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Old 22-01-2007   #1
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Panda 100, Clarksons view

Ever since the first sporting cars were produced more than a century ago, there has existed a perception that fun is directly proportional to power and price. But then, just occasionally, a car like this Fiat Panda 100HP comes along and turns that on its head.
It costs less than £10,000 and, as its name suggests, has just 100bhp, yet I spent a few days bowling about southeast Wales in one and can name any number of allegedly sporting cars with more than twice the power and price that would have been less than half as much fun.

This car represents Fiat at its brilliant best. Indeed, it seems to me that, for this embattled marque at least, the relationship between power, price and fun is inversely proportional. Even a basic Panda is clearly conceived and smartly executed, but by the time you work your way up through the model ranges and reach the heady heights of the Croma, you start to wonder if you wouldn’t really be better off on the bus.

None of this should surprise you. Despite its insistence on building large and undesirable cars, Fiat is actually in its element when building cars like this. Its genius for small car construction can be traced back before the war to the original Topolino. The Nuova 500 that replaced it was a cleverer, cuter piece of design than the original Mini and even the more modern Pandas and Cinquecentos have been charming and effective.

The Panda 100HP is all this and more. Fiat has figured out that even a 100bhp engine will still provide decent performance if installed in a car weighing less than a ton. True, few people are likely to get overexcited by a 0-62mph time of 9.5sec and a top speed of 115mph, but if that were all there is to this tale, you’d never be reading about it here.

Its real magic lies elsewhere. For a start it looks terrific with its pugnacious stance on its fat alloy wheels, pushed-out wheelarches and chunky front and rear bumpers. The cabin looks funky and if you look down at the gearlever, you’ll find it has six forward speeds — in a car costing £9,995. What you won’t be able to see is that the suspension has been reworked to make the car feel like no Panda before and that the brakes have been uprated to cope.

The result is a car that may not be quick on paper but, out on the road where it matters, is startlingly rapid point to point. On a certain sort of narrow B-road, its diminutive dimensions mean you can travel at speeds you’d not hope to match in a Bugatti Veyron. Because it is light it not only has absurd levels of grip, it is also extremely agile, changing direction like an escaping POW dodging machinegun fire.

Best of all, because it is small, noisy and endlessly enthusiastic, it also conspires to feel much faster than it is, making it a car that can be enjoyed to the full without putting your licence on the line. I absolutely loved it.

Whether I could live with it is another matter. The driving position for a tall driver like me is pretty dreadful — you feel perched on the car with the steering wheel uncomfortably far away — there’s precious little room in the back or boot and long journeys are inevitably compromised by high noise levels in the cabin and the rollerskate ride.

But these cars will be bought by the young, and the young don’t even know what ride and refinement are and won’t be in the least bit bothered by their absence.

Yet this is not the Fiat I’m most excited about. True to the Fiat form book, the one I’m really looking forward to is even smaller, cheaper and less powerful than this. Later this year Fiat will launch its new 500, a direct descendant of the Topolino. In concept form it looks beautiful — true to, but not tied to, its roots — and easy even now to visualise in the crowded piazzas of Milan and Turin.

If it’s as good to drive as it is to look at, it could be a landmark in small car design. We’ll know for sure in September.

From the pen of Jeremy Clarkson... !!
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Old 22-01-2007   #2
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Fiat, take note... do not balls up the new 500 by selling out to the sad fashion concious who want you to make a retro crap car akin to the BMW Mini and VW Golf/Beetle thing! Make it a no frills fun to drive car like the 500 was.
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Old 23-01-2007   #3
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Quote Quote:
The result is a car that may not be quick on paper but, out on the road where it matters, is startlingly rapid point to point. On a certain sort of narrow B-road, its diminutive dimensions mean you can travel at speeds you’d not hope to match in a Bugatti Veyron. Because it is light it not only has absurd levels of grip, it is also extremely agile, changing direction like an escaping POW dodging machinegun fire.
Even if you don't own the 100HP, the normal Panda is just the same! And boy, it's sooooooo true...

Gooooooooooooooooo FIAT! Gooooooooooooooooooooooo Panda!!!
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Old 23-01-2007   #4
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

When is the Fiat Group going to rationalise it's products? Fiat should build small cars, Alfa should build sporty cars and Lancia should build luxury cars. This is plain to see but Fiat don't seem to get it...
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Old 23-01-2007   #5
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

you mean, chop out anything bigger than a GP?
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Old 23-01-2007   #6
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Nice article I read that in Sunday Times. Was in the 'In Gear' section.

It wasn't by Clarkson though, was by a bloke called Andrew Frankel.
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Old 23-01-2007   #7
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Quote Originally Posted by Vin View Post
Nice article I read that in Sunday Times. Was in the 'In Gear' section.

It wasn't by Clarkson though, was by a bloke called Andrew Frankel.
I only copied and pasted As I thought it would be of interest.

Steve, just one ammendment. Lancia should make the Sporty/Rally cars. and Alfa the luxury.
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Old 23-01-2007   #8
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Jai, exactly, nothing bigger than a small hatch.

Stu, I have to disagree. Alfa have a longer and more illustrious sporting heritage than Lancia. Cuore Sportivo.
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Old 23-01-2007   #9
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

FIAT - small hot hatches
ALFA Romeo - sports coupes & saloons (although FIAT coupe is a classic)
Lancia - rally cars (Integrale)

IMHO
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Old 25-01-2007   #10
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Quote Originally Posted by Steve View Post
Jai, exactly, nothing bigger than a small hatch.

Stu, I have to disagree. Alfa have a longer and more illustrious sporting heritage than Lancia. Cuore Sportivo.
Lancia are the most successful rally car brand ever, have had F1 car, 24 hour lemans cars etc etc etc etc etc.
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Old 25-01-2007   #11
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

I think the point here is that both Lancia and ALFA Romeo have fine sporting heritage - Lancia in terms of rallying and ALFA Romeo for the race track.
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Old 25-01-2007   #12
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Alfa is a Sporting brand. Lancia had rallying success with the Delta, but at the end of the day it was a homologated 5 door family hatchback. That's not knocking Lancia, the Delta was and is a fine car, but it's no Alfa.
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Old 25-01-2007   #13
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

I want to have a go in one of these little beasts! Ive read loads of reports off other forums of people testing them - all have been excellent

Nice one FIAT!
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Old 25-01-2007   #14
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Quote Originally Posted by Steve View Post
Alfa is a Sporting brand. Lancia had rallying success with the Delta, but at the end of the day it was a homologated 5 door family hatchback. That's not knocking Lancia, the Delta was and is a fine car, but it's no Alfa.
I agree with you that Alfa is a sporting brand, but i think you should give Lancia a bit more credit, they are after all the company with most titles. They have been very successful in rallying with other cars than the Delta, just think of the Stratos, Beta Montecarlo, 037 and Fulvia.

I personally think that Alfa should be the sports brand and Lancia the luxury brand.
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Old 26-01-2007   #15
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Re: Panda 100, Clarksons view

Alfas GP success (and I don't mean F1) was in the 1930's through to the 50's when the racing team was run by a certain Mr Ferrari. Most of Alfas wins after this were with touring style car's, cars that in normal road use were classed as luxury cars. 2600 Bertone, Gulietta, GTV, 155, 156.

Lancia (who are older than Alfa, 1906, 1910) never had a luxury side when it came to racing. They also went GP racing with the D50, a car they gave to Ferrari when they went into financial trouble. They then went into sports car racing and eventually into rallying with the Flavia, Fulvia, Stratos, Beta, and so on.

Alfa have always been in the luxury market, were everytime Lancia has a go they fail just like Fiat. Thema, Gamma, Flaminia, Croma "Old". All good cars but couldn't cut it in the luxury markets.

That's why my thinking is that Alfa should go the Luxury route and let Lancia do what they do best. Rallying/Sports. Name the next Fiat Coupe a Lancia.

Incidently Steve Lancia has more Sports wins to their name than Alfa.
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Last edited by Stuartl; 26-01-2007 at 01:17.
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