Update: ‘Serbian production’ section updated.
Stellantis is working on a replacement for the current Fiat Panda, available in Europe and running since 2012 without a shape change. The Panda belongs to the A-segment, which is fighting for survival in Europe due to what manufacturers consider over-regulation in the emission and safety aspects that is driving up prices significantly. For the next-gen Panda, total electrification looks inevitable.
Fiat CEO confirms next-gen Panda
In 2020, Fiat CEO Olivier Francois spoke to Auto Express about his company’s vision for a Panda crossover with zero emissions. “I think we have a bright future in the full electric approach to city cars, through the 500e and through the more non-traditional approach with this minimalist, lower price Centoventi that is very Panda-inspired,” he said.
At the end of September 2021, Auto Express published a report saying that Francois had confirmed the launch of an all-new Panda. The British magazine quoted the Fiat CEO saying the company has “found a way to make the new Panda.” It will launch new B-segment models starting in 2023, although Francois didn’t say whether the new Panda will be the first of the new small car offensive. He did reveal that the Turin-headquartered carmaker plans to launch a model every year from 2023.
More recently, Francois hinted that the Fiat Panda would be a family of models in the future, as per an Autocar report. A next-gen Panda is in the pipeline, plus there’ll be other smaller and bigger hatchback/crossover models with the Panda DNA.
You will see smaller cars and bigger crossovers and you will recognise the Panda DNA (in some.) One will be called Panda.Olivier Francois, CEO, Fiat (Autocar report on 4 April 2022)
As per the Autocar report, the designs of four future Fiat models have received approval. At least two models will have designs strongly reminiscent of the Centoventi concept.
Stellantis extends Fiat Panda production
Stellantis has also confirmed a new lease of life for the budget hatch. In March 2022, the company said that the Fiat Panda will remain in production at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant until 2026. TopElectricSUV has seen the communication about the development sent out by Federazione Impiegati Operai Metallurgici (Federation of Metal Workers Employees) and Unione Italiana Lavoratori Metalmeccanici (Italian Union of Metalworkers).
Stellantis plans to manufacture a new EV that replaces the Fiat 500L at the Fiat plant in Kragujevac, Serbia, from 2024. The platform of the first EV built there would “fit perfectly” with models in the A, B, and C segments, CEO Carlos Tavares said. Following the Fiat 500L successor, the company may build a second EV at the Serbian vehicle production facility, and that could be the Fiat Panda electric. It will invest EUR 190 million in EV production at the factory.
The Fiat 500L is the only product made at the Fiat Serbia plant. Its production is likely to end in 2022. According to a report from local publication eKapija, there will be a layoff of 500 workers at the factory. Approximately 1,000 employees, including those who will make EVs at the Serbian factory in the future, will get a temporary transfer to Stellantis’ other plants in Slovakia, Poland, Italy, and Germany. Following 18 to 24 months of employment, they are to return to work in Kragujevac. Workers interested in taking the temporary transfer abroad will need to apply by the end of June 2022.
Next-gen Panda expected features
The next-gen Fiat Panda should have a completely new interior with a stylish dashboard and noticeably fewer physical controls. Expect a fully digital instrument cluster clubbed with a large touchscreen infotainment system that offers 5G connectivity, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, and OTA updates.
Mobile Drive, a new 50/50 joint venture company of Stellantis and Foxconn based in the Netherlands, will develop “breakthrough digital cockpits,” and the Fiat Panda EV could get the basic version. The new tech arm will be responsible for infotainment, telematics, and cloud service platform development. Its software innovations should include 5G communications, AI-based apps, upgraded OTA services, e-commerce opportunities, and smart cockpit integrations.
Range & Specifications
While Fiat is yet to talk about the range or other specifications, we can estimate the Panda EV’s range and battery based on the 500e, as the 500 and Panda were mechanical twins in the ICE era. The 500e comes with a 42 kWh battery and a motor that develops 118 hp, sprinting from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 9 seconds. The top speed is limited to 150 km/h (93 mph), and the battery can be recharged to 80 percent in 35 minutes with an 85 kW DC charger. The 500e offers a range of up to 199 miles (318 km) on the WLTP cycle, and the Panda EV should come close to these figures, as anything lower would not make it a practical car.
If Fiat wants an affordable electric city model on the market quickly, the e-CMP will give it the access and the cost advantage to reach the desired positioning, regardless of its production site. Moreover, compared to the 500 Electric’s platform, it would allow bigger dimensions and thus more space. The third option is waiting for the STLA Small architecture, which will be ready for use in 2026.
Fiat Centoventi concept
The Centoventi concept is codenamed CC4 (City Car-4, where the 4 represents the fourth generation of the Panda). When showing the concept, Fiat said it was pushing to make the electric Panda, as it would have to pay heavy regulatory fines for missing upcoming CO2 targets otherwise. The company built the Centoventi concept on the same platform as the 500 Electric (500 Elettrica).
On the Centoventi concept, the extra batteries were installed under the car’s floor (this would be done by the service network on the production car, Fiat said), making installation and removal relatively easy. An additional battery under the seat was also seen on the Fiat electric car, which the company said could be disconnected and charged directly at the user’s home. A modular battery system would call for a bespoke platform, which we don’t see as part of the new strategy at Stellantis.
One last update for the current Panda?
Passione Auto Italiane’s Matteo Volpe, citing a company source, has said in a YouTube vlog that Fiat is not done yet with the current-gen Panda and that it will get a round of changes this year. A new variant Volpe talked about could be launched simply as a Fiat Panda Sport, the way 500X Sport was introduced in 2019. The Sport variant may feature exclusive alloy wheels, modified suspension setup, lower ground clearance, exclusive steering system calibration, exclusive wheels wrapped in high-performance tires, and more such changes from the regular crossover. At best, if changes aren’t extensive, expect new exterior and interior enrichment.
Fiat introduced the mild-hybrid system on the Panda in July 2020, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 20 percent, without a performance drop. The Panda would carry this system forward into the refreshed model line.
History of the 42-year-old Panda
As the Panda celebrated its 40th birthday in 2020, we peek into its fascinating history to learn how the model evolved over the years. The first generation Panda I from launched in 1980 was the work of Italdesign designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The name Panda honored Empanda, the Roman goddess and patroness of travelers.
The first model was powered by a 4-cyl, 903cc engine that made 45 hp, and the drive went to the front wheels with a four-speed manual gearbox. At launch, the Panda I price was GBP 2,860 in the UK. Four years later, Fiat introduced the Panda 4×4 with a larger 965cc engine that made three horsepower more, had a 5-speed gearbox, and featured a world-first crawler function.
In 2003, an all-new Panda II was introduced. The brand junked the 3-door idea and went for a 5-door hatchback body style with a more rounded exterior and higher stance, cementing its identity of being a funky Fiat hatchback. It shared the brand’s ‘Fiat Mini’ platform with the 2nd gen Ford Ka, 2nd gen Fiat 500, and the 3rd gen Lancia Ypsilon.
Powertrain options included 50 hp, 1.1-liter, and 60 hp, 1.2-liter engines with 5-speed manual ‘boxes. Dualogic sequential transmission was offered with the 1.2-liter engine. Here’s a fun fact: After Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Fiat introduced the sporty Panda 100HP, a celebratory model with a 1.4-liter engine having a 16-valve head.
The Panda III arrived in 2012. It was positioned between the 500 and the Punto. Its design was dominated by ‘squircles.’ It was powered by 69 hp, 1.2-liter, and 85 hp, TwinAir 0.9-liter engines. A 75 hp, 1.3-liter Multijet diesel was also offered. Multiple variants followed in the coming years — Panda 4X4 and Trekking (2012), Panda Cross 4X4 (2014), and Panda City Cross (2017).
The Panda Hybrid is the latest entrant to the family. Launched in early 2020, it has a 70hp, 1-liter engine mated to a belt integrated starter motor (BISG).
Electrification targets at Stellantis
By 2025, Stellantis, the parent company of Fiat, wants to have 98% of models available with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain and/or a pure electric powertrain. By the end of 2022, the company is releasing a second-gen eCMP platform, which would underpin compact hatchbacks and crossovers. In 2026, it will swap with the all-new STLA Small, a version of the new STLA platform family developed for A-segment, B-segment, and (low-cost) C-segment electric models.
Stellantis aims to convert 100% of its sales in Europe and 50% of its sales in the U.S. to pure electric vehicles by 2030. It plans to expand its EV line-up to more than 75 models and global annual EV sales to five million units by the end of the decade.
Fiat confirms EV versions for all cars
Between 2025 and 2030, Fiat aims to go fully electric, Francois confirmed on the 2021 World Environment Day. Francois said that it is the Italian automaker’s “duty” to launch electric cars that cost the same as or lower than internal combustion engine vehicles as soon as it can, in line with the reducing costs of their batteries.
Later, at the Stellantis EV Day 2021 on July 8, 2021, Francois suggested that Fiat has planned an EV offensive from 2023 onwards. He said:
From 2023 and 24, you will see an unprecedented passenger car offensive that will bring electric versions on every nameplate and the same year – 2024 – Abarth, too, will switch to full BEV.Olivier Francois, CEO, Fiat (Stellantis EV Day 2021)
Fiat plans to be an EV-only brand eventually, but it will wait until the cost of EVs falls to the same level as ICE vehicles. “We will do so as soon as we can offer electric at the price of thermic, which, in Europe, should happen by 2025-2030,” Francois said at the Stellantis EV Day 2021. The CEO then talked about the Fiat Centoventi concept.
Obviously, we don’t want to just sit and wait and follow the trend. We want to disrupt and accelerate, and the ingredients for that are in our Centoventi concept presented in Geneva. This is exactly the kind of animal our DNA can generate. It’s a pure people’s electric car, affordable and using the concept of simplicity to cut the fluff and make way for batteries.Olivier Francois, CEO, Fiat (Stellantis EV Day 2021)
During an interaction with Auto Express, Francois suggested that 2027 could be the year when Fiat goes fully electric. Note that going electric could mean two things – switching to EVs completely or maintaining the existing ICE models in parallel.
According to the Autocar report, the Fiat range will include 10 core models eventually – four LCVs, the South America-exclusive Strada, and five global models. Three of them will be the Fiat 500, Fiat Panda, and Fiat Punto successor, and the other two could be derivatives of the 500 or Panda.
Next-gen Fiat Panda FAQs
What is the next-gen Fiat Panda release date?
The next-gen Fiat Panda could be launched by mid-decade, and there is clear evidence of a new electric version.
Which cars would the Fiat Panda electric rival?
What will be the price of the Fiat Panda electric?
The next-gen Fiat Panda electric is expected to start at under EUR 25,000.
Featured image: Fiat