What's it about?
Reviewing different cars requires a certain level of objectivity, but sometimes it's really difficult to separate the rational from the emotional. Like having that second scoop of Sinnful's Yummy or taking on the Fiat Panda 100 hp - you know you should stop, but do you really want to?
My attachment to the hot Panda grew to such an extent that it was even blessed with its own nickname. And for one whole week, Beertjie was my favoured companion.
This devilish Panda is the model series' range topper and forgoes the mediocre 1.1 and 1.2-litre units found in its siblings in favour of a 1.4-litre sourced from the Grande Punto range.
Of course, in the Panda's teeny-tiny body, this translates to a thrill factor bar none. Having this much fun with a Panda really should not be allowed.
However, the Italian maestros at Fiat have done a great job of delivering the ultimate little big car.
100 HP#39;s features list is extensive and it comes with height adjustable driver's seat, a steering wheel adjustable for angle, auto lights, tailgate operation and door locking, steering wheel mounted controls, power windows (at the front), power mirrors, trip computer, MP3 compatible audio system and three cupholders to top it all.
From the outside, 100 HP (the metric 74 kW doesn't sound half as cool) is unlike any Panda you've ever seen. It sports some diffusers at the front and rear, killer tints posing as privacy windows, foglamps, chromed tailpipes and fat 15-inch low profiles.
Ergonomically, the Panda is superb with its MPV-like gearshift placed high on drop of the console commanding the most attention. All other controls are staged around it in an arc of dials and buttons to ensure the 100 HP's compact cabin remains largely uncluttered.
The one button that could have been more prominent though is that governing the "sport" function...
Under the bonnet
One punch instantly unleashes the demon within the Panda, which responds with meatier steering inputs and sharper throttle response.
The car is equipped with a 1.4-litre powerplant that produces a claimed 74 kW at 6 000 r/min and peak torque of 131 Nm at 4 250 r/min.
This means you essentially have to rev the Panda senseless to extract any real performance from it, but it never seems to tire. There's something altogether exhilarating about hearing the trill of the little engine and feeling the power come on tap from 3 000 r/min.
Fuel consumption is fair - we averaged 8.4 l/100 km over the test period - and the 35-litre fuel tank necessitated a few stops at the filling station.
Drive is to the front wheels via a short-shifting six-speed manual gearbox. This wouldn't make too much sense at first, but the shorter gearing on the Panda, which gives it a truly sporty character off the line, also makes it a rather uncomfortable "cruiser" and the taller sixth helps to even things out.
100 HP rides on a McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension combination that should give it some flexibility, but it is lower by 25mm and rather firmly sprung and this may not be to everyone's taste. It tends to jar when going over rough sections, but the high rooflining could offer some a respite from having heads bashed.
Unfortunately, the Panda has been gifted with a rather unfortunate body shape that translates to it not being the most aerodynamic car around. But you would never guess it from the cabin. This car tackles straights and twisties with equal gusto, it's pudgy 15-inchers grasping at the blacktop for all they're worth (and rather convincingly too).
Driving the 100 HP is reminiscent of piloting my first "real" set of wheels - a pink tricycle complete with handle bar-mounted basket. It looked super and when I pedaled really fast and trundled over the adults' feet and slammed into doors, it put a silly grin on my face. The Panda 100 HP is the "big girl" equivalent to that pink tricycle.
It's so much fun, it's even easy to overlook its imperfect bits. The gearshifts could be slicker, the side mirrors and pedals could be a bit larger, and there was an occasional squeak from the front passenger seat squab, but you've got to love a car with this much character.
So much personality in such a little car
Good value performance buy
The "sport" button
Ride quality too firm for some