Fiat: Fiat Panda 0.9-litre Twin Air 2014 review

Fiat: Fiat Panda 0.9-litre Twin Air 2014 review

IMG_2477-1Pandas are a breeding-averse bear found in China, and zoos around the world. Without help from humans they would probably have died out decades ago. Or that may be our fault. I am not really sure.

The point is they are not very smart, while this Italian Panda we have here is the opposite. Very for that matter.

Our test car – which has a slightly confused spec level being an evaluation unit via South Africa – is one of the first shipped to the country by Fiat Chrysler New Zealand to introduce the breed. It brings smart packaging, smart pricing, and a stunner of an engine to an end of the market often full of dull but competent hatches.

IMG_2479The Panda could be described as that, but it’s two-box styling is more akin to that of an SUV, and brings with it SUV packaging advantages. A high set, low set windows and upright driving position make the Panda feel far bigger than the diminutive 500 with which it shares its drivetrain.

Our cuddly-little car carried the higher Lounge specification, with the two-cylinder Twin-Air unit.  Fiat was one of the first to go for the cut the cylinders and add a turbo formats now followed by Ford and BMW amount others – and the engine is a stunner.

image102447_bBoth cylinders run their power stroke at the same time, making for an unusual thrum but a healthy dose of torque. Even with the manual transmission standard on models it is keen to lug along, belling its 875cc capacity. It pushes out 63kw of power and 145Nm and uses just 4.2 litres per 100k.  That economy is the same as the optional 1.3 litre turbo diesel, and a litre better than the entry level 1.2 litre four.

All engines are available with a 5-speed manual transmission, which does a good enough job if hardly being light in action, while the Lounge specification has the image102449_boption of a Dual Logic system – which automates the clutch and shift to simulate an automatic. Steering is responsive, and with other Fiats you can switch to a City mode to add extra assistance. As with a high set little car there is body roll, but it is an otherwise chuckable little bear.

Getting into the Panda is a breeze with a relatively high hip point meaning you can slide across onto the seat rather than down into it. Room is healthy up front, but knee room in the rear is marginal for adults if sitting behind anyone on the taller side up front.

image102448_bTo call the dash structure blocky dismisses how good it looks and works – but that is the best way to describe it. Everything is well laid out with the gearshift high up the dash. Fiat touts their Blue and Me Bluetooth system, but really with its voice controls and repetitive menus it is getting a little old and clunky. Time to move on.

So does the Panda offer good value? That depends on how much you value charm and a European brand.

The range begins at $21,990 for the base Pop model, the Twin-Air comes in at $23,990 with a $2000 addition for the DualLogic, the Twin-Air Lounge is $27,990, and the diesel-only Trekking is $29,990.

For that kind of money you are getting into the budget range of some significantly larger – if more run of the mill cars.

Just a word of warning. It does not eat bamboo.

 

 

Interior pictures shown here are indicative only – please consult your local Fiat dealer for New Zealand specification.

Pros:

  • Cute and charming
  • Clever interior design
  • Perky little two-cylinder turbo

Cons:

  •  Great upright driving position
  • It is a little pricey on paper
  • Rear room is tight

Specification:

  • Front wheel drive with a five-speed manual, or Dual Logic semi-automatic transmission.
  • 1.2-litres four-cylinder – 51kW@5000rpm and 102Nm@3000rpm
  • 0.9-litres two-cylinder turbo – 63kW@5500rpm and 145Nm@3000rpm
  • 1.3-litres four-cylinder turbo diesel – 55kW@4000rpm and 190Nm@4000rpm
  • Safety: 5-Star ANCAP, 6-airbags, ABS with Brake Assist, Vehicle Dynamic Control

Words:

Pictures: Fiat Chrysler Group NZ and Australia

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