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DURBAN, KwaZulu-Natal – Downsizing is a contentious term in the motoring arena. Developing smaller engines and utilising forced-induction to extract more power has been at the forefront of manufacturers' attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

However, recent reports coming out of Europe suggest that there may be a reversal of the trend as the current real-world fuel consumption figures of these smaller mills is somewhat higher than those achievable with larger engines.

Yet, there I was traversing KZN’s motorways always near the speed limit in a car that boasted just two cylinders fed by a little turbo, and displacing under 1,0-litre. Not once did the revised Fiat Panda fail to keep up with the flow of traffic, not even at the national speed limit; all the while emitting a novel soundtrack from its engine bay.

Refreshed and facelifted

Fiat South Africa has been launching new models with regularity this past year (along with the Giulia from sister brand Alfa Romeo), including the Fullback bakkie and Tipo. And, when you factor in the Panda, introduced this week, there is now a Fiat model for just about every buyer.

The revised Panda has the same compact proportions as before, with short overhangs front and rear making it ideal for crowded cities. Quirkiness abounds throughout the exterior and inside as well.

Range extension

On the occasion of the revised model’s launch, Fiat SA took the opportunity to expand the Panda range to four offerings. The A-segment contender essentially comes in two flavours: front-wheel drive and new four-wheel drive options.

There are two trim levels with each drivetrain variant. Easy and Lounge are the two options for two-wheel-drive models, with the all-wheel-drive derivatives labelled 4x4 and Cross (look out for a driving impression of the latter in the October issue of CAR magazine). All-wheel-drive versions boast different bumpers and roof rails along with extra cladding and decals along the flanks to help set them apart.

Funky interior

The cabin features a "rounded square" graphic for many of the trim items, such as the audio controls and gear shifter. Thankfully the “square” steering wheel has been replaced by a more traditional circular item with a flattened bottom.

Other changes to the interior include a new design and fabric type for the seats. The majority of plastics feel hard and are obviously made to a budget. The door cards have a textured surface on the upper edge and when you look really closely you’ll notice tiny P-A-N-D-A letters scattered in a geometric pattern.

Get connected

Fiat hasn’t bothered fitting a full-colour, large screen infotainment system; instead, the firm has developed an app, called Panda UConnect, that is available (for Android and iOS) on all except the entry-level Easy derivative.

UConnect features Bluetooth audio streaming, a dash-mounted USB charging point as well as voice recognition. Highlights of the app include a "find my car" feature as well as offering the ability to remotely check your fuel range or find the nearest Fiat dealer.

On the move

As mentioned above, all models are powered by the firm’s award-winning turbocharged parallel twin in two power levels. Front-wheel-drive variants boast five-speed manual transmissions and the all-wheel-drives are six-speeders.

The latter option offers a shorter first gear to make it more capable off-road. All bar the Cross boast 63 kW of peak power, with the range-topping variant gaining an additional 3 kW. Maximum torque is rated at 145 N.m from a lowly 1 900 r/min.

These figures may not seem like much, but they are more than adequate in a car that is suited to and, will in all likelihood, spend the majority of its life in the urban jungle.

Comfy enough

On the open road, the Panda displays decent ride quality, despite a relatively short wheelbase. Those plump tyres no doubt help create a ride quality that is more than acceptable for a car that runs on a torsion beam rear suspension set-up.

Not even rutted dirt tracks or pockmarked tar could upset the Panda’s composure. All in all, I’d rate the ride quality good for a city car. The slightly raised ride height was welcome on the dirt roads we used.

Summary

Fiat is constantly fighting an uphill battle when it comes to new car sales. Not only is the market as a whole taking strain, but the Italian automaker is trying to overcome issues relating to poor after-sales and poor resale values.

To help alleviate some of the burden of escalating new car prices, Fiat SA offers something it calls The Big Deal. This is an incentive plan to remove old vehicles from use and get buyers into new Fiat products. Customers will be offered up to a maximum of R40 000 by the dealership on receipt of a scrapping certificate for their old vehicle.

When you take into account the new Panda pricing, it means you can get into a brand new car for just about R150 000, and there are some pretty questionable rivals at that price point that the Panda easily trumps.
Cute Little Run Around

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 4
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Optional
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front
  • Central locking: remote
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Electric windows: front
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: rear
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 881 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 5
  • Gearshift: manual
  • Transmission type: manual
  • Front tyres: 175/65 R14
  • Reartyres: 175/65 R14
  • Length: 3653 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1643-1882 mm
  • Height: 1551 mm
  • Wheel base: 2300 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 9.3 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 225-870 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 870 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 975 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 37l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 5.0 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 3.8 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 4.2 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 99g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: EU 6
  • Power maximum: 63 kW
  • Power maximum total: 63 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5500 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 65 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 145 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1900 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 145 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 149.0 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 11.2s
  • Maximum top speed: 177 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 875 cc
  • Engine size: 0.9l
  • enginedetailshort: 0.9T
  • Engine + detail: 0.9 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 2
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i2
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 8
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 3
  • Warranty distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 3
  • Service plan time (distance): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Fiat
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 20011210
  • MMVariant: PANDA 900T LOUNGE
  • MMintrodat: 2017-05-01
  • Introdate: 2017-08-04
  • DuoportarecordID: FiatPand2e6

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Fiat Panda 0.9 TwinAir Lounge for sale in Port Elizabeth from one of Carmag.co.za's apporoved car dealerships
Used Panda 0.9 TwinAir Lounge availbale from the following auto dealer:
Tavcor Commercial used car dealership located in: Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa

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