Fiat Panda 4x4

Fiat Panda 4x4 Review (2014)

The Fiat Panda 4x4 has been knocking around for 30 years. Up and down hills with all the attitude of an off-roader. But within the tiny body of a city car. This test drive was always going to be a lot of fun.The Panda 4x4 is a little bit of an oddity when you see it for the first time. It has the small dimensions of a city car and the innocuous looks of a Fiat Panda. Yet the jacked up appearance of an off-roader. It looks like it has a job to do from the outside and has enough kit to differentiate it from a standard Panda. There are new bumpers with metal-effect inserts, wheel arch extensions, side skirts, black plastic cladding and unique 15” alloy wheels. Two exclusive colours are available: "Sicilia" orange and "Toscana" green metallic, complete with matching interior detailing and all in all, it's a fun-looking package.

Inside the Fiat Panda 4x4

Inside, the onus is more on durability than style and this is reflected in the materials used. Everything is easy to find and use on the dash. But some of the switches feel flimsy. The low window line means that the cabin feels light and airy. There is no height adjustment as standard on the driver's chair so you sit rather upright. Kind of like you are on display for the world to see! There is a good view all around the car. But it would be nice to have the option of adjusting the driver's seat to suit personal requirements.

Fiat Panda 4x4
Inside the Panda 4x4 is more durable than plush

There is plenty of space up front for two adults to sit comfortably. The rear is ok on headroom but there is not so much legroom. There is a small but deep boot of 225 litres and you can let the back seats down to carry larger items. There is no spare wheel and the Panda 4x4 comes with a tyre repair kit.

The compact dimensions and light steering make the Panda 4x4 really easy to park and trundle around town in. You do trundle because the 1.3 litre diesel engine is noisy and lacks a bit of refinement in normal driving conditions. But there is loads of torque in the lower gears - ideal for off-roading. For a small car, the Panda 4x4 can really hold its own out on the motorway too and it will cruise quite happily, all the while sipping diesel.

Driving the Fiat Panda 4x4

But how does it do on the tough stuff? It's won awards for its off-road ability and there is more ability to this car than just what a set of mud and snow tyres can muster. Panda 4x4 is a very practical car for dealing with difficult terrain or challenging road conditions. The car operates in front wheel drive mode during normal driving conditions, but when the vehicle's sensors detect a loss of traction, torque is automatically sent to the rear wheels. According to Fiat, this ‘on-demand’ four wheel drive system will reduce mechanical drag and wear and tear, as well as improve fuel economy and lower emissions. It even has an electronic locking differential (ELD) that directs torque to the wheels with the most grip by braking the slipping wheels.

Fiat Panda 4x4
Panda 4x4 can cope well with the tough stuff

The 1.3 litre diesel has fuel saving start stop as standard. The official economy figure is just over 60mpg. I managed a respectable 53mpg during the test drive, bit more than what you will get in a similar city car with a small petrol engine fitted.  For a car with four wheel drive, the Panda 4x4 is economical. However though it has small car dimensions, it does not have small car CO2 emissions - road tax is €270 per year. Not exorbitant but still, there are cheaper small cars to tax - they don’t have four wheel drive and you can't drive them up a mountain and back down the other side, so it is all relative!

As well as four wheel drive, mud and snow tyres and the ELD, the Panda 4x4 comes kitted with Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted audio controls, air conditioning, 15" alloys, electric front windows and door mirrors, remote central locking, roof rails and front fog lamps.

Would you buy it?

The off-road ability of the Panda 4x4 is attractive. It's still small enough to come down from the hills to nip in and around town comfortably and economically. It’s just a niche buy. Though it’s got 4x4, €20,000 is still a lot of money for someone to fork out for something this small. But if you live on the side of the mountain, when the harsh winter comes you will be glad you have one of these parked outside.

Fiat Panda 4x4
The awesome Fiat Panda 4x4

Model tested: Fiat Panda 4x4
Price: €19,995 (Panda range starts at €11,995)
Engine: 1.3 litre MultiJet, four cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 75bhp
0-100km/h: 14.5 seconds
Economy: 60.1mpg (4.7l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Tax band: B1 (€270 per year)

Caroline Kidd

Fiat 500L

Feeling Very European In The Fiat 500L

Fiat 500L
The new Fiat 500L

The Fiat 500L is Fiat’s five seat MPV that promises to deliver the style of the Fiat 500 city car and the space and versatility of an MPV. It might not be an obvious choice for a young driver but if as part of your lifestyle you often or occasionally need lots of space to carry people, IKEA flat packs or stuff for hobbies (you know adventure sports and that sort of thing), then trust me, the Fiat 500L is worthy of consideration. Here’s why.

If you like to be different you will love the Fiat 500L. It's got a real continental European feel to it and it’s so stylish with curvaceous looks and those big, distinctive round headlamps at the front. It’s a car that really stands out on the road. Add into the mix lots of options for customisation, from changing the roof colour to a choice of cool alloy wheels, and you have an MPV that looks like no other.

Inside the Fiat 500L

The interior is modern and has an attractive finish to it, like the large chunky dials on the well laid out dash to the suede trim on the seats in my Lounge model. You sit high up behind what seems like acres of glass. It’s bright, spacious and you will feel happy just sitting in here. There are large door pockets and lots of little storage places throughout the cabin (22 according to Fiat!).

The rear seats have a fold and tumble function that helps to increase cargo space, and the rear seats can also be slid backwards and forwards.  The boot is large and square with a 400 litre capacity and a wide opening that makes it easy to get things in and out. A space saver spare wheel is included. There is further flexibility in how you would like to use the space in the boot - you can change the level of the floor so that in effect you have two separate storage compartments.

It’s a comfy car and good for long trips. It handles well for a tall MPV if a tiny bit roly poly in the corners. It’s compact enough to make it fun to drive around town and the great visibility all-round is a bonus. There is also a button on the dash that you can press to lighten the steering. This is a brilliant addition and the extra lucidity in the steering makes parking and driving around town easy.

What are my options?

The test car was fitted with a 1.3 litre diesel engine. It’s underpowered and you find yourself scrambling around the gearbox looking for the power a lot out on the open road. It’s fine for sedate drivers and once you get it up to cruising speeds it is quiet and refined - but put your foot down hard to take off and it is quite noisy. The other engine options are a 1.6 litre 105bhp diesel and the 0.9 litre 105bhp TwinAir petrol.

The interior of the new Fiat 500L
The interior of the new Fiat 500L

Though not the fastest or most refined, the 1.3 litre engine does offer good economy with an official economy figure of 67mpg. The engine is also fitted with fuel saving start stop technology as standard. It emits 110g/km of CO2 and will cost €190 to tax in Ireland.

Standard equipment is very good on the Fiat 500L. There are two trim levels – Pop Star and Lounge. On the Pop Star model you get air conditioning, alloy wheels, touchscreen with Bluetooth, six airbags, electric front windows and door mirrors, cruise control, remote central locking, and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

Lounge trim adds a wonderful full length fixed glass roof, rear armrest, fog lights, automatic lights with rain sensors, electric rear windows, rear parking sensors and dualzone climate control. You can spec your 500L with a Lavazza coffee maker built into it for that morning pick-me-up or a Beats by Dr Dre in-car sound system for audiophiles!

Is it any good?

The Fiat 500L will make you smile. For a fun, quirky MPV with lots of space and versatility for all kinds of cargo, the Fiat 500L delivers. It’s got real Italian style and can be specced in a variety of ways to suit the owner’s tastes. It has a lovely bright and spacious interior and comes with lots of equipment as standard.  The Fiat 500L is let down by a narrow choice of engines and the cheap and economical option of the 1.3 litre diesel engine lacks power and refinement.

The 500L is a new MPV from Fiat
The 500L is a new MPV from Fiat

Model tested: Fiat 500L Lounge
Price: €24,075 (Range starts at €21,750)
Engine: 1.3 litre MultiJet, four cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 85bhp
0-100km/h:  14.9 seconds
Economy: 67.2mpg (4.2l/100km)
CO2 emissions:  110g/km
Tax band: A3 (€190 per year)

Caroline Kidd

The 2014 Fiat 500s

2014 Fiat 500S 1.2 Petrol Review

The 2014 Fiat 500s
The 2014 Fiat 500s

Caroline reviews the 2014 Fiat 500.

The Fiat 500 has always been a hit with twentysomethings who love the little Italian city car for its cheeky looks and retro cabin.

It’s been kept fresh over the last six years with an eye-catching colour palette, including new additions like pearl white and matte black, and a steady stream of limited editions that range from Fiat 500 by Gucci to a Barbie bubblegum pink version to 70s kitsch and of course the storming Abarth-tuned versions that turn it into a minuscule rocket.

Then there is the string of famous owners  – Agyness Deyn, Jaime Winstone, Melanie Sykes, Elle McPherson, Jay Leno, Clint Eastwood and Michael Schumacher. It’s safe to say that the Fiat 500 has been a runaway success for the Italian carmaker since the 50s classic was resurrected in 2007.

What's new about the Fiat 500S?

The 500S is yet another addition to the range – but this one has a sporty personality borrowed from cousin Abarth. That means restyled front and rear bumpers, new side skirts, a boot lid mounted rear spoiler, dark chrome detailing, rear privacy glass, a chrome exhaust and special 15" alloy wheels.

The cherry red test car looked great – it’s definitely a car that twentysomething trendsetters will love. But the sporty update is purely cosmetic and under the bonnet there is a harmless 1.2 litre 69bhp petrol engine. Currently the other engine option is an 85bhp TwinAir Turbo petrol .  Fitted with the 1.2 litre engine the Fiat 500s will cost €200 per year to tax in Ireland and the official fuel economy figure is just under 60mpg.

The interior of the 2014 Fiat 500
The interior of the 2014 Fiat 500

The 500S is no racer out on the open road but it’s perfect around town. The small dimensions make parking a doddle. You can nip down narrow streets and through tight spaces like a secret agent on a mission in Turin. There is a button on the dash that can be pressed to lighten the steering even more. Use it for action thriller style parallel parking if that’s your party piece.

It’s not the BEST driving small car you can buy. It suffers from small car twitching out on the open road and never really settles down. So look elsewhere if comfortable motorway sprints are a priority.

But the agility makes it a FUN car to drive. It’s surprisingly grippy in the corners and there is a satisfying feel to the gear change.

The 2014 Fiat 500 interior

Then there is the seducing sophistication wafting from the air vents into the cabin that strikes the right balance between modern simplicity and a nod to the car’s vintage Italian roots. The 2014 Fiat 500 has a special matte silver dashboard panel, snug sports seats with special 500S logo, a flat-bottomed Abarth-design steering wheel with red stitching, and a red and satin chrome gear knob.  It’s quality for a €15,000 car.

The 500S looks tiny from the outside but the cabin is surprisingly roomy up front. It’s perfect for singletons but you can carry a few friends too from time to time – one in the front and two in the back with a squeeze. There are 185 litres of boot space to fit a small suitcase and an overnight bag or a few shopping bags. If more space is needed for perhaps moving house or off to university for the first time, the rear seats have split 50:50 folding.

It’s also well equipped with air conditioning, Blue & Me hands free system with Bluetooth technology, voice recognition, steering wheel controls and USB port connectivity, seven airbags, fuel-saving Start&Stop technology, electric windows and mirrors, and remote central locking as standard.

Is it any good?

This car will put a smile on your face on the dreariest of mornings. For all Dublin’s narrow, cobbled streets and pavement cafes – it’s no Milan – but somehow the Fiat 500S makes driving in town a more fun experience with a splash of colour and Italian flair.

Read another Fiat 500 review here from 2016.

The Fiat 500S is a fun and sporty small car
The Fiat 500S is a fun and sporty small car

Model tested: Fiat 500S
Price: €15,450 (500 range starts at €13,150)
Engine: 1.2 litre petrol
Power: 69bhp
0-100km/h: 12.9 seconds
Economy: 58.9mpg (4.8l/100km)
CO2 emissions:  113g/km
Tax band: A4 (€200 per year)

Caroline Kidd