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Fiat's legacy for small, affordable cars full of character continues with the new Panda. Updated styling inside and out, a new range of engines and greater proportions promise more of the same cheap, practical and emotionally appealing characteristics for which the Panda has become known.
It's now bigger - 109mm longer, 66mm wider and 11mm taller - which creates a larger, 260-litre boot and similar generous headroom to that of its predecessor. The boxy shape also lends itself to exceptional all-round visibility.
Three engines are available from launch: a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol, expected to account for over 50% of sales, along with an 85hp 0.9-litre turbocharged two-cylinder petrol known as the Twinair (first seen in the 500 city car), and a 75hp 1.3-litre diesel. Another, non-turbocharged, variant of the Twinair engine will follow this year.
The 1.2 petrol is the most conventional engine and fine at low speeds, although it struggles on anything more than modest A-roads. The diesel, while frugal and clean with 74.2mpg and 104g/km, is loud and unlikely to make up more than 5% of sales, while the Twinair is the star of the range. Surprisingly powerful, it's a love or loathe affair - the buzzy sound it emits and positive reaction to hard driving will render it as appealing to keen drivers as it is repellent to others. Failing that, the Twinair also has the allure of 99g/km in manual guise and 95g/km as an automatic.
Refinement is far from the Fiat's strong point, as it is plagued by highly intrusive road noise and loud engines. The ride, while not outwardly uncomfortable, is bouncy and there's a noticeable amount of body roll during bends. Another sore point is the interior, which, while attractively laid out, is made up of questionable plastics and components that just don't feel well bolted down.
Efficiency measures include a standard stop/start system on all variants except the entry-level 1.2, as well as a more effective aircon system that is claimed to warm up the cabin 25% faster than the outgoing Panda and cut the defrosting time by half. A bespoke fuel cap system is standard across the range and helps to prevent mis-fuelling, while a collision avoidance system will be available later in the year, which will automatically apply the brakes if an impending accident is sensed at low speed.
Charming though it is in certain respects, the Panda is unlikely to be a big player in the corporate arena. By Fiat's own admission, fleet users won't account for any more than 10% of sales, and we think the car's lack of refinement and capability on major roads could serve to deter business buyers. That said, it is far from without its appeal and makes for enjoyable urban transport with low running costs.