This is Fiat’s new 2012 Panda – incredibly, only the third generation of Panda in the range’s 31-year history. Not that buyers seem to mind the glacial rate of progress: Fiat has sold 6.5m Pandas over the past three decades.
The new 2012 Panda squeezes more space into the compact footprint; it’s 3650mm long, 1640mm wide and 1550mm high – enough, says Fiat, for five passengers and the biggest boot in segment.
New Fiat Panda (2012): the new wardrobe
You won't mistake this for anything other than a Panda: that distinctive third side window cuts a dash and those swollen wheelarches are a Panda trademark.
The interior of the new Panda is more versatile than ever, with a sliding rear seat and a front backrest that flops into a table for picnics on the go. There are cubby holes galore, clever thin seat backs to boost knee room and the ability to use the entire length of the cabin to carry lanky items.
The engineering of the new Panda
Underpinning the 2012 Panda is an evolution of Fiat's small car architecture. Up front are MacPherson struts, while the rear axle deploys the familiar torsion beam suspension.
The engines are familiar fare from the Fiat empire: the TwinAir two-cylinder petrol engine will be available in 64bhp 0.9 Aspirated TwinAir form and 84bhp 0.9 TwinAir Turbo guise.
Other four-cylinder choices include the 68bhp 1.2 FIRE petrol and 74bhp 1.3 Multijet diesel. Stop-start and gearchange advisory messages will be available too, as is Fiat's Dualogic robotised manual transmission.
Fiat Panda: gadgets and gizmos
Safety is provided by four airbags, anti-lock, pre-tensioner seatbelts and daytime running lamps, while an auto-brake function that will pull an emergency stop at up to 20mph around town is coming. A giant glass sunroof dubbed Skydome is optional, while all Pandas come with switchable electric power steering that maintains the finger-light City mode if you like to spin the wheel on your little finger.
Production of the new Fiat Panda kicks off in winter 2011. It'll be built at the upgraded Giambattista Vico factory in Naples. Fiat makes great play of the fact that the plant now uses 603 state-of-the-art robots to improve the build quality of the new Panda.