This is Fiat’s third-generation Panda, which goes on UK sale in February 2012. Fiat has buffed up internal quality and features over the outgoing cars, and plumbed in the TwinAir two-cylinder turbo engine, which was the edition we drove. This being a city car and us being CAR magazine, we perversely took the Panda as far from its natural habitat as possible, flogging it down an autos trade at 100mph, before flinging it through hairpins en route to a Dolomite remedy.
Blasting along Italy’s A22 at a ridiculous 90-100mph, in a game of v-max chicken comfortably won by the man from the Daily Telegraph, proved a revelation. The Panda’s primary ride is excellent: thanks to its long-travel suspension, the body flows up and down genteelly over crests, and tarmac noise and deflections are suppressed adequately. I was struck by the air of civility: the cabin is quiet enough to have a conversation, even at such speed. Yes, wind noise rises noticeably above 75mph due to the Panda’s trademark bluff front end and massive side mirrors, and there's always the bustle of the TwinAir burbling away at 4000revs at 95mph, but the cabin feels a high-quality, sophisticated environment – not a phrase that automatically springs to mind with a Fiat.