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Cheap Car No. 10

Fiat Panda - cheap, but potentially dangerous?


The Fiat Panda is a car that has been around since 2011, with numerous improvements since then. It is slightly larger than other city cars, and stands higher too, which means that taller passengers can benefit from better headroom.

The car has a good reputation for reliability. However, in crash tests carried out at Thatcham Research in 2018 it scored poorly in all of the four tests and it was awarded zero stars out of a possible 5 in the official EURO NCAP test. There was particular concern about the safety of children in the rear seats. Could this be the reason for such high discounting?

What you get for your money

The 1.2 Pop five door Panda has a manufacturer's list price of £10,080, but discounts can be available to bring it as low as just over £8500. We have even seen prices of just over £8,000 mentioned.This buys a small but comfortable car with a 1.2 litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 69 brake horsepower, and a top speed of 102 mph, with nought to 60 in 14.8 seconds. Transmission is via a five-speed manual gearbox.

Equipment

Equipment in the basic model is fairly sparse; there is a radio/CD player, electric windows to the front, steering wheel rake adjustment and front head restraints. For safety there are driver, curtain and passenger airbags, ABS, traction control, tyre pressure monitoring and Isofix child seat anchor points. Air conditioning is available as an optional extra at around £600.

Thatcham research recommended that as an absolute minimum the cars should be fitted with an Autonomous Emergency Braking system, as well as more protection for the driver and passengers.

Driving

The extra height of the Panda has more benefits than just giving more headroom. It also gives the driver a better view of the road which is helped even further by good all-round visibility. The engine, however, has to be worked really hard, and it can get noisy when pushed; performance is not the best point of this car, as the relatively slow acceleration figure above shows. It benefits from a stop start technology however, which cuts down the fuel consumption and helps to produce a claimed 54 mpg, although as usual in real life most drivers will struggle to achieve this.

Two adults in the back can fit in with reasonable comfort, but three would be a tight squeeze.

Insurance and safety

The car is in insurance group 6, which means that insurance premiums will be higher than for other similar cars. Thanks to the head restraints it has a whiplash rating of good. However: the awful EURO NCAP rating must be a cause for concern.

Boot space

The rear bench seat can slide backwards and forwards. This can provide either more legroom for the rear seat passengers, or extra boot space. The tailgate opens wide to give easy access to the boot, and there is only a small lip to lift luggage over.

Warranty

The warranty is for three years or 60,000 miles; this is fairly average but does not compare well with the seven year warranties of the Kia Picanto or Hyundai i10. However the Panda is a long established, tried and tested car with a good reputation for reliability.

Conclusion

In short, the Panda has a little more space than most of its rivals, particularly for taller drivers and passengers, with plenty of storage space in the cabin and a boot that can be easily expanded, thanks to the sliding rear seat. Like most of its competitors it is thoroughly at home driving around the city streets, but will struggle on long drives, particularly on motorways. Just don't crash it. It has to be borne in mind though that when the Panda was first tested back in 2011 it scored four out of a possible five stars. Since then however standards have changed and new cars are expected to have additional safety features. It didn't just become dangerous overnight!

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