The rental company ripped us off. We were supposed to get a Class B car aka Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Toyota Yaris but somehow they managed to slip a Panda onto the list and since we had no choice over a particular vehicle, you guessed it, we got a Panda.
My hand very quickly accelerated towards my forehead after seeing the key the rental person had on the table for us.
A certain old lady from a television show always seemed to like it, and I until that day have never driven a Fiat before. They are supposed to be simple little things so I got excited to actually experience James Mays taste in cars.
The joghurt cup the hotel offered us that morning
So there it stood before me, a white base model with hubcaps, some badly repaired paint damage and a broken window seal which the rental person managed to bend back somehow, stained red seats and oh my, the quality item which was the steering wheel. Only trimmed with the finest uh... plastic soaked with the sweat and bodily fluids of German tourists.
Everytime I opened the drivers door it would catch on the fender and make that very particular "Spare my life, drive me off a cliff noise" also comparable to the sound a baby seal makes when very tired.
Some seats and a steering wheel. Okay, that's that done. Lets not actually talk about quality here. It's a Fiat.
Surprisingly quite roomy. The only cool part is how the panel texture says Panda many many times.
THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE
You might think that driving a small car in a crowded city is great and effortless, however you'd be wrong with this one. Clutch in, first gear and start! Listen to that exhaust note! A mixture of farting and rattling all at the same time. A Volkswagen fan would approve.
Clutch out, some gas and stall. Take your finger, push it hard against a glass window and now try to move it. See how it sticks and skips uncontrollably? This is how the clutch feels in a Fiat Panda which has been slightly abused during 80 thousand kilometres of its "I didn't ask to be born" life.
When you finally managed to set off like a complete amateur, FEEL the gears grinding, whining and clunking against each other like a sound engineers worst nightmare. A poor throttle linkage also means that you will completey floor the car in 1st and NOTHING will happen until around 2000rpms where the car decides it suddely has vtec (which of course it does not).
Driving a Panda on greek roads, is like going rodeo on a very happy baby lamb. It hops all over the place. With a steering that doesn't respond much in the centre and an engine as powerful as a blender, driving it is as frustrating as teaching a slow child quantum physics, it simply doesn't respond, at all.
At a certain point I wanted to test the handling. Did not happen after I noticed how the car does not have ESC, and my entire family was onboard. That didn't help with the performance either.
Please, please, please don't buy this car. It's awful. At least buy the 500 which is just as awful but not as ugly. And cheers to James for dealing which this Italian engineering marvel.