The new Fiat Panda has evolved from a box with wheels, into a box with curves… and wheels. The point of a Panda has never been to set the world on fire with dashing good looks, but rather to provide a family with a reliable and practical car. The fact that Fiat has changed the very square Panda of previous generations into a slightly more rounded model only means it’s easier to look at. The funky front lights, and odd shape make the Panda stand out in the parking lot, and people definitely notice you on the road.
Fiat isn’t necessarily a brand that one sees on the road much in South Africa, but this Italian stable has been producing great cars for decades now. OnRoute had a chance to put both the Panda and the 500L thro
The fun factor is carried from the exterior to the interior and everything inside the Panda is rather cool. The heads-up display, the entertainment system and even something as seemingly insignificant as the air-conditioning inflows add to its uniqueness. There’s sufficient space inside, although it wouldn’t be a comfortable amount of space for four adults on a long journey. The Panda is, after all, a small family hatch. The sound system and Bluetooth technology are also great additions.
Because the Panda is designed for practicality, you can be certain it will not win a drag race. It is sluggish off the line and takes a while to reach running speed, especially on the highway, but once there it is comfortable and drives with ease. The 1.2-litre engine is quiet and efficient. Another draw card is the great fuel economy, and we were able to get an entire week’s worth of driving out of the small tank. That alone is enough to win you over with the ever-rising petrol price and growing congestion on our roads.
We like the Panda; it’s fun to drive. Although not a speedster, it had enough power to make it worth a look. Ranging from R153 000 to R170 000, the Panda is an affordable alternative to the more common family hatches on the road today.
Not to be confused with the normal Fiat 500, the 500L is a larger and lengthier version of the popular small hatch. Fiat says that the 500L is a grown-up variation of the regular Fiat 500 and that just because it is grown up, doesn’t mean it isn’t cool. And we have to agree.
In the modern world, brands and consumers are moving away from the mass produced and looking for that little something that will set you apart from the crowd. That evolution to the unique is what will probably make the 500L a popular car.
This Fiat is by no means a car that will set the tarmac alight, but it is a hot little sports hatch that will get heads turning. It has the regular Fiat 500 breeding, with some crazy thrown in. There are elements on the exterior, like the Fiat badge, that are carried through the entire car. The shape of the rear lights, the steering wheel centre and even some of the speakers carry that same shape, adding symmetry and funk to the whole car. The interior has it all – touch screen display, a great sound system and loads of space. The 500L roof is loftier than a standard 500, and with it being panoramic, the illusion of space is greater than ever. There is plenty of room in the 500L; considerably more than in a normal Fiat 500, which helps when you are hauling friends around on the weekend.
The 500L however doesn’t quite perform as well as its younger brother on the road. It is sluggish and cumbersome when driving around town. Getting off the line seems to take real effort from the small engine. But, it’s comfortable to drive and has no problems with cruising, but is slow on the up-hills. What the 500L lacked in oomph, it made up for in comfort and efficiency. Being so conservative with the fuel consumption means that the 500L does its bit for your pocket and the environment. The Fiat 500 L costs between R242 000 and R300 000 depending on model and taxes.