We drove the Fiat Panda Sport: your agile and stylish City Car…

The stylish Panda in its proper place: before the premises of the Royal Golf Club du Zoute…

If there is a type of car where the know how of car builder Fiat truly excels, then it is the compact city car. Indeed, both the iconic 500 and the endearing Panda are undisputed leaders in the segment A. Deservedly so. This Panda Sport with its 1 litre three cylinder FireFly engine coupled to a Belt Generator Starter motor is a very clever hybrid, which, driven with intelligence, puts down some pretty astonishing consumption figures.

It is also masterfully equipped, comfortable both in city driving as well as on long stretches, being a very entertaining and pleasing all-rounder which we were sorry to part with, and that alone says a lot…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The most interesting part of this good looking Sport version of the in 2020 revamped Panda is its style and equipment. Our test car was sprayed in a very elegant matte grey, actually called unsurprisingly “Matte Grey.“ It is shod with elegant 16 inch “Sport” alloys with black and red accents.

If that was not enough, our test car came with the Pandemonio Pack, an hommage to the 100 HP Panda which saw the light of day in 2006. Red brake calipers, dark tinted rear windows, a technoleather steering wheel with red stitching are the most important hallmarks of this Pack.

In the interior, the stylish approach continues. The dashboard has a titanium finish, the door panels are executed in so-called eco leather, one finds a black roof lining and new grey coloured seats, which are surprisingly comfortable for hours on end.

Infotainment is also well cared for. The 7” touchscreen with digital DAB is configured for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and you can place your smartphone in a handy slot right behind the touchscreen so the integration is also very practical indeed.

A drivetrain built for intelligent drivers

The Panda harbours some very intelligent technology. First of all there is the state-of-the-art 1 litre 7O HP three cylinder engine of the FireFly family, which is vibrationless, flexible and will – if called for – rev with beautiful staccato to its 6500 rpm redline. But this is not how this Panda should be driven of course when you want to achieve those wonderful consumption figures.

The engine works in pair with a BSG electric motor (Belt Integrated Starter Generator), which recuperates the kinetic energy when you lift the throttle or brake, and charges the 11 Ah lithium battery. The motor has a power of 3,7 Kw, and uses the available battery power to restart the engine in the start-stop system and assist the engine when accelerating.

The fact that the engine is assisted when picking up speed allows also the selection of higher gears at slow urban speeds, and that is where the cleverness of the system really comes into play. You can potter along at the legal 30 km/h in third gear, and when you drive on boulevards at a constant speeds of 50 km/h, fifth gear is suggested by the eco assistant. When more pulling power is required, the engine is helped by the electric motor to climb in revs and speed. Soon you learn to estimate correctly the deceleration caused by the generator when lifting the throttle and you recuperate the kinetic energy fully, hardly braking at all. The six speed manual gearbox is also a delight to use.

The instrument cmuster between rev counter and speedometer indicates consumption (averaging still the results of previous testers) and the state of charge of the battery as well as the petrol gauge…

You understand that this results in some astonishing consumption figures. In urban driving, we managed to stay around 5 litres/100 km, in all smoothness and comfort. The manufacturer quotes 5,5 litres/100 km as average consumption. CO2 emissions according to the WLTP cycle are quoted as 121 g/km. As said, 70 HP is developed at 6000 rpm, and when you rev the engine fully in the gears, the sprint from 0 to 100 is absolved in 14,4 seconds. Top speed is a very creditable 164 km/h.

Comfortable and practical

Where else: the Panda at the Place m’as tu vu in Knokke…

The suspension of the Panda is very comfortable indeed, and urban pavés and tram ridges are taken are taken very well. Also on the open road, the Panda remains very comfortable with excellent straight line stability. Roadholding is everything it should be, and you can steer the Panda with confidence through the worst weather and slippery roads.

The four doors prove immensely practical and take the pain out of having a compact car. There is even adequate luggage space, 225 litres of it, and of course the rear seats can be folded back for more room, up to 870 litres.

Conclusion

A very endearing, compact all rounder, which showed during this test all its very good qualities. The hybrid system makes a lot of sense when you approach and use it cleverly, providing also the smoothness and comfort in urban driving, besides chalking up these impressive consumption figures.

The Panda is also surprisingly comfortable, making it also a car fit for long trips on Europe’s motorways. It is also surefooted and stable.

Add the four doors, the adequate head- and legroom as well as boot space, and you understand that the Panda scores very high in the A segment, and will continue to do so for years to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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