2012 Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy (IRL)

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Not really my sort of car the Fiat Panda. At the Hertz rental desk in Dublin airport, I had booked a group A car, expecting a Ford Ka. I, like I always do, asked if there were any upgrades available. The woman said “yes, we can give you a Group B car”. Hoping for a Fiesta, I was slightly disappointed when she said all they had left was a Fiat Panda, with no air con. It turns out all Group A and B cars don’t have air con, only the Ford Focus size and up you get air con. (Bullshit it turned out…see a bit further down)

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As we walked out to the car, first thing that struck me was for a small box on wheels, it’s a very good looking car. It is quite ‘boxy’, but this new one looks a lot more modern and radical than the first one, especially from the front. Mine was black, and it suited the car really well. I can’t say I’ve really noticed the new Panda on the road before, so maybe some colours do it justice and some don’t. The modern and funky looks continued onto the inside too; it’s a simple layout, but it works. There must have been over a dozen storage compartments, all different sizes and shape. The quality of the trim and plastics on the whole is very good too. The only suspect material is this piano black plastic around the stereo. The new Clio at Geneva had tonnes of this, and in the wrong light it looks awful. Even more so if it’s scratched like the Clio’s was. Not sure if every supermini is going this way in an attempt to ramp up the look and quality, but I think it just looks cheap. Sitting in the drivers’ seat, the first thing you notice is just how good visibility is. It’s a very small car, but the driving position is ever so slightly raised compared to say a Fiesta or an i10. It’s a very small car, but never feels it. One thing I really liked was the positioning of the gearstick. It was mounted on the dashboard (think Civic Type R), but thanks to a slightly more lofty driving position, changing gear just felt so natural from that angle. Hard to describe, but I wouldn’t be complaining if more manufacturers introduced it! One downside to the driving position was the clutch rest, which must have been about an inch wide, and a size 5 long. I haven’t got a clue how anyone with a normal foot could use it comfortably. They just shouldn’t have bothered. Another talking point is the shape of the steering wheel. It isn’t round, and it isn’t square, it’s sort of somewhere in between. Thing is, it was actually quite nice to hold, and weirdly, the shape made it enjoyable to use compared to some thin rimmed round ones I’ve used.

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Again, thanks to that ‘boxyness’ it will seat 4 adults easily. Headroom in any of the 4 seats is frankly phenomenal, and legroom isn’t bad either. I imagine sitting behind a 6ft + driver wouldn’t be the most comfortable on a long journey, but the overall room compared to some cars even 2 classes above is superb.

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The boot is quite narrow, but deep, meaning you can get 2 weekend/hand luggage size bags in like we did easily, or one big suitcase. I’m pretty sure the back seats fold flat too.

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This car wasn’t billy basic ‘Pop’ spec; I suspect it was ‘Easy’ as it had remote locking and air con. Yes, the woman told me it didn’t, but as I got in the car, on the 1-5 flow switch was an air con symbol. Push it, an amber light came on, and about 60 seconds later, the car was ice cold. Nice surprise in 22*c of Irish sunshine. Not sure if they made a mistake, or whether they genuinely didn’t know it had air con. I know some cars spell it out, with an ‘a/c’ symbol, but come on! This car also had a trip computer, mp3 compatible stereo and Bluetooth hands free. Not bad for £9500.

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Onto the way it drives. Firstly the engine. It was a 1.2, with 69bhp and not much torque. It didn’t sound very nice, it didn’t use much fuel, but my god it was slow. Tara managed to send a text to her sister in the time it took to redline it in first gear (fair enough the text didn’t say much!). 5th gear on the motorway is dangerous, and to overtake something, you needed either a lot of bottle or a lot of straight road in front of you. I can’t see why anyone would be happy with this engine as even around town, foot down in 3rd…nothing…drop to 2nd…. still nothing. As everything car wise is going ECO now (yippee), you got a shift light in the trip computer. In principle, it’s great. It tells you when to ‘shift’ to get maximum efficiency from the engine. Great if you’re the only car on the road, but when it’s telling you to shift from 4th to 5th when you’re going about 40mph…nope, don’t think so with this engine under the bonnet. The twin air petrol or even the diesel would make a much better proposition as there is a lot more torque, which would make hopping around so much easier.

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One thing I didn’t like was the ride. It was quite firm around smooth town roads and very jarring over speed bumps and not so smooth roads. It didn’t help that a lot of Dublin’s roads are in very bad condition. Some cars’ ride improve with speed, and this is something I thought the Panda might do, but even cruising at a steady speed on the M1, the ride just never settled. It could have been something stupid like the tyre pressures, but it just seemed unsettled no matter what surface we were going over. More pleasingly though, for a town car, wind and tyre noise were minimal. It had good all round refinement. Not just good for a city car, good full stop. If the ride was just a bit more forgiving, and Knowing you’re in this type of car, knowing how skinny the tyres are, I sat in the lofty-ish driving position thinking this is going to be a nightmare in the bends. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Maybe the firm ride does have some uses then, as in the bends, the body control was tight and it felt very planted. We took a trip out on some country lanes from Dublin to Portmarnock and by no means did it disgrace itself. It’s probably no Fiesta, but it was pretty good fun. The steering (electro – again, yippee) has no feel whatsoever, but I’m starting to get used to this now. (It must be over 10 years since the last real world car to have decent feel). It was very direct though, and quick changes of direction didn’t resort to massive lean, which when looking at this car, you would’ve thought there would’ve been! I had no problem with the gear change either. It had quite a lot of travel in between gears, but it slotted in with a nice grainy, mechanical feel.

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Engine and ride aside. I loved this little car. It does everything that it’s supposed to, and more. And it does it without being bland like some cars in this category. It’s also very good value for money. Fix the ride and engine, there’s no reason why it couldn’t do long distances too. If an old person, or a young mum, or a new driver asks me what car shall I buy, I’ve always said a Honda Jazz. It will now be a Fiat Panda.

Now Fiat, hand it over to Abarth and let them do a version….





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Home Forums 2012 Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy (IRL)

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    Not really my sort of car the Fiat Panda. At the Hertz rental desk in Dublin airport, I had booked a group A car, expecting a Ford Ka. I, like I alway
    [See the full post at: 2012 Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy (IRL)]

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