Average The Fiat Panda doesn't advance the city car game forward like the VW Up does, but it's a spacious, quite sweet way of getting around town, as our Fiat Panda review shows.
Although now in to its fourth decade, this is only the third generation of the Fiat Panda since the car was first appeared in 1980. By contrast there have been six Vauxhall Astras in the same period.
Fiat Panda mark II may not have been broken - they're still selling well – but Fiat has decided the time has come to fix it. For one thing, the city car sector has been revolutionised by a trio of cars from the VW Group: the Volkswagen Up, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo. The same car, with different faces, all three impressive.
In our Fiat Panda review we think the new Panda doesn't look too different to the last one. It's a little fatter and rounder, but looks better for it, taking a tip or two from the Fiat 500.
The extra voluptuousness transfers inside the cabin, and the new Panda is noticeably bigger than its predecessor. Again, the Fiat 500 has been influential, especially in the middle- and upper Fiat Panda specification versions (named Easy and Lounge respectively), which get dash-enhancing gloss black trim, as well as a swathe of brightly coloured plastic where in basic cars (Pop) it would be grey.
Extra space comes in two basic ways: the length of the car has slightly increased, and the front seat backs are thinner, so combined with the Panda's tallness, this makes the Panda’s rear half relatively adult-friendly.
However up front it's it is a little less impressive, especially for the driver. Neither the seat isn't height or steering wheel reach are adjustable, leaving anyone of reasonable height with a stereotypically Italian 'long arm, short leg' driving position. And the pedals are too close together.
General comfort levels could be better, too. The ride quality experienced in our Fiat Panda road test, although improved over the previous car, is still characteristic of a tall, narrow car. On any road surface less than glassy the Panda struggles to settle down, and its general sense of turbulence is made worse at speed.
On motorways, the wind, tyre and engine noise are slightly irritating.
That said, these things probably aren't going to be an issue for the average driver using the car about town at low speed.
Fiat are launching with three engines, including the 84bhp TwinAir turbo two-cylinder engine, which buzzes above 3,400rpm, but, strangely, feels on the edge of stalling at 2,000rpm. Much gear changing required.
The other petrol engine, a 68bhp 1.2-litre, feels asthmatic but is much quieter and a few hundred quid cheaper to buy, and so the one we'd buy. The 72.4mpg diesel's the one to choose if you cover bigger mileages. It too is noisy yet strong, but minus the TwinAir's idiosyncracies.
Fiat's dedication to making the Panda practical as possible is self-evident. There are copious cubbyholes, and the boot looks bigger than it should do for a car this small. It's only grating that it costs more for a sliding rear bench (used to free up boot space at the expense of rear legroom) and split folding seats.
There is something rather charming about the new Fiat Panda, and it's certainly a step forward from its predecessor. Sadly, the best city cars are a couple of steps further ahead. The VW Up is better value and the Kia Picanto prettier.
Next: ratings and breakdown