Fiat: 2015 Panda Easy review

Fiat: 2015 Panda Easy review

If you’re happy with just two wheels fifteen grand is enough to get you some serious road bike bragging rights if you go for an Avanti Chrono Evo II Team Di2 road. Or you can get four wheels and a motor that doesn’t require pasta and electrolytes by purchasing the Fiat Panda Easy. The Fiat Panda comes with a roof, seats that won’t injure your perineum and you don’t need to wear lycra. Both come with gears that you change manually, but they are actuated electronically.

When the Panda was proposed in 2014 the price was $23,990, then it was $19,900. Presumably Easy means easy to afford because now, at $14,990 it’s a lot of car for the money. However, it’s not as easy to drive as the name might suggest.

Fiat Panda Easy 2015 front interiorYou get a 0.9-litre, Twinair two-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 63kW. This is actually quite torquey with some good acceleration especially around 40-60kph because the Easy weighs 1050kg. The problem is that it sounds like an air compressor. There’s the five-speed Dualogic gearbox which changes badly between first and second, and second and third causing all in the car to lurch forwards at every change; it’s kind of a manual gearbox made automatic.

But, fifteen grand! I mean, it comes with Blue&Me which gives you Bluetooth phone (voice only, not Bluetooth music Fiat Panda Easy 2015 instrumentsstreaming) or you can plug your phone in via USB for more control. There’s a fashionable interior, Start&Stop system which stops the engine when you are stationary to conserve fuel, and reversing sensors. In a car where you can almost touch the rear window by turning around and sticking your tongue out, reversing sensors are a luxury.

You can even purchase a Tom Tom sat nav unit that fits directly into the dashboard for a mere $345.

Fiat Panda Easy 2015 rear seatsI felt a hint of nostalgia as this was the first car I’d driven in a while which didn’t have electronic adjustment of the wing mirrors. The Panda also reminded me of a girl I fancied at school back in the early ‘90s. She had one of the originals, which was basically a windowed biscuit tin on biscuit-width tyres; a terrible death-trap of a car.

The new Panda gets a Euro NCAP crash test rating of 4, which is better than a biscuit tin, but most cars nowadays get a 5-star rating. It has 6 airbags and comes with ABS, brake assist, and anti-whiplash head restraints, and vehicle dynamic control Fiat Panda Easy 2015 rear quarter(stability control).

Unlike the VW Beetle and the Porsche 911 you can’t see the design heritage in the Panda. The latest model is cute, rounded and playful; the original one was designed with a ruler. The Panda is full of rounded squares in the design language – about 30 of them adorn the interior, being used for everything from buttons to dials.

The Panda has a two-box design which gives it plenty of interior room for its small wheelbase, and a profile similar to a small SUV. The cabin storage is excellent as far as small cars go with 14 places to put things. You get more space than in a Suzuki Swift, but there are no holders that will fit a 750ml water bottle.

Around town, push the City button and the steering becomes lighter below 35kph. The 9.3m turning circle and the Panda’s small dimensions make parking and manoeuvring easy in urban environments. Your driving position is upright with good visibility and good headroom.

The footrest is a bit short on space and on a longer journey the Fiat wasn’t especially comfortable, mainly because I’m tall and there’s no height adjustment on the seat, nor reach adjustment on the steering wheel, but it was great for short city errands in its natural habitat.

There’s not a huge amount of legroom in the rear unless driver and front passenger are short.

If you’re a fan of the Fiat stable, you could also get the Punto or the 500. The 500 has a very bouncy ride, but is a fashion accessory; the Punto has more room.

I have to admit that I started out disliking the Panda Easy. While I never became at ease with the gearbox, the rest of it eventually endeared itself to me. As a city car, it’s very good; once you get used to the slightly vague handling, you can even have a bit of fun on the rural roads. But it’s the price/features ratio that sells it. For $15,000 there’s a lot more technology than you get on an equivalently priced road bike. And no chafing.

Price: $14,990

Pros:

  • So cheap
  • Quite economical
  • Surprising level of features for the price
  • Good driving position for shorter drivers

Cons:

  • Gearbox isn’t smooth
  • Engine is noisy
  • Handling is a bit floaty
  • Tall drivers might find it difficult getting a decent driving position


Words and photos: Darren Cottingham
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