Fiat’s little Panda big on character

The Fiat Panda makes an appealing used-buy runabout, according to Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

Engines – The Panda's modest dimensions accommodate a small selection of equally modest petrol and diesel engines. For many, the former will be fine, delivering punchy, yet refined, performance. Diesel is for those who will rack up the miles – an unlikely feat in what will really be a town car for many.

Exterior – The Panda's upright stance is a modern interpretation of its predecessor's boxy looks and the resulting lofty seating position will be welcomed by drivers. Taller than it is long – at least, that's the impression it gives – the Panda's hatchback layout ensures that it's a practical car.

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Interior – The Panda's cabin is full of plastics but the good news is that the materials chosen are durable and attractive in equal measure. Size-wise the Panda is a supermini, which means plenty of space up front and a little less in the back – adults will easily be able to tolerate short journeys in the back, however.

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Driving – An easy-to-drive car, the Panda offers buyers a lofty seating position, willing engines and controls and displays that are easy to use and read respectively. Its small footprint makes parking straightforward, while good visibility fore and aft will be a plus for occupants of all sizes.

Ownership – For its size the Panda is a surprisingly accommodating car. The cabin offers plenty of room up front, just enough in the rear and a good level of storage space. Irrespective of engine choice running costs should be low, and it's not something that will take up too much space outside your house.

What to look for – With many Pandas used as urban runabouts it's important to check for the inevitable parking dents and scratches. Kerbed wheels are another issue, as any damage could be hiding more serious suspension or steering problems. A comprehensive service history is a must, as is a thorough test-drive to ensure there are no surprises.

Model history – 2004, Fiat launches modern-day interpretation of its popular Panda. This high-rise five-door hatchback offers low running costs, a selection of frugal petrol and diesel engines plus a good-size cabin. It's easy to drive and equipment levels are modest in keeping with the car's low cost appeal.

Reasons to buy – Easy to drive and park in town, frugal engines, low running costs, looks, versatility, affordability.

Reasons to beware – Lots of plastics in the cabin, no ball of fire on the road, tall stance encourages body roll in the corners.

Pick of the range – Panda 1.2 Dynamic with air-conditioning.

What to pay – 2004 04 �2,625; 2005 05 �2,975; 2006 06 �3,325; 2007 07 �3,700; 2008 08 �4,250; 2009 09 �5,000; 2010 10 �5,625; 2011 11 �6,275. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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