Get ready to em­brace the Panda

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By NEIL DOWLING

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

Fiat-Chrysler opens with a 500 for about $16,000 next month be­fore open­ing more boxes with other 500 de­riv­a­tives and then, in De­cem­ber, the four-door Panda and then the Punto.

Panda, a sta­ble­mate Fiat city car in Europe, makes its first ap­pear­ance in Aus­tralia de­spite be­ing avail­able in se­lected mar­kets— in­clud­ing theUK— for about 30 years.

Now in its third gen­er­a­tion, the Panda will com­pete with sim­i­lar baby SUVs — in­clud­ing Ford’s Fi­estabased EcoSport re­viewed last week — and is ex­pected to sell for less than $20,000.

Fiat Alfa Romeo spokes- woman Karla Leach won’t con­firm pric­ing but says ‘‘it will be com­pet­i­tive’’.

There’s also no con­fir­ma­tion on en­gines though Leach says there’ll be a ‘‘wide range’’ of pow­er­plants, and five-speed man­ual and the au­to­matic Dua­logic robo­tised trans­mis­sion.

It will ar­rive as a fron­twheel drive though an all­wheel drive ver­sion is be­ing con­sid­ered for launch later.

Avail­able pow­er­plants are the 63kW/145Nm 0.9-litre twocylin­der TwinAir engine bor­rowed from the 500, the 51kW/ 102Nm 1.2-litre petrol four and a diesel, likely the small 55kW/190Nm 1.3-litre unit.

The Panda is 3650mm long and sits on a 2300mm wheel­base, smaller than the EcoSport’s 3999mm length and 2521mm wheel­base.

But cabin room seats five at a pinch and cargo space is a rel­a­tively gen­er­ous 260 litres to 870 litres with seats that fold flat to take ob­jects up to 2m long.

Leach also con­firmed the Punto would be added to the Aus­tralian in­ven­tory.

The Punto four-door hatch­back goes up against Ja­panese favourites the Mazda2 and Toy­ota Yaris and would cost about $18,000.

Fiat has pre­vi­ously said the 132kW/272Nm hot Punto, the three-door Abarth Punto Evo Su­pers­port, may be con­sid­ered as 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 20 other equally as vo­ra­cious light-car man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The Pop will un­der­cut the price of the ex­ist­ing Fiat 500 TwinAir Plus, which sells here for $18,800.

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