Ital­ians Panda to masses

Fiat is bring­ing mul­ti­ple mod­els to our show­rooms

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - NEIL DOWLING neil.dowling@cars­guide.com.au

A ZOO of Fi­ats— start­ing with a cut-price 500 and cute Panda — is be­ing crated in to join Aus­tralia’s small-car jun­gle.

Fiat-Chrysler opens with a 500 for about $16,000 next month be­fore bring­ing in fur­ther 500 de­riv­a­tives, to be fol­lowed in De­cem­ber by the four-door Panda (right), then the Punto.

The Panda, a city car in Europe, makes its first ap­pear­ance in Aus­tralia— it has been a sta­ple in Europe and Bri­tain for about 30 years.

The third gen­er­a­tion Panda will com­pete with sim­i­lar baby SUVs, in­clud­ing Ford’s Fi­estabased EcoSport, and is ex­pected to sell for less than $20,000.

Fiat Alfa Romeo spokes­woman Karla Leach won’t con­firm pric­ing but says ‘‘ it will be com­pet­i­tive’’. There’s no con­fir­ma­tion on engine choices though she says ‘‘ there will be a wide range’’ of pow­er­plants, backed by fivespeed man­ual and the auto Dua­logic robo­tised trans­mis­sion.

The Panda will ar­rive as a front-wheel-drive though an all-wheel-drive ver­sion is be­ing con­sid­ered for launch later.

Engine op­tions are likely to be the 900cc two-cylin­der TwinAir engine (63kW/ 145Nm) bor­rowed from the 500, a 1.2-litre petrol four (51kW/102Nm) and a 1.3-litre diesel (55kW/190Nm).

Marginally smaller than the EcoSport, the Panda is 3.7m long and wheel­base is 2.3m. The cabin is roomy, seat­ing five at a pinch, and cargo space is a rel­a­tively gen­er­ous 260 litres (870L with seats that fold flat to take ob­jects up to 2m long).

The Punto four-door hatch goes up against Ja­panese favourites Mazda2 and Toy­ota Yaris and is tipped to be about $18,000. Fiat has pre­vi­ously said the hot three-door Abarth Punto Evo Su­pers­port (132kW/ 272Nm) may be a halo model.

Mean­while the 500’s en­trylevel model, the Pop, gets here early next month with a price that com­petes with the Volk­swa­gen Up ($14,990) and a score of other light-car ri­vals. The Pop will un­der­cut the $18,800 tag of the ex­ist­ing Fiat 500 TwinAir Plus.

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