The new Fiat Panda.
ROADTEST FACT FILE
Model...1.2 Easy 8V 69hp
Mpg (comb cycle)...54.3mpg
Loaned by Harwoods Fiat, Wootton
TRYING out a new car is always fun, you settle into the seat, grip the steering wheel, flick the levers and wiggle the gear stick.
Then you start the ignition and rev the engine gently, before pulling away.
Some cars take a bit of getting used to: gear ratios, responsiveness of the engine, layout of the dash, for example.
But others, such as the new Fiat Panda, are reassuringly familiar, comfortable and easy-to-drive from the off.
It’s a bit like meeting new people — sometimes you feel you’ve known them forever, others are a more acquired taste and take some getting used to.
The Panda and I got off to an excellent start and our weekend together just got better and better.
The exterior made me smile. This is one cute motor, boxy but sophisticated, with curved corners and funky styling.
The model I drove was the mid-range Easy trim level, with pretty turquoise bodywork and matt black inserts.
The interior is themed on square circles or squircles, seen in the steering wheel, instrument dials and woven into the upholstery.
The gear lever is high-mounted, while the handbrake is shaped like a computer mouse and positioned to make better use of the space between the front seats.
The first tiny, boxy Panda hit the streets in 1980 and a new version appeared in 2003. Fiat has now sold 6.4 million worldwide — its third best-seller of all time, behind the Uno and Punto. The new Panda is totally different: slightly longer, wider and taller, with more leg space, boot space and safety features. The boxy styling echoes the original but is more of a soft cube (squircle).
With a 1.2-litre engine, my test car was nippy and responsive.
The Panda’s compactness and manoeuvrability make it perfect for Island roads.
It would suit a range of drivers, from sophisticated singles looking for a stylish but practical drive, to families who need versatility.
As a former Punto owner and a fan of the Fiat 500, I concluded that the new Panda is another great example of Italian flair for small-car design. They’ve come up with another cracker, which will be super-popular with Island drivers.