The Panda: An endangering species?
Euro NCAP reveals another poor safety showing for Fiat.
I think I would quite like a job working for Euro NCAP, the famed vehicle safety assessment organisation. It sounds as though it would be quite good fun to get up every morning, go to work and spend the day pelting the latest and greatest models from the worlds car manufacturers into a concrete block to see just how much destruction is caused.
Unlike most things that are fun, I could also be confident that I was doing an important job. After all, whilst we enthusiasts may mostly spend our time running around in circles and jumping up and down excitedly over whatever billion quid hypercar has been released that week, we still understand that it would be advantageous for a car to have slightly more structural integrity than a quiche lorraine. Therefore we like Euro NCAP and their easy-to-digest 5-star scoring system very much.
Previous form: The Fiat Punto became the first car ever to score a zero star NCAP rating last year.
What about the car makers themselves though? I reckon their relationship with Euro NCAP might be a bit more love-hate. A good score from the clipboard-wielding boys and girls of Belgium can see some truly awful cars rocket to the top of the sales charts. Remember the original Renault Senic? Here was a hopeless brown log of a vehicle which, thanks to a five star score, flew out of the showrooms across the continent. A bad showing in the crash test though, can sound the death knell for any car on the receiving end. There was the Rover Metro for instance, which had merrily plodded along for a staggering 18 years in production before the then-new NCAP lads got their hands on one and gave it just one star. It was front page news at the time, and a few weeks later Rover were forced to pull the plug.
These days, it seems that it's Fiat who are to be found looking at their shoes and mumbling excuses. Last year the Punto, which had been in production since before Pompeii erupted, was awarded the unceremonious honour of being the first car in history to score zero stars in the crash test. Unsurprisingly, the old girl quietly shuffled off its mortal coil soon after.
If that wasn't enough to have the sharp-suited Turin execs weeping into their Armani, Euro NCAP have just released their latest round of results and guess who's getting it with both barrels? Yep it's poor old Fiat.
This time out, it's the venerable Panda that has been given no stars whatsoever. The judges were particularly unimpressed with its lack of autonomous safety systems, such as lane-keeping assist. Although they did note that the baby Fiat does at least have a seatbelt reminder light on the dashboard. Wow.
The tale of woe doesn't end there though. Over at Jeep, also part of the Fiat Chrysler empire the all-new Wrangler managed to notch up just one star in the test. Euro NCAP's Michiel van Ratingen said: “It is truly disappointing to see a brand-new car being put on sale in 2018 with no autonomous braking system and no lane assistance. It is high time we saw a product from the FIAT-Chrysler group offering safety to rival its competitors.”
Soon to be seen on eBay listed as "Spares or repair".
Before we get too carried away though, we should remember that the Panda has been on sale since 2011. When it was tested back then, Euro NCAP gave the car four stars, which just goes to show how quickly things move on in the world of automotive safety technology.
It's not as if the dear old Panda doesn't have anything else going for it either. Thousands of buyers have enjoyed the combination of peppy engines, hilarious roly-poly handling and low running costs offered by the Panda. So it's not all bad. Whether these results will spell the end of the road for the model remains to be seen.
TV's James May was unavailable for comment.