By on August 30, 2011

Meet the new Fiat Panda, which is set to debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The ur-Panda, nicknamed the “tolle kiste” (crazy/cool box) for its Giugiaro-designed looks and available Puch-designed 4×4 system, was built with only evolutionary changes from 1980 to 2003. Not a bad accomplishment for what was supposed to be a “peasant’s car.” The new (3rd Gen) Panda, based on the Fiat 500/Ford Ka platform, has an even tougher task ahead of it: not only must it pick up sales for Fiat in Europe, but it must also form the basis of Dodge and Jeep B-segment models, aimed at the US market. Is it up to the task?

Given its immediate predecessor’s reputation for driving delight, a Dodge-branded hot hatch should be within reach. But a Jeep-branded 4×4? Martin Schwoerer reckoned the previous Panda 4×4 could “compete with a Land Rover off-road,” but then European and American versions of “off-road” can be very different. Making a Jeep of this latest Panda could be a challenge, as nobody wants a “Sad Panda” repeat of the first-gen Compass.

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23 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: A Panda For Every Purse And Purpose Edition...”

  • avatar

    Lancia Ypsilon, Fiat Panda, Fiat 500 and Ford Ka are A-segment cars and are based on the same platform – Fiat Mini Platform.

    Opel Corsa, Fiat Punto, Alfa Romeo Mito and Fiat Linea are B-segment cars and are based on the same platform – GM Gamma/Fiat Small Platform.

  • avatar

    The Panda would make a fine Dodge. Jeep is better off maintaining a solid “All-American” pedigree. To me, the Compass/Patriot fiasco shows that there really isn’t that much demand for a soft-roader with a Jeep badge on it.

  • avatar

    Agree that it’d be a nice Dodge…but why not simply sell it alongside the 500 and just keep the Fiat emblem on it? Or am I missing something?

    • 0 avatar

      Makes sense, but it seems like Fiat is being positioned a little higher than Dodge (especially on a $$$ per pound ratio) — more like VW. They should just skip ahead 10 years and make Fiat their bread and butter brand here now. That will have to happen eventually if Fiat wants to challenge Ford and Chevrolet in every market.

    • 0 avatar

      but why not simply sell it alongside the 500 and just keep the Fiat emblem on it?

      My guess is that is what will happen if the 500 is successful enough to show that the Fiat marque has US potential.

      They won’t want to commit to this now if the 500 turns out to be a flop. And there is probably a corporate politics element as well, as it becomes more apparent to the Americans within the company that the Chrysler bailout was really intended to serve as Fiat’s expansion plan.

  • avatar

    Ford and Fiat share a platform?

  • avatar

    They were conducting high-altitude testing of this vehicle on Independence Pass and Mount Evans in Colorado last week when I was there. The cars had a bunch of camouflage on them but there were several Fiat 500s amidst them.

  • avatar

    So, this is pretty much the next size down from the Sedici/Suzuki SX-4, right? And how well is the SX-4 selling, again?

  • avatar

    @EN: “it’s the but it must also form the basis of Dodge and Jeep B-segment models…” Yes, I could see this as a Dodge, maybe the reincarnation of the Hornet from several years back. Not so much a Jeep, though.

  • avatar

    I think the Panda above is really tacky & ugly looking. It reminds me of KIA 5 years ago.

  • avatar

    Fiat Brazil has extended the Panda platform for the new Palio, which will be almost as large as the current Punto, and a new crossover for emerging countries. If they use this extended platform it should be possible for them to make a small crossover for USA.

  • avatar

    will they sell it with 1.4 multifart and for $19K+
    or with 1.6+l and for under $16K?
    that’s what gonna make or break this car.
    in the latter scenario i would be inclined to test drive it against Elantra Touring. but i am guessing they will take the former route.

  • avatar

    I’m a bit disappointed with the redesign. The beauty has always been in Giugiaro’s form follows function styling.

    It looks as if the high water mark for the model may have been the Panda 100HP (Google it). I would have loved to get even a rebadged Dodge version of that car.

  • avatar

    I’ve racked up quite a few miles in a stripper version of the current Panda and, aside from the tortured squeals of the rim-protector tires, it’s great fun on winding roads, and also able to hold its own on the autostrade. It will also carry a lot of stuff and has good head and legroom for such a small car, and a tall greenhouse with good visibility all around.

  • avatar

    I drive a first-gen xB, so I appreciate a roomy car in a small package. But I don’t think this car will sell well outside of the coasts. A car that’s engineered for European roads, fuel prices, and tastes isn’t ready for prime time in the majority of the US. With the Caliber on the chopping block, I think Chrysler/Fiat needs focus on replacing their c-segment ride before turning their attention to the new and unproven A and B segment US markets. Having the 500 is a good start for a halo car in the sub-compact segment.

    My friend outright hates city cars (his article here: I can see some of his points, but I’m all for more choices.

    • 0 avatar

      I tend to disagree. And here’s why, as gas prices go up over time, cars like the 500 and the Panda will become more viable options for many – especially if they live in cities where space is at a premium and as more and more fit into less space, cars like it will become more prevalent than they are now.

      That said, city cars as defined in Japan are made to a stringent set of rules/regulations with a a limited displacement allowed, at one time (1960’s-70’s) it was 360CC or therabouts, now I think it’s 600CC or so and they are also limited in their size requirements too and thus are only made for city roads pretty much, though one could take them on short spurts on the highway if necessary, but they are NOT built for such use generally.

      In Europe, the regulations are a bit more lax so they CAN have a bit larger motors/displacements but still are not really meant for highway use other than for short stints.

      The 500, and thus the Panda if it comes stateside will be modified so it CAN do well on the highway as here, we DO travel on the highway for long distances and often our only car is cars like the 500 so it’s been beefed up to be able to be our only car and can do highway duty fairly well.

      I’ve done highway duty over long distances in a 1983 Honda Civic and in an 88 Honda Accord and both did very well going down I-5 at speeds over 65mph for the most of the trip.

      So small cars if designed well enough, can serve well in these situations.

      • 0 avatar

        I actually like the idea of kei class cars in Japan (600cc in displacement or below) and I could see them working in dense metropolitan areas. On the other hand, once population is dense enough in an area, I’d much prefer to have advanced public transit. I just came back from a trip to Mexico City where the metro comes every minute or so, and will take you anywhere in the city for 3 pesos (~ $0.25) *and* is 10x faster than their gridlocked streets.

        I remember James May said he really liked this car too.

    • 0 avatar

      The issue isn’t with city cars so much as this idea of exurbanization. The British (and more specifically Europeans) along with the Japanese live inside of vast wonderful urban complexes. The majority of the US population does as well but our definition of “urban” is far more loose and counts vast regions of suburbia and exurbia. Exurbia is the newest expansion zone and frankly the Fiat 500 is well suited for them but to travel anywhere you need to take major highways thus putting your tiny car against tractor trailers and whatever arms race in size is left on the roads.

      I love the 2nd gen xB because I am a dwarf amongst giants but when we go to Costco I still can squeeze more stuff in than the Explorer. The Panda makes perfect sense since small CUV/Tall Wagons are the in-thing and if the Panda can creep into xB/RAV-4 range they’ll sell fairly well.

  • avatar

    Judging by how well the Fiat is selling with such a small dealer base currently (some 3000+ in since late spring) says this car isn’t doing too badly and since it’s based on the Panda, I think the Panda may well be sell better being it’ll probably come in a bit less since it’s never been thought of as a niche car like the 500 and is all function over style, though the 2003 iteration was definitely attractive in its own way.

    That said, the current iteration has been around outside of a mild refresh in 2008, it’s essentially the SAME car since its debut in 2003 so a major redesign was INDEED in order here.

    From what I’ve seen of the new Panda, I like its looks.

    BTW, have ANYONE seen the Fifth Gear episode where the little yellow Panda went up against a gray Land Rover? If not, you should, it’s available in at least in part on YouTube.

    That little Italian car held it’s own in the quarry where they did the shoot out.

    I was rather impressed at what the Panda 4×4 could do. It’s a pretty serious offroader for its size and class to be honest.

    After posting my comment, went back and looked at the photos again, love the rounded square look that’s going on. The layout of the dash looks very similar to the current model, but with a more aggressive look without going overboard like many of the current pickups currently sold here in the US. It’s an evolution, albeit a BIG evolution of the current model in looks while it appears to have been updated quite a bit.

    I liked that it once came with the 100HP 1.4 motor (sans multiAir in Europe) for a sprightly performance in the FWD configuration, sadly it’s been discontinued for the current model year though.

    But I bet fitted with the 900cc TwinAir, it’ll be as fun.

    • 0 avatar

      there’s another Fifth Gear test of the Panda on youtube…..a Panda 100 vs a Ferrari F430 on a go-kart track.

      Top Gear magazine tested the Panda 4X4 against the Audi Allroad and Range Rover Sport in the Alps (icy backroads in the winter, not off road) and it came in second place behind the Audi.

      Love these little cars!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I would hope that Fiat sends us the Spyder that way the sports car niche within Fiat/Chrysler is covered and the Miata has a competitor.

  • avatar

    That dashboard is gorgeous.

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