The third generation of Fiat's five-door Panda has been launched in South Africa with claims of more space, comfort, functionality, technology and safety.Although still a very compact car, Fiat says, the Panda has grown a few centimetres to 3.65m long, 1,64m wide and 1.55m tall but "can comfortably accommodate five people and has one of the most spacious boots in its segment at 225 litres".That, the automaker adds, grows to 260 litres with the sliding rear seat fully forward and 870 litres with the rear seats folded.At launch, the 2013 Panda is available with the same 51kW 1.2 Fire petrol engine and two trim levels - Pop and Lounge - seven body colours, three interior trim combinations and 14" steel or 15" alloy rims.New features include an optional “Blue&Me TomTom LIVE” that combines the advantages of an infotainment system with portable satnav.LOOKING BACKThe Panda has had a remarkable history: it was Car of the Year in 2004, the first compact with a diesel engine (1986) and the first to offer all-wheel drive (1983) and a range of eco-friendly engines designed to limit fuel consumption (the Panda Elettra was introduced in 1990, one of the first electric carsIt was also the first 4x4 city car to reach Everest's base camp at an altitude of 5200m (2004). All that since the first Panda was shown at the 1980 Geneva auto show; it took only four years for a million to be on road. This the latest model, Fiat says, "set out to create true sentimental value between car and user" by "brimming with personality and value".The cars' rounded exterior promises a drag co-efficient down to 0.32, "one of the best in the competitive segment".The rear light-clusters, we're told, have been arranged higher up to reduce the possibility of car-park damage; those at the front continue down the wings "to give the exterior an additional three-dimensional effect". The new cabin facia has been designed as a multipurpose shell containing a roomy storage pocket as well as a glove box and the whole has been wrapped in a colourful frame.The front seats (with anti-whiplash) can travel through 210mm with vertical adjustment maxing at 60mm (Lounge model). Putting the gearshifter on the facia freed more front legroom. The cabin, Fiat promises, has 14 storage compartments. STANDARD GOODSFour airbags are standard along with anti-lock brakes, emergency braking assistance, belt pre-tensioners and electronic stability control and child-seat anchors. The 51kW/102Nm 1.2 EVO II engine is the latest evolution of the popular FIRE family and claims 5.2 litres. Transmission is five-speed manual.Aircon is fitted to the Lounge model and the Blue&Me system includes voice-controlled, hands-free cellphone comms for five phones and can accommodate MP3, WMA, AAC and WAV formats, recorded on digital audio players and/or USB devices.All of the above, Fiat says, has resulted in a car "that represents the passion, design and building ability of a brand born over a century ago"The new Fiat Panda is available from 36 Fiat dealers across South Africa and comes with a three-year or 100 000km full maintenance plan and warranty.The new Fiat Panda pricing starts at R139 990 for the Pop version and R154 990 for the Lounge, including VAT and CO2 tax.