By Nick Hodgson
The Fiat Panda was always this quirky little Italian city car that occasionally pulled headlines by doing what many considered to be oddball variants. Think no further than the 4×4 Panda or 100BHP “sports” Panda for proof and a quick chuckle. And I always rather liked this about the car. It gave the model a sense of fun, never took itself too seriously and certainly in Europe had quite a following. Unfortunately that sense of Italian family car fun never seemed to translate particularly well in our land of comedy politicians. Maybe we get enough mirth from watching the state of the nation address to not need an additional shot of humour from a Fiat.
But look at this, the new Fiat Panda. All grown up and ready to play in the real world this time, you won’t find any silly angles or quirky bits sticking off it. In fact, most wouldn’t recognise it from the previous generation the transformation has been so great. Sure it’s no Fiat 500 with chic Italian style, but it is an exceptionally practical little run around, with 4 doors, a 900cc Twinair motor and the potential for 5 litres per 100km fuel economy in town. The price tag even starts at a very reasonable R184,900, all of which makes this little city run around a rather compelling little Panda.
Unfortunately I think all these serious changes have left the Fiat Panda somewhat lifeless. Sure the Twinair motor does a pretty good job of being entertaining in such a small package and it comes equipped with all the modern conveniences you’d expect from a 2017 city car, but it just doesn’t leave the great lasting impression on me that I had hoped for. Maybe I’m asking too much from a vehicle playing in this segment, but my personal feelings have always been that the size of the price tag need not dictate the degree of fun.
But fear not, should your Panda tendencies tend towards the more adventurous there is of course the Panda Cross. And angry it is, just look at all that extra ground clearance and the hardcore bumpers. It comes with a fairly capable 4×4 system too all for an extra R65,000. Now this is a package that takes me back to the original Panda’s with their quirky traits and surprising competence.
So despite feeling the Fiat Panda isn’t as much fun as I think it should be I end up back at serious, in the real world where money matters and times can be tough. This is therefore a Panda in touch with the times, one that should you choose. I have confidence it would be your faithful companion for many years to come. And if times aren’t so tough, it’s angry older brother may be your cup of tea instead.