This year, Fiat celebrates forty years of an Italian go-anywhere icon – the Panda. A cult hero that has spawned many much-loved variants and special editions, Panda has sold 284,000 units across the UK since it was first unveiled in 1980.
When the best-selling single in the UK was Don’t Stand So Close To Me by The Police, the world was gripped by the Rubik’s Cube and everyone found out who really shot JR, Fiat launched an all-new three-door, five-seat hatchback called Panda. Penned by design genius Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign, the Panda sat on a brand new front-wheel drive platform with styling cues of robustness and utilitarianism.
Inside saw a simplistic dashboard and seats resembling hammocks attached to metal frames, bringing the exterior feelings of robustness inside, whilst its ethos was to be easy to maintain and inexpensive to own and run.
The name Panda was a late decision and was in honour of Empanda, the Roman goddess and patroness of travellers.
At launch the Panda range consisted of a single 4-cylinder, 903cc, 45hp engine, with a four-speed manual gearbox in one standard trim level. When it went on sale in the UK the following year, it was priced at £2,860.
2003 saw the return of Dirty Den to British television screens and the return of the second edition Panda to the Fiat range. Unveiled in February 2003, Panda was originally destined to be named Gingo, however, ahead of European sales beginning, it was renamed to Panda.
In 2005, the much-loved 4×4 version of the first generation returned to the range mated to the 1.2 60hp engine. It received unique bumpers, roof rails, thick bodyside mouldings that blended into the wheelarch extensions and increased ground clearance.
Production of the second generation Panda ended in January 2012 to make way for the third generation model having sold 78,713 units in its eight years on sale in the UK.
The third generation of Panda went on sale in February 2012, priced from £8,900. The all-new five-door hatchback sat between the 500 and Punto and is underpinned by an updated version of the same Fiat Mini platform. With a similar silhouette as its predecessor, the third generation Panda had an altogether more rounded look, dominated by ‘squircles’.
At launch, the Panda range consisted of 1.2-litre 69hp and 0.9-litre TwinAir 85hp petrol engines, with a 75hp 1.3 MultiJet diesel option. All received manual transmissions as standard, but a Dualogic sequential transmission was available with TwinAir models.
The newest entrant to the Panda line-up is the Panda Hybrid, launched in early 2020. Receiving a 1.0 70hp engine, combined with a 12-volt Belt-integrated Starter Generator (BSG), the Panda Hybrid offers 49.6mpg and 89g/km of CO2 emissions.