2014 FIAT PANDA AUSTRALIA
Fiat does "people's cars" rather well.
First there was the original 500 (or Cincquecento) of the 1950s, which sold almost 3.9 million units over an 18-year production run. Not bad, but the Italian automaker really outdid itself with the Panda.
The first-gen Fiat Panda entered production in 1980 and continued to roll out of the factory gates until 2003, by which point around 4.5 million had been sold.
Since then two more generations - and another two million Pandas - have rolled out, and the latest version has finally arrived on our shores.
Taking its spot above the Punto as Fiat's third light car entrant, the Panda range starts at $16,500 drive-away for the entry-level Panda Pop and tops out at $24,000 before on-roads for the range topping Panda Trekking.
It's keen pricing at the bottom end, but there's a couple of problems. Firstly, there's no shortage of similarly priced competitors in the light segment, and secondly one of those competitors is Fiat's own bargain offering, the $14,000 500 Pop.
The base model Pop is strictly manual-only and derives its 51kW of power and 109Nm of torque from a naturally-aspirated 1.2 litre petrol inline four. The sole gearbox offering is a five-speed manual and drive is taken to the front wheels - as it is in all Aus-bound Pandas.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.
Next up is the 875cc tubocharged TwinAir inline two. Despite its miniscule displacement, the TwinAir powerplant is the most powerful engine in the range with 63kW, while torque maxes out at 145Nm.
It's offered with either a manual or automatic transmission, both five speeders, with the auto being Fiat's Dualogic single-clutch automated manual.
With the manual, Fiat says the TwinAir consumes 4.2 l/100km on the combined cycle. That drops slightly to 4.1 l/100km for the Dualogic auto.
The TwinAir is available in both the Panda Easy and Panda Lounge models, with the Lounge being available exclusively as an automatic.
At the top of the range sits the Panda Trekking, the only diesel model offered.
Like the Pop, it's only available with a five-speed manual transmission. However with 55kW and 190Nm it's far more tractable, though don't let the taller ride height and SUV-esque body cladding fool you - it's still a front-driver.
The Trekking does feature a unique traction control system that actively brakes spinning wheels to help restore grip in the slippery stuff.
Other technology includes an auto start-stop system on the Panda Easy, Lounge and Trekking grades. Both manual and automatic cars are equipped with start-stop, which helps save fuel by shutting down the engine when the car is motionless.
A laser-based collision detection system is standard on the Panda Lounge, and is capable of applying the brakes automatically to help avoid - or at least reduce the severity of - a rear-end crash.
The base model pop is quite bare-bones, with manually-adjusted wing mirrors, no height adjustment for the driver's seat, a four rather than six-speaker stereo system, basic cloth upholstery and manual rear windows.
Bluetooth is standard for all models though, and also comes with a USB input and 3.5mm AUX input.
Step up into the Panda Easy and you gain an extra two audio speakers, funkier upholstery, rear grab handles, a sunglasses holder for the driver, body coloured wing mirrors, roof rails and height adjustable seat belts.
The Panda Lounge and Trekking get climate control rather than manual air conditioning, a gloss black dash trim, height adjustment for the driver's seat, tinted glass, foglamps, 15-inch alloys (the Pop and Easy make do with 14-inch steelies), body coloured door handles and electric wing mirrors.
Cruise control is notably absent from the spec list, however a TomTom-supplied sat nav unit can be had for an extra $540.50.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs except where noted)
The 2014 Fiat Panda range is available now, with prices as below. All prices exclude on-road costs unless otherwise noted.
- Fiat Panda Pop manual - $16,500 drive-away
- Fiat Panda Easy manual - $19,000
- Fiat Panda Easy auto - $20,500
- Fiat Panda Lounge auto - $22,500
- Fiat Panda Trekking - $24,000