With the new Fiat Panda, innovative, appealing design meets cutting-edge technology in a package that is frankly irresistible. The best news is that with a recommended selling price of just R 95,900 it’s accessible to anyone in the market for a new car. Clever solutions to make on-board life simpler and better – this motto is encoded in Fiat’s DNA and the New Panda flaunts it with brio, together with its own charismatic personality and will for freedom.
Giorgio Gorelli, managing director of Fiat Auto South Africa is justifiably proud when he speaks of the Fiat supermini: “The new Panda is proof that compact need not be dull. The runaway success in Europe of this new generation supermini including its 2004 European Car of the Year title has turned it into something of a cult car. It transcends age, sex and social status. The Panda is the very epitome of style but in a totally practical and unpretentious package.”
Gorelli concluded by saying that, “you can’t help smiling when you drive a Panda – it’s just that sort of car. I predict a very bright future for it in South Africa as it takes its place alongside its 4×4 brother, which has already been very well received in this market.”
Original, appealing design
The New Panda is a multipurpose supermini with a surprising amount of interior space. Despite its pint-sized interior (it is 354 centimetres long, 158 wide and 154 high with a wheelbase of 230 centimetres) it offers passenger room at the peak of its category and boasts one of the best Cd results in its segment: 0.33. These are winning attributes for this originally-designed car and immediately make you feel like jumping aboard and setting off.
The New Panda’s well-proportioned, dynamic exterior shape is also distinguished by an extra dash of elegance. The front end confirms the car’s membership of the Fiat family. All the front features blend harmoniously with one another: rectangular headlights join an understated grille to create a pleasing visual effect.
The bumper shield features a lower air intake that develops along its entire width and fits effectively into the front end to ensure optimum protection against minor impacts while still increasing the impression of a sturdy, safe car. This impression is also reinforced by a bumper that tapers off toward the front and joins firmly to the windscreen as on a true MPV.
The same MPV practicality is suggested by the side view, due to the outstanding way the shape of the front end and windscreen match the upright rump. The side, in particular, is given structure by a dihedron (two intersecting planes) that runs along its length. The resulting load-bearing structure, combined with the very evident wheelarches, gives the New Panda a feeling of great solidity but also of accentuated dynamism.
The upper part deserves a separate mention. Here the bow-shaped windows in both doors are linked in an original way (through the quarter light) with the tail-lights to give shape to an unmistakeable graphic motif. This distinctive feature of the new model also recurs in the alloy wheel trim and hub design. Generously-sized wheels with plastic trims (14-inch alloys optional) also help create an image of a substantial, practical car.
The same effect of dynamic stability is evident at the rear of the New Panda. The upright configuration emphasises the model’s generous versatility while also contributing to the idea of a sturdy, reliable vehicle.
The design of the vertical headlights is also original. They look like two lighted towers that reinforce the impression of sturdiness while also giving the model a pronounced personality of its own. A generous tailgate also aids access to the big luggage compartment, a feature particularly appreciated by customers in this segment. At the rear, the bumpers fit in perfectly with the car’s tail end.
Customers can choose from a lively range of non-metallic and metallic colours, These eleven shades add an extra touch of style to the car and make it even more fun and bubbly.
Third brake light
13″ Steel wheels with plastic wheel trims
Cutting-edge engine and gearbox
The decision to buy a supermini often comes about due to considerations of overall low running cost. The New Panda does not disappoint: the tried and tested 1242 cc 8v Fire power unit makes its arrival on the New Panda after undergoing a whole series of refinements to make it a paragon of fuel thrift without affecting performance.
This engine generates a power output of 44 kW at 5000 rpm and propels the car to a top speed of 155 km/h; 100km/h comes up in 14 seconds. And more. When equipped with a 1.2 8v engine, the New Panda excels in two areas.
Firstly, the 5.6 litres of fuel it consumes per 100 km over a combined cycle, one of the best results in its category. And its pick-up time over one thousand metres is also superlative: 36 seconds. This result is outstanding when you consider it is achieved by a car capable of such low fuel consumption.
The result is due to the way the power unit is configured, i.e. for high torque at low rpm (for a more satisfying, flexible drive) and ratios selected to ensure good fuel economy. Hence a torque of 102 Nm at 2500 rpm with fuel consumption of 7.1 l/100 km (urban cycle), 4.8 l/100 km (extra-urban cycle) and 5.6 l/100 km (combined cycle).
These attractive results are achieved through certain effective improvements. For example, the car comes with new convergent/divergent intake ducts and new cam profiles that optimise power unit fluid flow for improved efficiency.
Again with the aim of reducing fuel consumption, the engineers chose an active knock sensor that can manage advance effectively under all conditions and above all the Marelli I.A.W. phased sequential multipoint injection system that was, until recently, found only on models with more sophisticated power units.
Performance has been improved through the use of a specially developed electronic control system based on a new generation Marelli electronic control unit able to communicate on-line with the electronic devices in the vehicle through serial lines.
The mating clearance between crankshaft and crankcase has also been optimised through computerised selection of main bearings. A special installation system has also been developed for the engine in the engine compartment. This minimises the transfer of engine vibrations to the body.
In particular, a barycentre power unit mounting system has been developed that consists of two blocks plus a reaction rod that acts as a link. The new mounts are aligned along an axis that passes through the engine’s centre of gravity to obtain reaction forces with zero offset.
On the environmental front, the 1.2 8v features a catalytic converter located in the engine compartment and welded to the side of the exhaust manifold. The device is highly efficient in this position because it can reach very high temperatures in very short times and thus reduce emissions even when the power unit is heating.
The array of equipment designed to minimise the environmental impact of the New Panda 1.2 8v is complemented by a returnless fuel supply system. A new auxiliary drive circuit has also been developed for improved reliability. This features built in mountings in aluminium squeeze casting (computer modelled) and an automatic low torque tensioner.
The five speed version manual gearbox is available as standard equipment on the Panda. This device transmits torque of up to 14.8 kgm and offers reduced dimensions coupled with outstanding selection lever manoeuvrability.
This has been achieved by reducing clutch-driven plate inertia and introducing new gaskets. The gearbox configuration is transverse with two shafts in a cascade, while the gear mechanism is internal over four selection planes.
The exterior mechanism is twin cable type to filter out engine operating noise and vibrations transmitted from engine to gear lever. The gear teeth offer high meshing capacity while the fifth speed and final drive gear sets are machined to a superfinish after heat treatment (for lower noise levels).
The gear casings are light and very effective at absorbing noise. The gear cases are developed using finite element structural computing methods. The New Panda manual gearbox is also equipped with a syringe mechanism to prevent involuntary reverse engagement.
Front and rear suspension
One of the briefs given to the designers allocated to the Panda project was to create a suspension system capable of higher-category performance levels. The system had to ensure great driving ease and precision, outstanding roadholding and the best possible passenger comfort. Hence the choice of two efficient, tried and tested layouts that work very effectively due to the attributes of the new chassis.
At the front, an independent MacPherson layout that employs a torsion bar connected to the shock absorber by a rod (a solution so far only used on higher segment vehicles). In this case, the suspension ensures a greater ability to filter out vibrations due to driving over rough ground and has been improved by the adoption of:
new design coil springs that increase the absorption of minor surface roughness;
wishbones with rubber and metal front bushes and new vertical rear bushes in rubber and metal. The bushes contain more rubber and offer an excellent compromise between vibrational comfort and roadholding on corners (handling) through radial stiffness differentiation;
mechanical beam designed to accept the new wishbones and fitted with body attachments without the interposition of flexible elements;
double-acting telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers (perform differently during compression and stretching) located beneath the floor to improve comfort without detracting from boot space;
The rear configuration is an interconnected wheel (semi-independent) suspension with a torsion beam, a solution already adopted on higher category cars. The layout was popular in the past and then fell into disuse but has now come back into favour due to the possibilities offered by new technologies.
This configuration combines the traditional benefits of a simple, streamlined layout with standards of comfort and handling once obtainable only with very sophisticated suspension systems.
This solution offers driver and passengers:
- great comfort because the level of noise and vibration entering the passenger compartment is lower due to single (metal and rubber) bushes attaching the rear axle to the body and an optimised underfloor shock absorber angle;
- greater driving stability due to the bushes attaching the rear axle to the body. While cornering, they generate a wheel toe-in effect that ensures superlative driving stability even under difficult conditions. They also display great longitudinal flexibility;
- improved handling achieved through the use of a folded sheet steel torsion beam that ensures ideal torsional rigidity to the suspension and thus an outstanding balance between vehicle front and rear for optimal weight distribution.
Roominess and anatomically-designed seats
No-one buying a supermini today is prepared to give up the comfort he would find on a bigger car: in almost two thirds of cases, such cars are the second or even the third household car. Customers are, therefore used to comfort standards typical of higher segment cars and tend to use these as a benchmark.
In the New Panda’s case, we needed to reconcile the dinky external dimensions with ample passenger room even for tall people. The result is a surprisingly big car: available interior volume is 2.49 m3, one of the best results in the category. This has also been achieved without affecting the luggage capacity that stands at 206 litres (with fixed rear seat).
The front seats, for example, score outstandingly well for all percentiles on the SAE scale (1-99). In practice, this means that people of all sizes can be seated in comfort. Plenty of space is also available in the rear, where even the tallest passengers can be seated in great comfort.
The overall vehicle passenger room coefficient is more than 68%, one of the best results in the mini category. The front passenger room is one of the best in its segment with 1346 millimetres (shoulder room).
Yet passenger room is about more than mere figures. It means in-car wellbeing. This is why the New Panda designers devoted special attention to passenger posture and seat configuration. And the seats deserve a special mention.
The seats were produced in accordance with principles developed by Prof. Dal Monte, head of the Biomechanics Department at the CONI Sport Medicine Institute and represent a factor of primary importance when it comes to comfort and safety.
This specific part must absorb kinetic energy acquired by the body due to the effect of cornering stresses and also accelerating and decelerating. The configuration of front seats is optimized for antisubmarining (to prevent the body sliding forward beneath the seat-belt in case of head-on impact). The front seats are extremely comfortable and offer an outstanding postural angle due to their special pattern of padding.
Moving backwards, the rear seat comes with a one-piece cushion with anti-submarining function plus a backrest that folds down to create a big load compartment (up to 775 dm3). (The passenger compartment design is complemented by a rectangular-shaped luggage compartment that is large and easy to use despite the exterior supermini configuration.) The structural dimensions of the seats also ensure maximum occupant safety because they are sturdy enough to resist all types of impact and prevent luggage flying forward.
The Panda’s high driving position and oceans of glass with rear quarter lights allow you full mastery of the road. The cockpit is made even more comfortable by the ergonomic control position, the legroom and the great freedom of movement in the upper area of the passenger compartment.
The up-to-date, appealing facia design is also pleasing and practical. Suffice it to say that all the controls are within easy reach on the central console: the gearlever on the lower part assures outstanding manoeuvrability in complete safety.
The heater controls are arranged in the middle close to the original round outlets. The radio is built into the upper part and offers exceptional visibility without distracting you from your driving.
The door panel design also blends into that of the facia and offers a mix of practical and aesthetically pleasing features. Examples include: an original cloth-trimmed island, a convenient armrest with handle and a roomy oddment pouch lower down.
The New Panda’s body colours are matched on the inside by brand-new bright trim shades that are better quality than anything offered by the competition in this category. It all adds up to a bright environment that is made even more stylish by the colour contrast between the controls (darker in colour) and the two bright trim colours: yellow and blue.
The New Panda offers personality-packed styling, up-to-date and dependable mechanical components, a wealth of features and great comfort. What is more, it is also very safe. The safety comes not so much from individual components but from the sum of all the parts adopted to make the New Panda one of the safest cars in its segment.
Firstly, the New Panda’s braking system features two independent crossover hydraulic circuits to assure responsive, gradual braking and shorter stopping distances. Pedal travel is short so that brake servo specifications may be exploited to the full.
Front discs are 240 mm in diameter and solid. The rear brakes are drums (180 x 30) and feature self-centring shoes and automatic play take-up to ensure a short pedal travel that remains constant over time and also more responsive braking.
The 9-inch brake servo also facilitates braking and makes it more effective by reducing the effort required on the pedal.
The ABS fitted as standard to the New Panda (Bosch 8) offers four active sensors, four channels, an electronic control unit and eight solenoids. It is completed by an EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution). This system ensures that any wheel at the point of locking can brake as effectively as possible. In emergency situations, it also allows full directional control of the car by means of the steering wheel.
The strength of the system lies in the active sensors that process the wheel speeds (without the intervention of the control unit). They can also read values close to zero (passive sensors cannot record speeds lower than 2.5 km/h) and are less sensitive to interference caused by electromagnetic fields.
This advanced ABS is complemented by an electronic brakeforce distributor EBD. This divides braking action over all four wheels to prevent the rear wheels from locking and ensures a balanced car response under all conditions. The system also adapts system operation to wheel grip conditions and pad efficiency. It also reduces front brake temperatures and the brake servo thrust requirement.
The model represents the state of the art in the field of passive safety systems. This is borne out by fifteen thousand hours of mathematical modelling, eighty crash tests, seventy simulations on a HyGe slide and one hundred and forty tests on components and subsystems. These numbers demonstrate the company’s commitment to making the New Panda one of the safest cars in its segment.
In-depth studies were carried out on exterior and interior components from the design stage to create a vehicle structure that is stiff around the passenger compartment (to protect occupants against objects entering the car). The areas outside the passenger compartment, on the other hand, offer high energy-absorbing capacity.
This protection is completed by special dedicated safety devices. Beginning with dual front airbags*, three-point seat-belts with pretensioners and load limiters, adjustable head-restraints and an FPS Fire Prevention System.
And including a new chassis designed to absorb impact with maximum efficacy. The service continues with occupant protection provided by the body, bonnet, doors and facia beam. And we must not overlook the contribution to passive safety provided by other features such as the seats or door panels. Although these parts fulfill a different function, they have also been designed with a view to their behaviour in the case of accidents.
The front passenger airbag can also be deactivated manually by operating a switch inside the glove compartment using the ignition key. A baby can therefore be carried in a child seat with its back facing the direction of motion (though the pretensioner remains active).
Control unit and sensors:
As we have seen, the New Panda is equipped with all the most advanced passive safety devices currently available. They are governed by a sophisticated new ‘nerve system’ that is controlled by an electronic control unit located in the front tunnel.
This control unit receives signals from the various sensors distributed throughout the car (and others inside) and decides how many devices should be activated and which ones.
This is why the system is said to be ‘smart’. It does not activate when the occupant is in no danger of striking the car walls regardless of whether an impact has taken place or not. It detects stresses that are not caused by an impact. It will even work if the electrical system stops working. All this is made possible by particularly sophisticated operating strategies and detection terminals.
Fire Prevention System:
The FPS is the most up-to-date and sophisticated solution for protecting a car against possible fire risks. The main system components include an inertia switch that immediately locks the electric pump in petrol-driven cars and the supply solenoid in diesel cars following crashes of a certain entity. This brings about a pressure drop in the fuel ducts to prevent fuel emerging.
A cut-off value is also fitted after the tank. This prevents fuel loss in the case of impact, roll-over or damage to the fuel lines. The fuel tank is made out of plastic material resistant to mechanical stress and fire. It is located in a protected position in front of the rear axle.
All electrical equipment power leads are also fitted with maxifuses: devices that cut off the power supply when the temperature becomes too high. Connection leads to the starter motor and alternator are covered with an abrasion-proof coating and located in protected areas.
Special care has also been taken over the arrangement of components and units (engine bay, electrical system, fuel system and brakes) that could become damaged by a fault or accident. The interior trim is also fire resistant (with a flame propagation rate less than 100 mm/min) and meets tough US flame retardant standards.
Exclusive equipment for great comfort
Dualdrive electric power steering:
The Dualdrive system is one of the features offered by the New Panda that deserves special mention. This power-assisted steering system comes with two operating modes and uses the power generated by an electric motor instead of power from a hydraulic pump driven directly by the engine.
The steering response of the New Panda’s electric steering system is, however, proportional to car speed: the higher the speed, the lower the assistance and the stiffer the wheel response to ensure greater driving precision. And more.
The system adopted by the new Fiat model is particularly innovative even for an electric power steering system and offers customers an extra feature: i.e. a choice of two different setting programmes. The first ensures maximum empathy between driver and car and is ideal for mixed out-of-town routes.
The ‘City’ mode lightens the steering to minimise effort and is therefore ideal for driving around town and parking manoeuvres. But fear not if you set off down the motorway with the device in this position: to ensure customers maximum safety in all cases, both programmes offer the same degree of power assistance over 35 km/h and therefore ensure a steering wheel response suited to high speed.
Control panel (incorporating a trip computer):
The instrument panel is enclosed in a smoothly shaped dashboard that blends in beautifully with the facia. Large, easily-visible characters ensure that the round analogue dials are easy to read and inform with immediacy. Night vision is ensured by orange back-lighting.
The shade is chosen because it allows the pupil to focus more quickly when changing from the dark road to the brightly lit dashboard. A trip computer that provides a set of information on previous or current trips: fuel consumption (instantaneous and average), average speed, remaining range, journey time (since the trip started) and kilometres covered is standard equipment.
Smart windscreen wipers:
The windscreen is cleaned by a smart washing system that simultaneously operates a water jet and the wiper with one stalk movement. The wiper starts after 0.5 seconds and ends three sweeps after the stalk has been released.
One final sweep is made to remove any residual drops. All versions of the New Panda also come with a wiper with two continual speeds and four intermittent speeds. The same applies to the rear wiper, which also comes with a smart washing system plus continuous and intermittent modes. When the windscreen wiper is active and reverse is engaged, the rear wiper automatically performs a series of cleansing sweeps.
Interior lights and follow me home lights:
Getting in and out of the New Panda is easy even by night in poorly lit areas. To simplify this operation, there’s a timed courtesy light: once the key has been inserted in the panel or removed, the courtesy light timer keeps the courtesy lights on for a few seconds even after the doors have been opened or closed and then turns them off gradually.
This is ideal if you wish to enter or leave the car at night or under conditions of poor visibility. It allows you to check if you have not left anything inside more easily and also close the car or insert the ignition key.
The aim is to make the motorist’s life easier. And the follow me home headlights pursue the same aim. The device keeps the dipped beams and side lights on for a while even with the engine off and ignition key out.
These few minutes are all you need to see the garage door or garden gate in the dark. After this period, the headlights go off – automatically of course. The follow me home device is turned on by operating the light flasher stalk within 2 minutes of turning off the engine. Each time the stalk is operated, light activation is extended for 30 seconds up to a maximum of three and a half minutes.
Fiat CODE II immobiliser:
The new model is fitted as standard with a Fiat CODE II immobiliser that changes the access code each time the car is started. In some countries, the Fiat CODE II allows drivers to claim more favourable terms when insuring their cars against theft.
The device prevents the engine from being started without the car’s original key. The key grip contains a transponder, i.e. a transmitter containing an electronic code that sends out a secret code to authorise start-up when interrogated by the electronic control unit. The code is not fixed but changes each time the car is started.
The code is also transmitted in encrypted form by means of a secret algorithm (offering billions of combinations). The control unit reads the code by means of a coaxial aerial housed around the ignition key.
This system offers a maximum level of security. The secret code never appears in uncoded form to any employee in the factory or at the key manufacturer, and the decrypting algorithm is not resident in any of the components installed on the car (i.e. it cannot be copied). In the case of malfunction, it is designed to operate using an emergency program that uses the accelerator pedal to transmit a special code entered on the CODE Card and known only to the owner.
Central locking/electric windows:
The New Panda remote control has an action radius up to 20 metres and operates the locks on all the doors and the tailgate. The doors lock automatically once your speed exceeds 20km/h; anyone inside the car can always get out using the handles.
But while you are standing at traffic lights, anyone who is up to no good is shut out and cannot open the boot. You can always let your friends on board by pressing the central door unlocking key on the door armrest. The front windows are electrically-operated.
Additional convenience/comfort features:
Heated rear windscreen
Rear window wiper
8-speaker sound system with CD front loader
Cup holders (x3)
Leather gear lever knob
Front fog lamps
14-inch alloy wheels
CD changer and amplifier
Peace of Mind
Enhancing the ownership prospect, the New Fiat Panda has 20 000 km service intervals, and enjoys full after-sales support in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory and the back-up of trained technicians at Fiat dealerships countrywide.
Fiat Auto South Africa offers Fiat owners a 24-month Manufacturer Warranty, unlimited mileage and an additional 12-month Dealer Extended Warranty or up to 100 000km in total, three years on paintwork and five years on rust anti-perforation.
The new models are covered by the AA Fleetcare roadside assistance for 12 months. The service is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is available by calling the dedicated toll-free number 0800 223 727.
New Fiat Panda 4×4 – R 124,000 (Trekking) and R139,000 (Climbing) (incl VAT)
New Fiat Panda – R 95,900 (incl VAT)