Just A Little Panda-Eyed

Cute as a button

When I was a very much younger man than I am now the Fiat dealer in Edinburgh regularly advertised very low deposit deals on Unos and Pandas. Every night there would be an advert for Unos costing £3,499 and Pandas at £2,999. I think they were asking for £99 deposit and thirty quid a month for ever, certainly for longer than I would expect a mid-Eighties to last. I was tempted so sorely that I remember being really pissed off with my dad who thought I’d be really stupid for signing up to a deal like that. I wasn’t much bothered about the Uno; it looked dull and contrived in comparison to the simple, little Panda. The Uno had an engine called FIRE which had a plastic cover on it which was – pause for shock, horror – styled. Oh, and FIRE stood for Fully Integrated Robotised Engine. As if.

Remember Panda that you are rust and into rust you must return.

The Panda had flat glazing all round and the four-wheel drive version looked for all the world like a baby Range Rover before the Evoque’s brand manager was a twinkle in his father’s eye. I liked the pre-facelift version best. It had a simple metal grille at the front and an ashtray which slid back and forth across the dash. The revised car suffered from the usual Fiat problem of a head-on collision with the ugly tree. Fiat hasn’t had a single car in the last thirty years which looks as good after its facelift as it did before.

The original Panda died and a few years later there was a new one which had 5 doors. You could have it with four wheel drive or in the rather delightfully named 100HP version which was the cutest warm hatch in history. It was like a kitten in Doc Marten’s boots. This Panda formed the basis of the 500 and the Ford Ka and was a better, more honest car than either of them.

And now there’s a new one. It suffering a little from used soap syndrome. I mean that it looks as if someone made a model of the previous version out of soap, left it in a trucker’s toilet by the A1 for a few weeks and then just used what became of the model as the styling buck for he new one. It’s better equipped than the old one. Fiat wants everyone to know about its Blue&Me TomTom LIVE doodah which allows you to listen to music, talk on your phone hands-free and find your way home from wherever you’ve just been almost as if you’ve got a TomTom which costs about half as much as the option is going to cost.

I’m more impressed with the engines. There are two petrol twins available; turbocharged and normally aspirated. The turbo is the same TwinAir which you can get in the 500. The other one is new. They produce 85 and 65bhp respectively. There are a couple of fours as well; a petrol of 69bhp and a diesel of 75bhp which will appear after the petrols are launched. The twins and the diesel come with a stop-start system. The petrol four does the stop-start thing as well, but you have to do it yourself with a device called a key. Technology, eh?

If you’re one of the beknighted souls condemned to wander the halls of the Frankfurt motor show for what will seem like eternity you will be able to see the new Panda on the Fiat stand. Everyone else need only wait until it appears at a Fiat dealer near you. There’ll be deals available soon enough.

Look Out! It’s The Up!

This is exciting! The new Volkwagen up! is not just another small hatchback! It’s the only car whose name ends in an exclamation mark! Now the Kia Ce’ed or Cee’d or C’eed or whatever it’s called is not the only car whose name includes punctuation! The VW up! is the Westward Ho! of the car world!

It’s really hard to maintain these excitement levels without the use of either recreational drugs or extraneous punctuation! I don’t like either of them much! Errant typography notwithstanding, I really like the up!

The production version of the up! owes little other than its excitable name to the original concept! That one had a rear-mounted two-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels! It was probably too expensive to engineer and put into production! It’s a much less interesting car than that concept was! That makes me sad!

I think we’re supposed to forget the Fox! Not that that will be too much of a problem! Hardly anyone remembers that it exists in the first place! We’re supposed to see the up! as the successor to the Lupo! That was a genuinely lightweight little hatch which I fell in love with when I saw the GTI version! Who wouldn’t love a tiny little car like that with a six speed gearbox and central exit exhausts!? Oh, and the interior! It was designed for a mid-engined W12 supercar concept and Ferdinand Piech liked it so much that he wanted it in a production car! The Lupo was the next one coming down the pipeline! Result for the baby car!

The interior of the up! is quite special too! I’m a sucker for painted metal on an interior! I mourn for its passing! We wouldn’t have to go on about slush-moulded and soft-touch plastics so much if there were more painted metal inside a car! I’d be a much happier man! Only the Fiat 500 really makes much of a play of having its body colour on display to the driver and passengers! That can’t be right!! I therefore wholeheartedly welcome the huge swathe of body colour across the dashboard of the up! Volkswagen has what it calls a Personal Infotainment Device to control the telephone, sat-nav and music systems! It’s detachable! It’s new! It’s slightly bollocks!

The engines aren’t bollocks! They are ickle triples which produce either 60 or 75PS! Those German horses are slightly weedier than stout British ones but that should be enough to shift the little up! along at a decent rate! You can have it with a Stop/Start system in a Bluemotion Technology version! There will be an electrically-powered version along next year! That’s certainly exciting!

It’s a Lupo which has lost its L and O in a weightsaving measure! Not that Volkwagen have released its weight yet! That will no doubt come when the final prices and specifications are made public nearer its UK launch date! In the meantime, let’s rejoice that the Fox has finally gone the way of all flesh!