I feel its confession time, anybody that knows me, is well aware I have a love of supercars, the sight of a beautifully crafted car usually coupled with a V8 or V12 is glorious, they really can take your breath away but its I’m also true I’m a lover of small cars.
The city car or supermini as their nicknamed, have been around for decades, as much a part of our everyday life as a cup of coffee, I think they are as brilliant as a supercar, there’s something about their honesty to do ‘what it says on the tin’ it is testament to the original car builders who set out all those years ago to transport us about on 4 wheels. Whether it’s 2 or 4 doors, the idea is to get us from A to B as cheaply as possible, usually occupying a couple of children in the back to school, football or wherever they need to go next. In an ever busier world, the small car is needed more and more, why the small car? Have you tried parking your large SUV on the school car park at picking up time? You might as well write the rest of your evening off as you’ll be stuck long after the suns gone down trying to get back out with everyone else crammed in like sardines in a tin.
When Fiat first built its original small car, the Topolino, it was known for being comfortable inside and compact outside, Fiat continued this ethos with the 600/500. These small cars have evolved of course, they are a lot bigger than the original Fiat 500, most are the size of a 90’s hatchback, all really except one.
The Fiat Panda, like the original small cars of years ago, has its wheels in each corner giving little body overhang, seating 4 adults in its minimalist interior, the headroom is sufficient for today’s ever taller generation. It has a boot large enough for the weekly shop, nothing bigger is needed, after all this isn’t some Monaco bound Grand Tourer. The interior is a nice place to be, if not inspiring, everything is where you want it to be, nice clear buttons on the dashboard, no little fiddly ones that require your fingers being manipulated by a plastic surgeon just to press them. So like its forbearers the Panda continues to be comfortable inside and compact outside
What’s it like to drive? Pretty easy, visibility is good thanks to its greenhouse style Windows everywhere design, it’s small enough to nip in & out of the traffic, of course one word of caution ‘Avoid Potholes’ should you enter one of these then I’ve no doubt you’ll have found the road version of a black hole and will probably never be seen again. But overall it’s a good drive, the one I’ve been zipping round in even had electric Windows! No luxuries like alloys or air con although these are standard on other models but I didn’t miss these things, I was going back to basics! You won’t break any land speed records getting 0-60 but what it means is less frequent trips to the petrol station, average mpg is mid 60’s, that included a few motorway runs, coupled with low road tax of only £30 per annum means you won’t make it onto the tax mans Christmas card list.
So there you go, the small car that hasn’t put on weight, does exactly what you need it to do with no frills, except that’s not quite it, what this car does have is a party trick, the trick in question is ‘City’ press the button on the dashboard and by some kind of automotive Magic the steering turns so light, a babe in arms could do a 3 point turn. What this means in the real world is easier city parking, it really does make street parking child’s play, there’s something satisfying about watching a driver in a car struggle to park in a space, give up after a million attempts and drive off so you can let the Panda perform its City trick, 3 turns later your parked up and off to lunch. This little car may not grab the headlines or the second glances like the Fiat 500 but it doesn’t need too, it knows what its job is and does it, no fuss, no shouty noises, the Panda just gets on with it. It has character too, despite not wearing a fancy suit from the art houses of Milan, its not ugly, its somewhere in the middle which adds to its charm as for any lack of ‘Power’ when driving, my children think its brilliant and refer to the little car as ‘Panda Power’!
In short life with a Panda isn’t dull in fact it’s surprisingly fun, so enjoy it because it might just be an endangered species.