Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Panda was intended to be a modern interpretation of the Citroën 2CV or Renault 4– a basic, simple, and no-frills utility vehicle that was easy to use and maintain. When it was introduced in 1980, the Fiat Panda was renowned for its box-like styling, which was later developed into the supermini Uno two years later. Under the hood, it drew from the parts bin of Fiat, utilizing engines and transmissions from the 127 and, in certain territories, the air-cooled 652 cc 2-cylinder motor from the Fiat 126. It also featured a dead axle rear suspension with leaf springs – another testament to its simple yet effective design.
The Panda was made into a true utility vehicle, as its rear seat could bemode a bed, used to hold bottles, or taken out completely to expand the cargo space. In addition, the front seats had removable covers so that they could be washed, while the fabric-covered dashboard could be taken off.
In 1983, a 4x4 variant of the Panda was released, which became especially popular in rural Italy where roads are often quite bad. A "Panda Super" model with a mesh grille bearing the iconic Fiat five-bar insignia was also launched.
Two years later, Fiat brought in the introduction of the FIRE engines (from the Uno) and a new coil-sprung rear axle that addressed the Panda's previously criticized harsh and bouncy ride. This version was known as the Mark II but lacked the front "quarterlight" windows that were previously seen in the Panda's design.
Having been immensely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, the Fiat Panda was phased out around 1996 due to tightening safety regulations. The car remained in production up until 2003 with total production numbers exceeding 4.5 million units.
Spain-based carmaker SEAT also produced a version of the Fiat Panda known as the SEAT Panda. Made available between 1981 and 1986, it featured modified fascias for the front and back and was later rebranded as the Marbella from 1987 to 1998. However, it did not have any of the major mechanical upgrades of the Panda Mark II Series.
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