Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Animal Magic; in Third Generation Form, Fiat's Panda Is Not Only Cuter but More Sensible Than Ever. JONATHAN CROUCH Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Animal Magic; in Third Generation Form, Fiat's Panda Is Not Only Cuter but More Sensible Than Ever. JONATHAN CROUCH Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN CROUCH

IN third generation form, Fiat's Panda aims at being all the car some buyers will ever need. It's larger where it matters, yet still small enough for its urban purpose. It's more efficient, yet can offer surprising reserves of performance. And you can make it high-tech - or specify one that's super-affordable.

The Italians have always done this kind of thing very well. They still do.

There are three main engine choices for Panda people, an entry-level 69bhp petrol 1.2-litre unit, an 85bhp 0.9-litre petrol TwinAir powerplant and a 1.3-litre 75bhp Multijet diesel. Aside from engines and performance, there's plenty else for previous Panda people to appreciate in this third-generation design.

For a start, there's much more of a "big car" feel to the way that it drives, thanks to suspension tweaks, greater torsional stiffness and a wider track. The result is that it turns into corners more sharply, rounding them with far less bodyroll than before, an experience aided by greater sensitivity from the electric power steering.

It's a great deal quieter than before on major routes at cruising speeds too - in fact, Fiat says that cabin noise has been halved so you can have a proper conversation with someone while cruising at the legal limit. And that's something that makes you far more likely to want to take on a longer journey.

As for the rest, well as before, many of the underpinnings are shared with those of Fiat's other, more fashionconscious city car offering, the 500 - which is no bad thing as that car is a pretty fun steer, especially in an urban environment - somewhere this Panda is just as at home.

True, the five-speed gearbox could be a little more precise, but you'll appreciate the way this car now takes even the nastier, small urban bumps in its stride and delivers neat little touches like the steering's City mode option to increase the assistance it gives at parking speeds so that you can use the tight 9. …

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