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Panda, Picanto, Twingo, VW Up in the test: disenchanted Rubik's Cube

Arturo Rivas
Fiat Panda, Kia Picanto, Renault Twingo, VW Up in the test
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The happy days of V W Up will soon be counted - At least that's how the new Fiat Panda sees it, which started its charm offensive in 1980 and has just been presented in the third generation. Friends of the smallest cars, as the Italian explains his recipe for success, want a smart vehicle with practical talent. One that can get a lot down without letting it get you down. That fits into the smallest of gaps, rolls gently and doesn't dance limbo on cobblestones. Design does not play an extreme role here, small numbers for consumption, acquisition and maintenance are decisive. Square, practical, economical? If the Fiat Panda could nod, it would do it.

For comparison, the Fiat Panda rolls a 0.9 Twinair with a lounge package and five seats more expensive than 13,160 euros. The sides are high and straightforward, the roof like a straight lid, the tailgate vertical like a wall - a car couldn't exude more pragmatism. Four doors, front electric windows and painted bumpers are standard, but five seats are not. The middle rear seat costs 270 euros extra in the package with a split rear seat backrest. Strange politics.

Fiat Panda 0.9 Twinair - lots of space at the front, narrow at the back

The cockpit of the Fiat Panda 0.9 Twinair is more understandable: the center console still protrudes like a tower, the glossy black control panels below the CD radio (series) are new, adding a bit of glamor and comforting some imprecise gaps. As in the predecessor, the high-placed gear lever is within easy reach, but the door pockets are too small. Larger items fit in the generous shelf above the glove compartment. Speaking of space: while it is airy in the first row, long legs are difficult to get under. The comfort of the seats is sufficient for short distances, but for longer stages you would like more comfortable cushions.

Such as the one in the Kia Picanto Spirit 1.2 for 12,790 euros. Although it is 3.60 meters long and 1.48 meters high, around five centimeters shorter and seven centimeters flatter than the Fiat Panda, it creates a similarly good feeling of space. And if you get into the rear (four doors cost 400 euros), you will find a touch of more headroom and, thanks to eight centimeters more wheelbase, you can easily put your feet down. The cockpit of theKia Picanto is rather reserved, almost a bit conservative. The driver has everything in view and does not look for a switch - at most the outside temperature display, which Kia has saved. The red pen alarm also shines through when it comes to the choice of materials, such as the cheap frames for the window regulators.

Twingo's door opener is annoying

The Renault Twingo 1.2 still has to learn this lesson. Before you reach the cockpit of the Dynamique version, which costs 12,500 euros, the hidden door openers, reminiscent of broken door handles, annoy you. It is incomprehensible that Renault did not change them during the facelift. The headlights and lights have been redesigned, the central digital speedometer has remained. Even if it is more difficult to read than some analog instruments behind the steering wheel: it brings the right pinch of independence. On the other hand, the 80 euro surcharge for the tachometer feels inappropriate. Unfortunately, the operation of the standard radio cannot be simplified for an additional fee. The two longitudinally adjustable rear seats in the Renault Twingo, which conjure up a lot of comfort in the second row, are practical and recommendable. To get there, however, you have to wiggle past the two front seats, as the Twingo is still only available as a two-door model.

Everything feels more solid in the VW Up 1.0 White

The VW Up 1.0 (here with the White Luxury Package for 14,300 euros) will get rear doors from May. This has no influence on its greatest strength: the little VW immediately creates the feeling of being better than the competition when you get in. All important points of contact such as the steering wheel, ventilation switch and door opener are more elegant and solid to the touch. Although it is the shortest here at 3.54 meters in length, it is at least the same in terms of internal dimensions. Four friends find enough space, although the headroom in the rear is not quite as generous.

There is little praise for the front seats of the VW Up: Some find the adjustment of their backrests too imprecise, others miss adjustable headrests and a second power window button. Who wants to bend across the car? And while we're at it: A steering wheel fore /aft adjustment on the smallest Volkswagen would be a good role model for this class not a good role model

The three-cylinder gasoline engine of the VW Up 1.0 White is not. As good as its performance data sounds - it draws 75 hp from the volume of a larger water bottle and consumes only 4.9 L /100 km on our cautiously driven consumption lap - it is mediocre on the gas and hums under loadunsportsmanlike to himself. The four-cylinder gasoline engines in the Renault Twingo and in the Kia Picanto avoid something like that as far as possible. With a displacement of 1.2 liters and 75 and 85 hp, they also accelerate to 100 km /h faster than the VW Up. The Kia needs 4.9 L /100 km on the consumption lap, the Renault 5.1 liters.

With the Fiat Panda 0.9 Twinair, a little more flows through the two combustion chambers - that's right, it kicks with the 85 hp two-cylinder turbo, which we already appreciate in the Fiat 500. Up to 3,000 revolutions it growls robustly, above it it hisses angrily and wins every pulling rating despite the highest curb weight (1,061 kg). However, those who shoo him across the country will want better insulation. The Renault Twingo and the Kia Picanto feel a bit quieter, but both could roll even more smoothly. In terms of noise comfort, the VW Up changes the standards of this class - at constant speed nobody purrs more quietly.

Unloaded, the chassis of the VW Up cushions any road defects best, but rolls with two friends on board the Fiat Panda 0.9 Twinair softer over mogul slopes. In curves, however, it then leans to the side disadvantageously. If you're in a hurry, the Fiat Panda needs the most space on the road.

The rest of the clique refuses to do that. While the Kia scurries precisely and precisely around the corner and always bounces balanced, the Renault acknowledges already loaded manhole covers with rumble inlays. Fortunately, its steering reacts quickly and precisely enough to avoid such obstacles. However, nobody gives in as precisely as the VW Up 1.0 White. In the Kia you miss a touch more feedback, in the Fiat Panda 0.9 Twinair the course changes generally feel too artificial.

Only VW Up with ESP as standard

The differences are bigger in the security equipment. All four start below the magical 10,000 euro mark, but only the VW Up then has ESP as standard. Fiat Panda, Kia Picanto and Renault Twingo give buyers the choice: no anti-skid protection or an extra charge of 300 to 450 euros. The Italians even put side airbags on the option list (250 euros) and seem to have discovered the world of surcharges for themselves. 500 euros are called for a portable navigation device plus speakerphone, at Renault the signpost costs 129 euros (with a few functions less), even VW only calls up 350 euros for it. In the Kia, the system can only be retrofitted as an accessory.

All four are square and practical in their own way. Economical? The VW Up 1.0 White consumes the least, the Fiat Panda 0.9 Twinair the most, despite the start-stop. The fact that he is only fourth here is due to the perfection of the VW Up, the balance of the Kia Picanto and the better driving characteristics of the Renault Twingo. The new Fiat Panda not only looks old in the body section and the driving characteristics, butalso because of its surcharge design. Sad but true: while he charmingly lured us into this class, today he is beaten by others there.

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