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.
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.