By Mike Torpey on 2021-02-27 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Fiat Panda 1.0 City
IT'S more by coincidence than design that Fiat's urban crossover model shares its name with one of the world's most popular animals.
Then again, if ever there was a car that warranted being described as cute, or even cuddly, it's the Panda.
Value for money seekers have plenty of choice these days when it comes to the Panda, with variants like the Cross, Life, Sport, 4x4 and our City Cross Launch Edition model up for grabs, prices starting from £10,580.
This is a range of cars that has certainly stood the test of time, with a new Panda due during 2021 to mark the line-up's 40 anniversary.
The Panda City Cross is designed for people looking for a practical city car with an off-road look at an affordable price.
And if something that stands out from the crowd, which this car most definitely does, is part of the remit then the City Cross has to be on anyone's shortlist.
Okay, there's a hint of the blown-up toy car made of a dozen snap-together plastic parts. But rather than be a criticism this look really works and adds to the Panda's charm.
Particularly attractive are the stylish and low front bumper, the off-road style side mouldings, the 15-inch alloy wheels and the contrasting black door roof bars and door handles.
That ritzy design continues on the inside too courtesy of the body-coloured fascia surround - in our case a pale Dew Green that actually looks more like a sky blue - the ripple-effect speakers, airy front cabin and two-tone seats.
There's also a smartphone cradle on top of the dashboard for added connectivity via Fiat's UConnect app.
As for space, it's a tight squeeze for three rear passengers yet while the boot looks tiny it's surprising how much clobber you can accommodate. We were gobsmacked by the amount of pre-Christmas junk the little Fiat ferried to recycling.
A strong selling point of the latest Panda is its hybrid powertrain, a 1.0-litre petrol engine assisted by a 12V battery.
There's nothing heavy duty here, it's a mild hybrid giving only a small amount of assistance, but the benefit is fuel consumption just north of 50 miles per gallon and even more economic on a long, steady run.
The amount of punch from the three-cylinder engine is more popgun than knockout at just 70bhp so don't expect much in the way of performance.
Nonetheless, outright wallop isn't something high on the priority list for buyers of city cars, the lion's share of the City Cross's work being in town and the suburbs.
Comfortable and enjoyable to drive, except in strong winds when the car's light weight makes it feel unsettled, the Panda rides well and offers good all-round visibility due to its prominent driving position and slightly raised ground clearance.
Fiat Panda 1.0 City Cross Hybrid
Mechanical: 70bhp, 999cc 3-cyl turbo petrol engine driving front wheels via six-speed manual transmission
Max Speed: 96mph
0-62mph: 14.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 50.4
Insurance Group: 6
C02 emissions: 126g/km
Bik rating: 30%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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