The second generation of Fiat's Panda proved an instant, and big, hit for the Italian company. It didn't really need to bother with anything other than the meandering mainstream models, so the 100HP was a very welcome bonus track when it arrived in late 2006.
Fitting into the warm bracket rather than an outright hot hatch, the Panda 100HP came with a 1.4-litre petrol engine with a power output that gave the car its name. Tipping the scales at 975kg, this was enough to see the Fiat from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds and on to 115mph.
Those figures won't win many pub debates, but the Panda was much more about the bits in between the straights. So it came with suspension that sat 25mm lower than a standard version's and chunky 15-inch alloy wheels sat in the arches. The suspension was also firmed up by twenty five per cent to make the car more agile, though this was at the expense of some comfort.
A bold plastic body kit gives the 100HP a Jack Russell presence that hints it can hold its own. On the inside, Fiat added sports seats, a leather-bound steering wheel and a Sport button where other Pandas have a City switch. This sharpens throttle and steering feel, though it can make the accelerator too sensitive for town use and many thought the steering overly assisted when it was launched.
The brakes were improved with Punto front discs and Panda 4x4 rears. As an option, Fiat offered ESP for £440 on 100HPs. Also available was a Pandemonium Pack that added red-painted brake calipers, silver-painted door mirrors and alloy wheels, chrome side decals and unique pedals and mats.
However, it was the handling that endeared the Panda 100HP to the press and buyers alike. Those customers were a select group as fewer than 2,000 examples of this model were sold in the UK, which has helped bolster used prices and soften depreciation. It's now possible to find a decent 100HP from £2,000, while the very best are double that from the end of production in 2011.
Bodywork and interior
It's a budget Italian, so check all of the electrics work.
Upholstery wears on lower rear cushion, base and bolsters. Original fabric is hard to come by now.
Paint is thinly applied from the factory, so expect plenty of stone chips and signs of them being touched up.
The 100HP's plastic body kit wears well, so just look for any gouges that spoil the appearance.
Check the drain holes under the plastic panel around the wipers are not blocked with leaves and muck. If they become clogged, water can spill into the passenger footwell.
Steering wheel and gear knob wear quickly and look scruffy, but new ones are cheap direct from Fiat.
Engine and transmission
Head gasket failure is the engine's only weak spot if the coolant hasn't been changed regularly with a quality mix and the level is kept correctly topped up.
Services come at 12,000-mile intervals and the timing belt tension should be checked at every third service. If there's any slack, the belt needs to be replaced.
The six-speed manual gearbox is trouble-free, but look for oil leaks where it joins the engine.
Clutches can wear out more quickly than you expect, but should last 50,000 miles even with sustained town use.
Around 40mpg is easily possible in normal driving, dropping to 30mpg when using the full 6,500rpm limit.
Suspension and steering
First off, make sure you're happy with the ride quality as some find the 100HP's suspension too firm for longer commutes and motorway use.
Shock absorbers begin to leak due to rust, especially along a welded seam. Feel for any untoward bounce on a test drive and check the dampers for signs of damp from seeping oil. A full set of replacement KYB shocks is £400.
Rear bump stops are a common failure as they were not fixed to the car very well at the factory. Replacements are £12 and easy to fit.
Suspension alignment wasn't great from the factory and uneven tyre wear is common. A specialist set-up to get the tracking in the middle of the tolerances will avoid this but needs re-checking every 12 months to maintain settings.
Electric power steering motor, ECU and position sensor are all prone to failure. Feel for any excessive heaviness in the steering in normal mode without the Sport setting engaged.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
Upgrading the brakes with pads from the Punto is a common modification, but otherwise the 100HP's stoppers are fine. New pads are £35 per set for the front and rear, while discs come in at £70 for a front pair and £30 for the rears.
SPECIFICATION: FIAT PANDA 100HP
Engine: 1,368cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 100@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 97@4,250rpm
Price new: £9,995
Price now: £2,000 upwards
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