 69 bhp, meaning the 0-62 dash takes just a little over 14 seconds. Torque levels too aren’t in the big league. A Lilliputian 75lbft means you’ll be getting used to changing gear in the Panda pretty quickly. But because of its diminutive dimensions, progress in the Panda feels quicker than it really is. 30 feels like 50, 70 like warp-speed. It all adds to the fun though.

It may not be loaded with luxuries but the Panda is cheap to buy, cheap to insure and because it’s capable of 54.3 mpg (combined)  and comes with a standard 60,000 mile warranty, it promises to be cheap to run too. Part of its charm is its simplicity.

Oh, just one last thing; unlike certain other cars the Panda comes with bags of character as standard.

Fiat Panda Pop  1.2

Engine:  1242cc 8V 4Cyl petrol

Transmission: 5 speed Manual, front wheel drive.

Power:  69bhp @5500rpm

Torque: 75lb ft @ 30000rpm

0-62MPH: 14.2 Sec

Max Speed: 102mph

CO2: 120g/km

MPG: 54.3 Combined

Price: From £8,900

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