Jittery ride distracts from other good qualities for town driving
Cabin feels airy and raised driving position gives good view out; it's a cost option to be able to lower it, though
Not enough safety features as standard, and disappointing Euro NCAP score
Feels solid but yet to earn a decent reputation for mechanical reliablity
The Panda majors on headroom but rear legroom is tight and you have to pay extra for more than four seats
Basic models are a bit bare, but equipment levels improve further up the range
The Panda makes a decent urban runaround. Good body control keeps it stable around corners and the light steering makes parking a piece of cake. It's a bit jittery to ride in, though, and the light steering doesn't inspire any confidence at faster speeds. If you're using the Panda largely for local trips, the 1.2-litre petrol will be fine; for regular motorway journeys we'd go for the stronger diesel or Twinair versions, which are also the only options in the or Trekking or 4x4 models. The latter are slightly higher off the road than regular Panda models; this allows for better ground clearance when venturing off the Tarmac but, certainly in the Trekking, also makes the car lean more round corners than the standard car, and makes it feel less stable in blustery motorway conditions. On the plus side, the Trekking and 4x4 have slightly softer suspension, and a sophisticated traction control system means that even the Trekking does quite well off-road, even though it doesn't actually have four-wheel-drive. No version of the Panda is as quiet as the best city cars, with wind and road noise rising with the car's speed, and the Twinair engine is vocal pretty much all of the time.
The Panda's tall body helps gives the cabin an airy feel, and its raised driving position provides a good all-round view of the road ahead, but bear in mind that not all versions come with adjustment for the driver's seat as standard. The dash is well organised and easy to navigate, meanwhile. Rear passengers also benefit from the Panda's boxy shape, which provides decent headroom, although legroom in the back isn't so generous. You have to pay extra to get three seats across the back instead of just two, and even then it's squash if you use all of them. The boot is a good shape but it is small - on a par with that of a Hyundai i10, so you'll get slightly more in the back of a VW Up - and it's another cost option to have split-folding rear seats that will help you boost the Panda's load capacity. Basic Pop models are cheap but miss out on useful kit which comes as standard if you upgrade to Easy trim, including two rear headrests, remote locking and air-con as well as roof rails. Lounge models get alloy wheels and extra trim on the car's exterior, but the extra cost seems a lot to spend on what amounts to basically a smarter look. The Trekking and 4x4 models come with a long list of kit but this also hikes up the price. All models have Isofix points on the outer rear seats, including top tether points.
Owners rated the previous-generation Panda's mechanical reliability as 'average' in the 2013 JD Power survey. This is an improvement over the previous year's rating but we hope this newer model fares even better. Driver, passenger and window airbags are standard (the window 'bags extend to the rear), but front side airbags cost extra across the range, as does stability control on all but the 4x4 and Trekking models. You also need to pay extra for rear headrests on Pop-trim cars. The Panda scored four stars in its latest Euro NCAP crash tests, with 82% for adult protection and just 63% for child protection. That's not nearly as good as the best competition: the five-star VW Up scored 89% and 80% respectively and even the four-star Kia Picanto managed 86% and 83%.
Overall, the Panda is a good city car rather than a great one. Its also costs more to buy than its most obvious rivals, such as the Volkswagen Up and Skoda Citigo, and these cars beat the Fiat in almost every other area too. At least decent fuel economy, modest emissions, low insurance groupings and respectable resale values mean the Panda is cheap to run. If you're looking for a cheap 4x4, bear in mind that the cheapest 4WD Dacia Duster comes in at £1500 less than the Panda Trekking and £3000 less than the Panda 4x4, and while it's not as well equipped, it has a much more spacious cabin and a bigger boot.