Just like architecture, the car has to move with the times. And nothing is more ‘in 2020’ than hybridisation. Even in the A segment, the ambivalent drive is advancing. Not a brand new model at the forefront, but the old, trusted Fiat Panda. Should the Hyundai i10 be concerned?
On average, a car generation is in the showrooms for about seven years and then makes way for a successor. This is not always the case and for some new generations you may wonder whether it is not just a continuation of the previous model, but as a rule of thumb it is reasonably correct. The Fiat Panda is the exception that confirms the rule: nine years on the market and a successor is not yet in sight. In fact, Fiat simply decides to largely replace the existing engines with a new generation of powertrains. ‘Hybrid’ is proud of the Panda, which makes one of the old-timers one of the first in this segment with dual drive. With that, the Italians seem to have a trump card in this segment, with which the Panda can perhaps surpass the much younger and widely acclaimed Hyundai i10. Incidentally, Fiat does it with the name Hybrid a bit nicer than it actually is. From a technical point of view, it is a so-called mild hybrid and the emphasis is especially on the word ‘mild’. Not surprising, given that a full hybrid would entail costs that would quickly put a car out of the market, especially in the A-segment. That is why Fiat keeps it nice and simple. In fact, a first look at the specifications of the Panda almost evokes nostalgic feelings. A 1.0-liter three-cylinder with a single overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder and indirect petrol injection doesn’t exactly sound like the forefront of new technology. Unlike some other mild hybrids, the Panda also works without a 48-volt on-board power supply; 12 volts is sufficient for a car of this size and weight, according to Fiat. The car does have an extra battery under the driver’s seat to store braking energy and use it again when accelerating. This is done by means of the starter motor, which is attached to the three-cylinder with a belt. Officially the specifications of that starter motor are not known, but it will not be much more than a handful of horsepower and 15 Nm. Not very impressive in itself, but that extra push can be used almost from idle speed and on a total of 70 hp and 92 Nm it saves quite a bit in percentage terms.