I bought my Fait Panda as a city runabout, a job that it performs really well. The twin air turbo motor is a real torquey engine and is able to get you away from the lights as quickly as engines four times the size.
The interior is very spacious, I’m 193cm tall and have plenty of head and leg room in the drivers seat, the back seat is pretty flat and unsupportive but as the back seat is only used for short city trips, it’s not an issue for me. The car consistently returns fuel economy at 4.9L per 100km and the annual services are $280 at my local Fiat specialist garage, so it’s comparatively cheap to run and service.
The Panda Lounge was only available with a dual logic gearbox which is an acquired taste, the gear changes are smooth but slow – you can switch to manual gear changes if you want a bit more control of your speed on the road the gear changes are then a little faster, the gearbox will automatically change down through the gears as you reduce your speed which is handy – it also “blips” the accelerator which adds to the fun of driving the Panda.
The high seating position and compact size of the Panda is also a plus for parking in the city – it has reverse sensors and a city steering option that makes the steering really light – you can turn the wheel with one finger – it’s great to use for parking or three point turns – there is virtually no effort involved.
I have driven the Panda to the country a few times and it handles the open road pretty well considering it’s more of a city car – at 110kph the little twin cylinder engine is turning at about 2600rpm and the only noise comes from the road surface – the sound insulation is not the best but thankfully the stereo will cover the worst of the road noise. The only downside for open road driving is the light weight of the Panda makes it susceptible to cross winds and the backdraft from passing trucks – again it’s more of a city car so it’s not meant for long distance touring but can handle the longer trips out of the city.
I really love driving my Panda, it’s a roomy and fun to drive – if Fiat Chrysler Australia had bothered to price it properly and put some effort into marketing it, I am sure the Panda would have had more followers in the small car market – very few people even know that the Panda was available for sale in Australia. The engine and drive train are shared with the Fiat 500 so future servicing and parts are assured.
The Panda is a fun car to drive and own, I can’t think of any other small city car that has the same character. The Panda has been 100% reliable and if it was still available for sale I would definitely buy another one.