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Old 04-01-2007   #1
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Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Fiat Panda Hatchback 1.4 100HP 5dr

Test date 30 December 2006 Price when new £9,995

Fiat Panda Hatchback 1.4 100HP 5dr

What is it?

Itís the new Fiat Panda 100hp, and there arenít enough cars like it in the world. At risk of sounding like a miserable old duffer, mainstream cars are typically nowhere near as much fun as they used to be. That theyíre stronger, safer and more refined is beyond question. Itís just that theyíve lost much of their excitement along the way. So the arrival of the Panda 100hp is rather refreshing, because itís a wee bundle of fun.
Whatís it like?

Great to look at, we think. The wheels are where they should be, right bang in the corners; the body skirts and wheelarches are flared just-so; the cheeky wee chrome tailpipe, false diffuser and (real) rear spoiler are jolly without being oversized.

And the same goes for the alloys. Fifteen-inch wheels are small by todayís standards Ė even Corsas come with nothing diddier Ė but here they add just the right poise; helped no end by a 25mm suspension drop. Itís not aggressive Ė this is a Fiat Panda, after all, so itís more Pirates of the Caribbean than Apocalypse Now. The autofication of swashbuckling nonsense.

With the ride height reduction comes 25 per cent stiffer springs and dampers and a thicker front roll bar (there isnít a rear one). The bump stops are polymer rather than rubber and come into play sooner. Rear disc brakes are from the Panda 4x4, ventilated front discs come from the new Punto, as does the engine. The 1.4-litre FIRE unit here develops 99bhp (100PS), up by 5bhp over its Punto application.

The interior is rather more standard. Front seats are well bolstered, but although Fiat claims the grey trim looks sportier than usual and the steering wheelís leather-clad, itís the gearknobís six indicated speeds and the discreet Sport button (of which more later) that are the only obvious indications this is anything other than a regular Fiat Panda. Which, actually, makes it reminiscently like a junior hot-hatch of old: fun comes from driving, not from velour headlining.

And, to a point, thatís what this car is about. The Panda 100hp is a genuinely lively car to punt along. All of its major controls are light and the rideís just the right side of acceptable. True, itís a little jittery on bad roads and, because of its compact size, speed bumps tend to unsettle both front and rear at the same time, but theyíre small prices to pay to get a car thatís so willing to change direction.

The Panda 100hp is enthusiastic and eager; it ducks into turns with less roll than youíd expect and the front tyres, 195/45 GoodYear Eagles, hang on gamely. When itís wet, as it was for most of our test, even the Pandaís modes 99bhp will make them scrabble out of second gear corners, but grip levels are generally very high. Stay neutral on the throttle and eventually the Panda will understeer and, though thereís limited throttle adjustability, thereís also ESP too and it canít be switched off, so this is a car you steer with the wheel, rather than using deft footwork to tighten a line.

Which brings us neatly to this carís biggest downside. The Pandaís electrically assisted power steering is short on feel and the level of assistance is variable, so it lacks proper, linear response. The Sport button I mentioned earlier does what it can to help here. Itís the antithesis of the regular Pandaís City button, so instead of providing lighter, more manageable steering, it lessens assistance by 20 per cent. Which is about 80 per cent too little, in truth, but itís welcome to the extent that youíd probably just leave it on. It also sharpens throttle response below 3000rpm, but not by a great deal. And given the engine revs to 7000rpm, youíll hardly notice if youíre driving enthusiastically.

Fiatís figures say the Panda will reach 62mph from rest in 9.5 sec and go on to 115mph, both of which sound ambitious to me. Our test car revved towards the red line with less enthusiasm than Iíd expected, but then, it had only covered 1500 miles, so might loosen into the junior hot-hatch the claims suggest it is. The gearbox gets the best from it. The shift is sweet; short of throw and accurate of shift.
Should I buy one?

There are plenty of reasons to. And if it hasnít already made a decent case for itself, consider that it comes very well equipped (electric windows, air-con, CD player), returns 40-plus mpg, is insurance group five and costs £9995. Sounds like a winner to us.
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Old 05-01-2007   #2
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

From my two test drives I agree with all of the above.

Still waiting for mine to be delivered! Four weeks so far and counting.

Dealer tells me that the transport company has let them down - this combined with the festive holidays has caused the delay. Was told I'd get it in December when I ordered it.

So my wee bundle of fun is sitting in a yard or on a transporter as I type. Hey ho, I guess I'll just continue to get my kicks from the GTV until it arrives.
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Old 05-01-2007   #3
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by hpScot View Post

So my wee bundle of fun is sitting in a yard or on a transporter as I type. :
Me too - I'm in the same boat!

Hopefully both should arrive soon and then the fun will begin
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Old 05-01-2007   #4
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by simer View Post
Me too - I'm in the same boat!

Hopefully both should arrive soon and then the fun will begin
I'll keep you posted on delivery mate - trying to get cars transported up the M6/M74 to Scotland is like getting through the Khiber Pass (not sure of spelling) whilst being attacked by bandits.
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Old 10-01-2007   #5
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Well guess what? When I decided to use a bit sarcasm with the dealer this morning by asking him to confirm if I did indeed order a car from him 5 weeks ago he tells me that my car came off the transporter this morning.

Taking delivery on Friday afternoon - so hopefully if it passes my stringent pre-delivery quality inspection ok, I'll try to have a bit of fun with it at the weekend.

Now, where is that red brake caliper paint?
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Last edited by hpScot; 10-01-2007 at 14:09.
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Old 10-01-2007   #6
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

My 100 apparently arrived in the docks before Xmas and was scheduled for delivery at the dealer by yesterday at the latest - needless to say it missed that deadline.

Now computer say by Friday.

The garage seem to be trying to move it along but it is getting frustrating.

Maybe I'll get it at the weekend but I'm not holding my breath.
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Old 10-01-2007   #7
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by simer View Post
The garage seem to be trying to move it along but it is getting frustrating.

Maybe I'll get it at the weekend but I'm not holding my breath.
Ah, feel the anticipation...
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Old 10-01-2007   #8
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

sounds like you boys will get yours before mine, 31st of this month is when i get mine, let me know how you get on with it, man its killin me, iv just got the new evo mag its worth a read
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Old 10-01-2007   #9
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by robbie100hp View Post
sounds like you boys will get yours before mine, 31st of this month is when i get mine, let me know how you get on with it, man its killin me, iv just got the new evo mag its worth a read
If you haven't already try visiting the site 'Schwenck' posted up -
www.100hp.co.uk - lots of good pics and video clips in there.

Certainly helped me get through the wait.
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Last edited by hpScot; 10-01-2007 at 19:20.
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Old 10-01-2007   #10
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by hpScot View Post
If you haven't already try visiting the site 'Schwenck' posted up -
www.100hp.co.uk - lots of good pics and video clips in there.
Thanks for the info - good site Schwenck
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Old 10-01-2007   #11
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by simer View Post
Thanks for the info - good site Schwenck
Thanks Simer; a man's got to have a hobby...

Sadly, my missus has just booked a cringingly expensive holiday for her (ah-em) "big birthday" so the 100HP is out of reach until at least the summer. You lads will have miles of fun by then!
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Old 12-01-2007   #12
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Well, that's SC56 GPY safely delivered home from the dealer to my driveway - really should put her in the garage but I don't think the GTV would take kindly to that (probably the airflow meter would go the first time I used it).

First impressions?

Think I'm going to have a lot of fun with this wee car.

My FIAT history is a mark 1 Punto Sporting, a Bravo HLX and a Bravo HGT - all from new. And I have to say that none of them seemed as well put together as the HP - so congratulations to the Poles - FIAT seem to have moved on a pace since my HGT.

Drove home without the Sport mode activated as I wanted to be able to compare the difference, if any at this early stage. I like the position and short shift nature of the six speed box - I will enjoy working it me thinks, and despite travelling in high winds on exposed roads it seemed well planted with good feedback to steering wheel through the thick rubber.

Brakes are probably a bit over servoed but I will get used to that - better than the Brembo's on the GTV.

Glad I went for the grey - looks really good in the metal. And the darkened rear windows and give it a bit of class. Can't even see the dealer's sticker....but it will still be the next thing to be removed tomorrow morning.

Just wish it was a summer's evening to allow for a wee country drive - but hey.....summer not far away.

Right..... where is that owner's manual?
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Old 12-01-2007   #13
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by hpScot View Post
...wee...wee...
That's two wees; you must be excited! Looking forward to your photos; cherish the new baby and drive safe (but quickly)
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Old 13-01-2007   #14
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

point taken mate.

I did manage to get in a 'wee' drive last night on the pretext of going round to the filling station to fill up the tank from the 1/4 tank given to me by the dealer to get me off the forecourt.

Did an outward 5 miles on dual carriageway/twisty A road with 'Sport' button on and return leg on same stretch of road with 'Sport' off.

Now I know it could be wishful thinking, but I'm sure I noticed the car being more eager and responsive on the outward leg. I realise it's early days but I think this 'Sport' setting is more than just sales hype. I was definately able to offer cars behind a 'clean pair of heals' on the outward leg.

Good thing about 100 bhp on panda as opposed to the 220 bhp on the GTV is that you can really chuck her into the corners whilst keeping the power on. Unlike the GTV which even though it has been lowered and has the sports shocks I always feel the need to lift off to some degree.

Only possible negative comment so far......wing mirrors seem a bit small - but hey, I hope everything that appears in them in the open road will seem small too, so no problem.
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Old 13-01-2007   #15
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Re: Autocar likes it - the 100HP a wee bundle of fun!

Quote Originally Posted by hpScot View Post
Only possible negative comment so far......wing mirrors seem a bit small - but hey, I hope everything that appears in them in the open road will seem small too, so no problem.
Top drawer statement matey! I'm green with envy
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