Driving 800 miles in a full Fiat Panda 100hp...
In August, my family and I went for a relaxing week away in the sun, but we decided to change it up a little...
Ahh, holidays, they're just wonderful. Whether it's the sitting in the sun you like or the delicious-but-overpriced ice cream. For me, it's always the journey that makes me quiver with excitement. This year, we had Newlyn in Cornwall booked for late August, Coronavirus stirred up the pot a little, but it was still going to go ahead.
Normally, for the longer journeys, we have our 1.5 litre, diesel Renault Scenic. It's very brown, and manages to munch the miles nicely. Also on the drive, we have a car for those exciting moments - a Fiat Panda 100hp, easily identified by the cheeky 100hp stripe and fat exhaust. One day, my dad, who was probably slightly drunk, brought up a joke stating we should take the Panda on holiday for a change. I laughed, but then the thought got to my head...
RIP Timmy the Toyota (left) - now with its new owner :(
You may be thinking, come on, can't be that difficult, surely? Well, we needed the car to accommodate 4 people, a dog, 2 bikes, and a tonne of luggage and food. It would be a huge ask for the tiny Italian motor-car. The idea developed slowly...
There was a bit of a family row over which car to take, so I popped the question to the wonderful world of Twitter. You can see where this is going, can't you?
Yep, the people voted for our supposed misery, so we crazily went for the Fiat. We bought and fitted roof bars for the bikes, loaded the car with our junk, and climbed aboard breathing in desperately to save precious room. My feet were in front of each other. What could possibly go wrong? An Italian car, pah, as reliable as a 1950s bicycle, obvs.
The pictures of the packed-Panda stormed Twitter, people obviously like the idea of a small car doing a big thing. Packing the car made us think how crazy the week was going to be, but deep down, we were rooting for the little 100hp.
We set off with slight confidence after a quick post on the socials. Alan and Mel on Radio 2, Daisy the dog sleeping away, bikes strongly attached. We were in good spirits.
The one problem we faced was achy legs, so we made sure we stopped plenty of times for a quick 'wee stop' and a stretch of the legs. 400 miles from Cheshire to Newlyn, and the Panda didn't complain once. We were starting to doubt the need for a bigger car, Paolo the Panda was storming down the M5. People drove past pointing and wondering what on earth was going on. I don't really blame them, it was a small-but-vicious car fully loaded. It got a lot of attention. One couple in a pick-up even took a photo and posted it onto the Fiat Panda UK Facebook group. How cool is that?
We made it to Cornwall after roughly 8 hours, mostly because of stops and some traffic. We all gave the Panda a little round of applause; it managed to be the only Italian car to work when you needed it most! We spent the week relaxing along the coastline, with the occasional trip in the car. That was when the Fiat really shined bright, nipping around the steep-windy lanes, it was a lot of fun.
The beautiful waters or Cornwall...
At one point, Paolo was also the most south-western Panda in the country, with a trip to Lands End. Impressive place, the heavy wind made it even more eventful...
Before we knew it, the week was over, and it was time to head back up north. We re-filled the rocket Panda's minuscule tank, packed the boot and soon thought that the car had shrunk with the damp air of Cornwall. But no, we had just picked up even more food and holiday junk - oops.
The 400-mile journey home commenced and we knew that it wouldn't miss a beat, and surely, it didn't! Happy days in a working Italian car, well done Fiat Automobili. The traffic this time was slightly more playful, and we were even more squeezed, but we pressed on. With plenty of breaks, it was completely fine.
This journey took slightly longer, but the little car pressed on perfectly. It really did shock us all! We made it home, staggered by the capability of the Panda 100hp. The 6th gear in the 100hp really helped, and so did sport mode - stiffening up the wheel. If any, it's the perfect Panda for motorway miles. It also makes a nice coffee table!
It took 4 people, a dog, 2 bikes and a tonne of luggage 800 miles without fault. It munched the miles no problem, just some achy knees from time to time. MPG was acceptable, wind noise was minimal, it was quite impressive actually.
I’ll be honest, even I was sceptical about taking such a tiny car all that way when we have our bigger Renault Scenic for the big miles, but I was keen to see what the car could do.
It staggered us all. My mum, who wasn’t so sure, admits that the little 100hp did a wonderful job. It just shows really - all these SUVs, they’re just props to seem big and tough. What they really want, deep down, is a Panda.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Fiat Panda 100hp is the car for the people. Well done, Paolo, you exceeded expectations.
Daniel Achterhuis is a 14-year-old automotive journalist for DriveTribe, presenter of 'The Piston Podcast' and YouTube creator. Daniel has written for various newspapers, magazines, and was the youngest-accredited press at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. He aspires to become a full-time automotive journalist in his later years. Follow him on social media: