Fiat Panda (2011-2020)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

5dr citycar (0.9, 1.2 petrol / 1.3 MultiJet diesel [Pop, Lounge, Mirror, 4x4, Cross, Cross 4x4])


In third generation form, Fiat’s Panda aimed to be all the car some buyers would ever need. It’s larger where it matters, yet still small enough for its urban purpose. It’s pretty efficient, yet can offer surprising reserves of performance. And you can head off road in one – or specify a version that’s super-affordable. The Italians have always done this kind of thing very well. They still do.

The History

What do you think has been the most influential – the most important – automotive design since the turn of the century? A sports car perhaps? Or an MPV or SUV? Certainly something expensive. We reckon not. Our personal pick would be this car: the humble Fiat Panda.

So what makes this model so extraordinary? Well let us explain it like this. Almost every car you can think of on the market can be pigeonholed into a specific market segment. And even if it can’t be, it’s likely to appeal to a very specific group of customers. The Panda’s different. Though sized and priced as a little city car, it’s so versatile and class-less that it can really function as…. well, almost anything you want. Depending on the flavour you choose, it’s a design as suited to city living as it is to the needs of a mountaintop farmer. It can be an SUV – or eco-conscious transport for Friends of the Earth. It can be a second vehicle for older empty-nesters. Or the sole car for a rural family. Less a citycar. More an ‘essential’ car, it is, in the words of one top Fiat executive ‘the official car for doing whatever the hell you like’.

This is the Italian brand at its very best. The MK1 version was launched in 1980, the MK2 design dates back to 2003 and the MK3 version we’re going to look at here was launched in 2011. An aggressive looking version of the top 4x4 variant, the Panda Cross 4x4, was launched in 2014 and the looks of that derivative were so well received that Fiat launched a much cheaper 2WD Panda Cross model with the base 1.2-litre engine in 2017. This MK3 Panda was updated in 2020 with mild hybrid power. But it’s the MK3 2011-2019 models we’re going to look at here.

What You Get

There’s was something of a feeling of tiny MPV about the previous pre-2011-era MK2 generation version of this car. There still is in this MK3 form. It remains a tall car, with a vertical tail, a five-door-only shape and a large glass area. At the wheel, you perch high-up in the kind of position you’d expect a miniature People Carrier to provide, complete with brilliant all-round visibility that makes even this slightly larger MK3 model easy to place in the tightest city streets. The high-mounted gear lever is nicely positioned, the switchgear and stalk controls function with a quality click and the mouse-shaped handbrake lever is a lovely tactile touch.

As for rear seat passenger space, well thanks to slim seats, it’s perfectly adequate for a couple of fully-sized adults. Storage out back is taken care of by a 225-litre boot that’s significantly bigger than that of the MK2 design.

What To Look For

The Panda has earned a decent reliability record, helped in no small part by its reliable engines. Many will have been used as driving school cars, so check for slipping clutches. We’ve come across other issues with trim rattles (the driver’s door handle has been known to easily break) and problems with the heating and ventilation system. Check for upholstery damage caused by child seats in the back, typical supermarket dents and scrapes, DPF filters on the diesel cars and ensure all the electrical functions work as advertised as these can be expensive to fix. The Panda isn't bad on consumables like brake pads and most people should be able to park it without nerfing the extremities. The Dualogic auto gearbox can be temperamental.

On The Road

Most MK3 Pandas you’ll come across will be fitted with the brand’s 69bhp 1.2-litre 8v petrol unit. This may be an older engine but it’s still a willing and free-revving one with performance (0-60mph in 14.2s on the way to 102mph) that’ll be quite sufficient for most buyers. But shouldn’t a car that thinks outside the box have an engine designed to do just the same? Fiat thinks so. Which is why the version of this car we’d recommend is the innovative petrol TwinAir variant. This has an engine with just two cylinders, to our mind, the kind of thing likely to generate about as much power as the average sit-on lawnmower. Yet in this turbocharged version, there are eighty five braked horses on tap, sufficient if you rev the thing pretty hard, to see sixty blow by in around eleven seconds on the way to an academic maximum of 110mph, thanks to 145Nm of torque.

Fiat also made a 75bhp 1.3-litre Multijet 16v diesel variant, which on paper matches the TwinAir’s frugality but in day-to-day reality, probably betters it. And with 190Nm of torque, it feels faster through the gears than the performance figures (sixty in 12.8s on the way to 104mph) might suggest. This diesel unit tends to feature on the Panda 4x4 models, though these can also be found with the TwinAir petrol unit too. They’re remarkably capable off road, provided you don’t expect too much.


Loved by small car people the world over for more than thirty years, the Panda continues to define everything that a very compact multi-purpose model should be. A few other rivals may be a little cheaper, more refined or slightly trendier but few push the boundaries of design quite like this Fiat. Panda people think differently thanks to a car that lets them do just that. It’s got tough competition on the used market these days, no question. But in a growing segment full of talented offerings, it’s a key contender you just can’t help liking.