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Driven: Fiat Panda City Cross Hybrid. Image by Fiat.

Driven: Fiat Panda City Cross Hybrid
The electric running gear doesn’t bring a lot to the party, but the Panda’s weirdly likeable nonetheless.


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Fiat Panda City Cross Hybrid Launch Edition

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Good points: you get a 'top-spec' Fiat Panda for less than £15,000

Not so good: this is hardly cutting-edge electrified motoring, in any way, shape or form

Key Facts

Model tested: Fiat Panda City Cross Hybrid Launch Edition
Price: Panda City Cross Hybrid Launch Edition from £14,730
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol with 12-volt mild-hybrid electrical system incorporating 3.6kW belt-integrated starter-generator and 11Ah lithium-ion battery
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door MHEV lifestyle city car
CO2 emissions: 89g/km (VED Band 76-90: £110 in year one, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 49.6mpg
Top speed: 96mph
0-62mph: 14.7 seconds
Power: 70hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 92Nm at 3,500rpm
Boot space: 225-870 litres

Our view:

Arriving on test a week after the underwhelming Fiat 500 Hybrid and similarly following on from our international first drive of this very same car last year, this review of the Panda will be necessarily brief. There's no need for us to go over the aesthetics and technical make-up of the car; click on the link to the Panda Hybrid's test in Bologna above for an overview of the vehicle.

It's more a piece to try and determine whether the Panda Hybrid is, like the 500 Hybrid, less convincing back on home turf and taking in the grey drudgery of the A43, than it was ambling around the fringes of an Italian city in some lovely, early autumnal Mediterranean sunshine. And the answer is... yes, it is less convincing. But, oddly enough, not nearly as disappointing as its petrol-electric stablemate was for 400 miles of driving in the UK.

The Panda, you see, is one of those cars that can get away with a lot of misdemeanours, simply through its cheeky demeanour. As a City Cross model like this, there's a sort of 'faux' off-roader nature to it that gives it tall, soft and supple suspension, so while it's comically roly-poly in the corners and not the sort of car you want to hustle down a B-road (as it's also incredibly slow, even if you rinse it through the first three gears of the six-speed 'box), it is surprisingly comfortable and composed on motorways. Admittedly, its high, flat sides can mean the Panda is buffeted about a bit more in crosswinds than some rivals, although it's nowhere near as bad as the worst car we've ever had for this sort of thing, which was... no, not the Suzuki Jimny, but in fact the Vauxhall Crossland X. All in all, it performs perfectly OK on the motorways and perfectly OK on A-roads and perfectly OK on quiet country lanes and perfectly OK when buzzing around town. As long as you don't need any notable straight-line performance, that is. At least the triple makes an appealingly rorty noise as it is, er, accelerating slowly through the mph.

Efficiency is also good, the high and un-aerodynamic shape apparently not hurting fuel consumption. In fact, the Panda outperformed its smoother 500 relation, turning in 53.6mpg overall and a best of 55mpg across 307 miles of very similar driving to the 500 Hybrid (which recorded test comparables of 51.4mpg and 53.1mpg). But, just like the 500, we're not entirely sure what the extremely modest hybrid system brings to the party here, that the 1.0-litre Firefly three-cylinder engine couldn't achieve all on its own. The Panda Hybrid has the same daft coasting system that needs the car in neutral and the driver to be off the clutch pedal in order for it to operate, and even then it'll only do it at about sub-9mph. It has the same charge energy meter as the 500, which rarely ever gets more than half-full, and for 25 miles of one drive back to base from the Midlands, the little white battery-filled-with-arrows icon that flashes up in the Panda's cluster to indicate kinetic-energy harvesting is ongoing went completely AWOL from the action, to the point we assumed the Hybrid's electrical system had plainly given up the ghost.

It did eventually return but we can't say we noticed any difference between the way the Fiat drove with this facet both functional and out of order. About the only interesting hybrid-related thing the Panda did was to have a display which lets you know how much otherwise-lost energy you've recuperated across your mileage - in our case, it was allegedly 2.06kWh across the 307.4 miles in our care. Which is roughly enough power to boil a kettle 21 times. Or, represented in a different metric, about one cup of tea for every 14.64 miles driven. Whoop-de-do.

But with its simplistic, Squircle-riddled interior, complete with the noble Seaqual seats in the front (made from recycled plastics recovered from land and sea), and its set-square form on the outside, the Panda gets away with this extra-mild-cheddar electrical performance with a dash of brio that the 500 Hybrid can't match. This is mainly because there's not a Panda Electric in its own line-up to make this Hybrid model look so obviously like the half-baked attempt at electrification it clearly is. Or, put another way that's perhaps not so gracious, as the Hybrid is the only drivetrain you can get in a Panda City Cross body, this is pretty much a Hobson's choice. And we suppose it beats walking.


Dacia Sandero Stepway: about the only other cheap-and-cheerful hatchback that has a pretence of off-roadery-ness about it, the Stepway is due for replacement soon with a swish (relatively speaking) new model inbound.

Suzuki Ignis: the world's first micro-SUV, according to Suzuki, has been refreshed recently and can be had with a similar mild-hybrid system to the Fiat's, only based on a 1.2-litre engine rather than a single-litre triple.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid: it's a bit more expensive than the Fiat Panda but the new Yaris is a part-electric supermini done to a far higher, more enjoyable standard than the Italian car. And a lifestyle model called the Cross is on the way, too.

Matt Robinson - 23 Oct 2020    - Fiat road tests
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- Panda images

2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.

2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.2020 Fiat Panda Hybrid Launch Edition UK test. Image by Fiat.


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