Compact Chameleon: The 2014 Fiat Panda Review
The 2014 Fiat Panda is an extremely versatile compact car that can essentially be anything you want it to be. Aside from a supercar. Or a helicopter. Or Megan Fox. Now in its 3rd generation, it’s been in every way improved up to its already impressive game. The 2014 Fiat Panda is larger yet still urbanely optimised in size, sharper/cheekier looking with surprisingly good performance and efficiency levels. With the options open to you, you can literally have it as anything from an effective budget car to a hot hatch, or a hi tech urban runabout to a farmer’s 4×4… it’s anything you want it to be depending on which model you get and how you spec it out – the choice is yours.
Although its taller, longer and wider than the previous generation model, it still retains the basic ‘mini MPV’ shape – tall, cubic rear and a large glass area. The cube/square design cues are softer, more modern and curved this time round. There’s also a surprisingly capable crossover 2014 Fiat Panda 4×4 variant, which adds a more SUV-like quality to the existing design.
Inside the 2014 Fiat Panda, the quality has dramatically improved to be much more than you’d expect from a car in this price range. The smooth squarical theme continues in earnest on the details such as the instrument dials, the console vent controls and the centre of the steering wheel. The chair design also features embossed squares that apparently improve airflow behind your back. The hard plastic head rests are however a bit cheap and uncomfortable. The driving position is high in keeping with the miniature MPV feeling, which when combined with the large glass area, allow you great all round vision. The dash is framed in a nice big panel (which can be the colour of your choosing, giving it a nice refreshing two tone effect) with a vacuous storage pocket built into the passenger side of the dash, which is apparently a homage to the original model. The ergonomics in here are good with everything, especially the high set gear stick, falling easily to hand. There’s also a round hand break paddle which feels both original and comfortable to use. Practicality-wise, well take your pick – there’s no less than 14 storage areas dotted around the cabin.
The rear seating area is roomier than before thanks to slimmer front seats and (potentially, should you specify it – which is well advised) the unique sliding rear bench option which prioritises either boot or passenger room as you need it. That’s something that rivals like the Volkswagen UP! can’t do. In general the 2014 Fiat Panda should seat a couple of people comfortably, but unlike rivals there is the option of a middle seat, which is really good if you have kids you need to transport around. The boot is bigger than the previous model too with 225ltrs available. If you have the sliding rear bench you can extend this up to 260ltrs of room with it pushed forwards. If that’s still not enough then you can push down the rear bench completely to free up a whole 870ltrs of storage space. If you envision transporting long items like a surf board, then you can also opt for the front passenger folding seat.
Based on the underpinnings of the cheeky and popular Fiat 500, the 2014 Fiat Panda is very adept at traversing the urban landscape. Tweaked suspension, torsional stiffness and a wider track combine giving it good sharpness and body control when cornering. The ride refinement has improved with a 50% reduction in cabin noise (even when cruising on main roads) with nicely absorbent suspension to soak up road imperfections. True, the gearbox could be a bit more accurate, but it doesn’t detract too badly. The steering system is more sensitive, but you can also make it lighter for easy parking manoeuvres by pressing the City button.
Engine-wise, we’re looking at 3 main engines for the 2014 Fiat Panda. There’s the innovative 2 cylinder Twin Air petrol unit which marshalls a full 85bhp so it can get to 62 from standing in 11 seconds up to a top speed of 110mph. The 145Nm of pulling power is available low in the revs, making it pleasantly zippy. The Eco button improves the economy (surprisingly) but cuts the torque by half when you’re driving about the town. A word to the wise though – don’t leave it on or you’ll find yourself trying to sprint into a gap in the traffic and going nowhere fast. The duo-logic gearbox in the 2014 Fiat Panda is an option well worth looking into as it’s essentially manual transmission without the need to operate the clutch, which is great for inner city driving. The entry level 1.2ltr petrol unit is a good shout for those looking for a budget car. It’s actually quieter than the multi-air unit plus it’s pretty pliable and fast (0-62 in 14.2 secs up to 102mph) as an engine. It will certainly suffice for a lot of the people who might be shopping for a small cheap car. The 75bhp 1.3ltr multi-jet diesel probably sips fuel better than the multi-air engine. Boasting 190Nm of torque to zoom it through the gears and up to 62 in 12.8 seconds up to the top speed of 104mph, it presents a good medium.
All in all, what’s the lowdown with the 2014 Fiat Panda? With an impressive heritage in innovative compact multi-purpose motoring, the 3rd generation has evolved with the times to make it better looking, impressive interior quality, cleaner and more fuel efficient; yet the basic Panda formula remains the same: innovative, solid and functional. Sure there are talented rivals out there that may beat it in certain areas, but there isn’t a single one that can even challenge the sheer versatility of a Fiat Panda. It can be whatever you want it to be, and it’s this ability to transcend class pigeonholing with a range of unique talents dependant on how you spec it. When looking at a small car there is simply no way you can ignore it. And why would you? Ferrari’s withstanding, in one form or another – it’s exactly what you’ve been looking for.