There will be those amongst you who will immediately dismiss the Fiat Panda 100HP, simply because it ‘only has 100bhp’. Well, that’s your loss … this car has enough character to make up for that shortfall.
Small Engine, Big Fun
Under the bonnet of the 100HP is a naturally aspirated 1.4-litre 16-valve engine – no turbo here, despite the fashion for such things these days. The engine is a corker and provides a good part of the Panda’s fun-factor. It’s a free-revving little thing and almost seems to be egging you on to the red-line in each gear – I’m sure the Panda has masochistic tendencies as it seems to enjoy being thrashed. Even when bouncing off the rev limiter the engine remains smoother than you might expect from such a cheap car.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much fun if the Panda was a big lardy barge and thankfully that’s not the case. With a surprisingly low kerb weight of 975kg the Panda achieves 102bhp/ton. The low weight and nicely judged ratios in the six-speed manual gearbox help the Panda achieve 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds and it will eventually reach a 115mph maximum, despite the boxy shape.
Compared to the standard Panda, the 100HP benefits from a wider track and lower, firmer suspension that gives it more stability through the corners while its wider tyres give it bags of grip. Because the power is delivered progressively, rather than in one fat turbo-assisted slug, you can get back onto the throttle early when coming out of corners without forcing the Panda’s nose wide. You can keep up a surprising pace when you really want to.
Push The Button
I haven’t mentioned the Sport button yet. In a standard Panda this would be the ‘City’ button that makes the power steering lighter, but in the 100HP it does the opposite – it gives the steering more weight and also sharpens up the throttle response. It’s clever, but to be honest it’s a slightly pointless feature as it becomes second nature to hit the button as soon as you start the engine. Fiat could really just set the Panda permanently to ‘Sport’ mode and do away with the button.
Cheap And Cheerful
When it comes to price the Panda 100HP is something of a bargain. Costing just £10,400 it represents great value for money and is in a tiny section of the market all on its own. It has very little competition that can combine this level of performance with such a low price, probably the closest being the Suzuki Swift.
Standard kit includes climate control, electric front windows, tinted rear windows, Bluetooth, computer, electric/heated mirrors, while ABS and EBD are included. Everything on the outside is colour coded or chrome trimmed, while you get a chunky body-kit, rear spoiler and 15-inch alloys. Despite the boxy shape the Panda 100HP is a smart looking car.
It’s also cheap to insure (group 11) and road tax isn’t too bad in band G. Then there’s the fuel economy, which for me stayed in the mid 30’s, with over 40mpg easily achievable if you’re not on full-throttle attack all the time.
It Can’t Be All Good, Can It?
The Panda 100HP isn’t completely without fault. The ride quality leaves a bit to be desired and the rear suspension in particular can get upset by bumpy roads. If you’re not in the mood then it can get a little tiresome, but most of the time you learn to live with it. The seating position could also be improved as you sit quite high, and in faster corners it can feel like you’re clinging on to the steering wheel for support.
And while I said it doesn’t matter about the lack of power, you will find yourself wanting more. I’m sure the chassis could cope with more power, but then the resulting price hike would push it into competition with some more serious rivals. Really this is more of a ‘warm hatch’ with decent, rather than blistering, levels of performance. It makes a good starting point into the world of the hot hatch.
A Great Little Car
The Panda 100HP is great fun, faster than you might think, cheap to buy and cheap to run. It does a lot of things right, and if you’re the sort of person who appreciates that more power does not necessarily make a car more ‘fun’ then you’ll love the Panda 100HP – a cracking little ‘warm’ hatchback.
Fiat Panda 100HP Specifications
|Engine||4-cylinder, 16-valve, front-mounted|
|Max Power||100 bhp|
|Max Torque||97 lb/ft|
|Max Speed||115 mph|
|Price (Feb ’09)||£10,400|
Fiat Panda 100HP Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Not quick but eager engine loves to be thrashed||8|
|HANDLING||Light and nible, chassis easily unsettled||6|
|AFFORDABILITY||Cheap to buy and run||9|
|DESIRABILITY||Panda won’t win awards for lustworthiness||6|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||Frisky engine and nimble chassis give 100HP plenty of character||8|