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“Fiat Panda Popular - A Great Little Car”

Written on: 30/05/2017 by OldmaninDorset (1 review written)

Use it around town and country as an everyday vehicle. Take it shopping; take the kids to school; use it for work. It sips fuel while nipping along. Take it on holiday. You may need the optional roof bars and, according to the handbook, it'll tow a braked trailer weighing 800kgs. I believe it would.

It's fun to drive and has put a smile back on this old retired bus driver's face.

My partner and I wanted a small, simple car to use locally around North Dorset. Cheap to run, easy to park and able to squeeze along narrow roads with no drama. We have two other cars – one big, fast and luxurious, the other even larger and spacious. The runabout would compliment them.

After much research, we chose the Fiat Panda Popular 1.2 petrol on a '15 plate at our local Fiat main dealer. It is, to coin a phrase, surprisingly spacious. I weigh eighteen stone. The driver's compartment accommodates my bulk very well. It is easy to get in and out – even for my frame. The seat is supportive and comfortable.

We decided to take it on holiday to Cornwall soon after we bought it. For this trip we'd normally take fast and luxurious. The little car swallowed our luggage with a bit of careful loading.

The manufacturer's figures belie it's performance. Fast and luxurious has four litres of supercharged V8 under the bonnet so I wasn't expecting anything great from the Panda. What a shock I got! It will happily play in the overtaking lane. The difference between grunty 4 litres and revvy 1.2 litres is that the revs must be used to best advantage. With a red line at 6500 rpm, this little baby will do 65 mph (indicated) in second gear. I kid you not: that is 65 in 2nd! I did have trouble seeing the speedo clearly, a) because I was laughing so much and b) because it is partially hidden behind my left hand. In true Italian style, the rev counter isn't obstructed. The handbook says that the top speed is 164 km/h, which equates to 102.5 mph. Perhaps I'll take it on a track and find out. A digital speed readout on the neat screen between the dials would be handy – Signor Fiat please note.

The engine is smooth and quiet. It never sounds strained even when coming out of roundabouts at full chat in second on the A303. The brakes are superb. Because of the light weight of around a metric tonne, the Panda changes direction easily, not something that can be said for either fast and luxurious or large and spacious: they both weigh nearer two tonnes each.

There is some road noise from the wheels but it isn't intrusive. Wind noise is low at any speed (with the windows shut, of course).

If economy is your thing, the digital display will advise you to change up at 1500 rpm from which speed the engine will pull happily. The fuel tank takes 37 litres. Readings from the trip computer today are as follows: Trip A 345 miles at an average of 49.7 mpg (part of the Cornish trip); Trip B 3360 miles at 45.2 mpg (average) which is mainly use by the previous owner. That's a 10% decrease in fuel consumption. I don't drive for economy. Usually I drive for best progress – a product of years of driving against the clock. In this car, I drive for fun: maybe the Panda likes my style. Please see my note at the end of this review.

The boot is large enough for our week's shopping and the back seat will take two passengers. They don't have to be small: the tall salesman who showed us the car sat comfortably in the back.

Controls are light. The electric power steering has a City setting: press the button and very little effort is required for parking in tight spaces. It is a car that rewards empathetic driving. It will do all that you ask (within it's designed parameters) but be gentle.

If you want more gizmos chose either the Easy or Lounge options. Also there are Cross, Trekking and 4 x 4 models. Other engine choices are the TwinAir and the 1.3 diesel.

Those of a certain age will understand when I say that I think of the Panda Pop as a modern-day Morris 1000 - my first car. However, the Panda is much, much better!

NB. To be fair I should tell you that I have a fuel-saving/power-enhancing device fitted. I fit similar devices to all my engines – even my lawn mower. I think the effect is to increase engine torque slightly, making it a bit more flexible. Search for magnetic fuel ionizers if you want to know more.
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