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29.2.2012 Fiat Panda TwinAir Lounge review

Fiat Panda TwinAir Lounge review

The old Panda was a tough act to follow but Fiat has improved the Panda in most areas – though tall drivers would not want to use the car over long distances. Around town and on daily trips it would be easy to live with and there's plenty of stowage space with rear seats folded for weekend shopping expeditions.

Having driven the TwinAir and the 1.3 Multijet diesel I reckon most buyers would like the 1.2 petrol the best. The windscreen, and the dashboard in some trims, is prone to reflections in bright sunlight. Boot space at 250 litres is small considering the new car is longer and wider. Fiat has switched production of the Panda from Poland back to Italy.

Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com


PERFORMANCE

Sparkier than you might expect with only an 85 bhp two-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine to accelerate a 1050 kg car. An ignition cut-out curtails the revs just as things start to get interesting so you need to be quick with the clutch and gears if nipping out into a traffic stream. The engine has bags of character but can get noisy. Using the performance dropped fuel consumption from 51 mpg to 34 mpg. Acceleration to 62 mph in 11.2 seconds, and top speed is 110 mph. Maximum power is 85 bhp at 5,500 rpm and maximum torque is at 107 lbs ft at 1,900 rpm.


HANDLING

Biased more towards comfort than agility and ride, it is probably better lightly laden judging from a test drive two-up and with nothing in the boot. The Panda can bounce over undulations and on damp roads can slide its front tyres at lower speeds than you might expect. Quite prodigious body roll in corners despite all-new suspension will hold back all but the most committed. Brakes well modulated from sensible speeds. Light steering can be made even lighter by pressing the City button on the dashboard to ease parking effort.


BODY STYLE

Fiat has sold 6.4 million Pandas over the last 32 years so it's a surprise to find this is only the third redesign. Some visual family traits remain. Vertical tailgate makes parking easier and the long front nose is out of sight. The small, side, rear window is also a distinctive touch. Though bigger and roomier than before, the Panda's styling still shows a sense of humour with hidden Panda names including printed into the door trims. You can order the Panda with a folding front seat to act as a table and a rear bench that slides backwards and forwards. It measures 3653 mm in length and is 1882 mm wide (with mirrors).


COMFORT & CONTROLS

Fiat Panda TwinAir Bigger seats and a lighter, more spacious interior are obvious improvements – though having got out of a friend's F-reg VW Golf, the width of the windscreen pillars and what they can hide was equally noticeable. The texture of dashboard on Pop trim models is rather like rubberised cameras you can use underwater, and the steering only adjusts for tilt, not for reach.

Combined with the closeness of the clutch and brake pedal, my big feet and the intrusive gearbox – my driving position was not ideal. Radio volume control is a stretch and better suited to left hand drive. Fiat claims a 4dB noise reduction in the car but tyre noise over some surfaces was very loud.


MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Official mpg figures are impressive, as you would expect with the world's lowest CO2 emissions from a production petrol engine. The urban figure is 56.5 mpg and the combined 67.3 mpg. Driving how this enthusiastic little engine likes to go we saw only 34 mpg and even changing up at what felt ridiculously low revs, as suggested by the change up arrow, with the engine near labouring, managed only 51.1 mpg. This was on a mainly country route with little town driving, but quite a few steep hills. CO2 emissions are only 99 g/km, so it is exempt from London's congestion charge and VED road tax. Warranty is three years/ 60,000 miles.


GREEN CREDENTIALS

Thanks to the efficiency and small capacity of the 875 cc twin-cylinder petrol engine, TwinAir versions of the Panda have lower CO2 figures (99 g/km) than the 104 g/km 1248 cc diesel. Forthcoming 'Dualogic' robotised gearbox drops the TwinAir's CO2 even lower to 95 g/km. The start-stop system works unobtrusively. Pressing an eco button reduces engine torque and focuses the engine management system on minimizing consumption. Fiat claims 64,000 drivers have saved 4,300 tonnes of CO2 by improving their driving styles by downloading their driving to a USB stick and sending date to Fiat's ecoDrive website for tips on more economical driving. The 875 cc TwinAir version tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 29.


OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Trim levels are Pop, Easy and Lounge with optional Style, Techno and Flex packs plus a host of optional extras. Standard equipment includes central door locking, power steering, electric front windows, engine start-stop, anti-lock brakes, radio with CD and MP3 player, and driver and passenger front airbags. Bluetooth equipped devices can be linked to the car and controlled via voice or buttons on the steering wheel. Women with long nails may not appreciate the design of the interior door handles. Rear parking sensors are £250, Dualogic 'robotised' gearbox is £750, electric glass sunroof £720 and a heated front windscreen £100.


MODEL SUMMARY

Fiat Panda TwinAir

Model tested: Fiat Panda TwinAir Lounge
Body-style: Five door supermini
Engine/CO2: 85bhp 875cc two-cylinder turbo petrol / 99 gCO2/km
Trim grades: Pop, Easy and Lounge

On-road price: From £11,250
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Available now
Review rating: 3.5 STARS


Click here for more info about this model »

Posted by:
Russell Bray


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