Friday 2 March 2012

Road - Panda-monium

Spent most of the time yesterday in the TwinAir Turbo. Just for the noise! It may be the quickest engine in the range, but performance is not what the Panda is about, and yet it will still put a smile on the face of even the most miserable, over-partied, hungover petrolhead in the car park first thing in the morning.

It only has 875cc and it only has two cylinders, but it has a turbo, 85 bhp and 145 Nm of torque. Although it is longer, wider and taller than the outgoing Panda it is still a small car, and because the engine is so wee, that is light too. All that lightness doesn’t equate to performance though because it will take nearly 12 seconds to gallop from rest to 60 miles an hour.

But who cares, just listen to the wee thing. Calm and serene outside, and a flurry of furious activity from under the bonnet, like a bunch of school weans at a wedding scramble. Oddly, the four cylinder 1242 cc normally aspirated engine with a mere 69 bhp feels just as quick as the TwinAir Turbo, but it isn’t, taking 3 seconds longer to reach 60. That’s probably down to the lack of noise.

Even more oddly the lower power engine produces more C02s (120 g/km) than the TwinAir (99 g/km) which means that the sportier ‘version’ is exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty, and if you ever take it to London, Boris will let you in to his LEZ for nothing.

Handling wise, it’s fine although it tends to roll a wee bit in the corners and it’s got a decent sized, but still small, boot. Just don’t expect to carry two adults in the rear very far!

Prices start from £8,900 for the 1242cc ‘Pop’ going up to £12,250 for the TwinAir Turbo ‘Lounge’ and there is an ‘Easy’ trim level in between the basic and top kit version.

Another nice touch is that the new Panda pays homage to the original Panda launched 32 years ago. The original topped off a rather square exterior with a square speedometer, and this latest Panda doesn’t have any round dials either. Nor are they square – Fiat calls them squircles!

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