TURIN -- Fiat has increased the size of the Panda and added a wider engine range to help keep the model's eight-year lead at the top of Europe's minicar segment.
The new Panda is 114 mm longer than the outgoing model. Some 80mm of the extra length creates more room for rear passengers and 20 liters more cargo space at 225 liters.
The Panda is also 53mm wider, a change that gives three passengers in the back more elbow room. The Panda is one of the few cars in its segment to have seating for three people in the rear.
"With three gasoline engines and a diesel at launch plus compressed natural gas and light petroleum gas variants coming shortly after, the Panda offers the widest powertrain choice in the minicar segment," said Fiat brand CEO Olivier Francois.
The third generation Panda will be sold mainly in Europe, with limited exports to Brazil and Japan.
In summer, Fiat will also add a four-wheel-drive version. The Panda is the only minicar in Europe with a 4wd variant.
Target buyers: Young first-time buyers, families seeking a second or third car.
What's good? Roomier and quieter than outgoing car. Interior has more upscale features, fit and finish.
What's bad? Exterior styling similar to old generation. Fiat said Panada customers did not want a radical change.
Launch date: February
Base price: 10,200 euros (Italy)
Platform: Fiat Mini architecture.
Where built: Pomigliano d'Arco, Naples, Italy.
Annual production forecast: 170,000-180,000 units in 2012; installed capacity 290,000 units a year.
CO2 emissions: 95g/km