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Fiat Panda (04-12)
Full Road Test
One of the best of the current crop of city cars thanks to its combination of cute styling, practicality and enthusiastic performance - the Panda proves that cheap cars don't have to be cheerless.
The styling manages to combine cuteness with an impressive level of practicality, while the ergonomics of the cabin are sufficiently well-designed to mean you don't resent the cheap-feeling materials its made out of. Besides, at the price being asked, it would be churlish to expect the Panda to give off too many quality vibes. Space is decent for front seat occupants and reasonable in the back as well, although boot capacity is fairly limited with the rear seats upright.
On the road the Panda drives with an enthusiasm which masks its relatively modest performance. Grip levels are low, but the Panda corners keenly all the way up to the limit and seems to enjoy being thrown around. Petrol engines all offer fairly limited performance, although the 1.2 litre motor seems to relish a good workout. The most powerful model in the range is the excellent JTD diesel version, which is also capable of returning over 60 mpg. The 4x4 version is particularly useful on low-grip surfaces, too.
However, there is another option for enthusiastic drivers in the form of the 100HP model. This is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished, fun little cars to come to the market in years. It has a 1.4 litre engine, producing 99bhp (100hp) and a revised, stiffened chassis. Fiat has found an excellent balance between driver-involving handling and ride comfort with the 100HP - it's a great addition to the Panda range.