Practically Simple, Classically Capable
When the Fiat Panda hit the showrooms in 1980, it was compared by designer Giorgetto Guigaro to a pair of jeans – practical and simple. Actually, it was more than that. The Panda was a cheap, straightforward car that was easy to maintain. It was built to take on the 2CV and the Renault 4, for people who wouldn’t normally have been able to afford a car – just like Alec Issigonis did with the seminal Mini three decades before and Henry Ford did forty years before that.
History of the Fiat Panda 4×4
A European Car of the Year award in 1981 put the Panda on the map and Guigaro went a stage further in his description of the car; ‘I tried to bring into this car the spirit of military machinery, especially helicopters, that means light, rational built-for-purpose vehicles’.
Since launch, Fiat has sold over 11 million Pandas. The first iteration, now known as the ‘old Panda’ survived with very few changes and in 2003 the ‘nuova Panda’ was launched, giving Fiat their second European Car of the Year award a year later. The third generation which was first seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011 is being built at the Pomigliano d’Arco factory in Naples where the brilliant but doomed Alfa Romeo Alfasud was made in the 70s and 80s amidst the furore of corporate and government bickering.
The first 4×4 Panda hit the showrooms in 1983 and they sold six and a half million of them – decent sales figures for an idea that was mooted as ‘odd’. Trying to cram a heavy 4×4 system into a supermini was always going to be a tough ask but cram it in they did and it was an instant hit.
It was originally conceived to deal with Alpine snow and it does deal with it, however it isn’t a Range Rover or a Jeep. It’s a small city car with really very good off-road credentials and for what was essentially marketed originally as a small, lightweight, cheap runabout, it proved to be an accomplished city car that packed a few big surprises on difficult terrain.
There’s something else about the Fiat Panda that not many other cars have, and that’s ‘lovability’. Unlike the hundreds of other cheap Euroboxes you can buy today, the Panda has the ability to warm our hearts. The original Mini does it, so does the Beetle but very few other cars do. Perhaps it’s the name – Panda – that evokes cutesy images of Ming Ming eating bamboo in London Zoo or the viral ‘sneezing panda’ clip on YouTube that has 220m views. It may be the very fact that they were so cheap to buy, cheap to insure and cheap to fix.
Whatever the reason, at some stage in our lives we have all had some exposure to a Panda – and this more than anything makes it one of the most recognisable cars on our streets today.