Test series logbook: how the Fiat Panda pays off with natural gas drive

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So the Fiat Panda pays off with natural gas drive

Test series logbook: how the Fiat Panda pays off with natural gas drive-series

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The Fiat Panda is one of the most famous small cars ever. With his …

Source: Fiat

Test series logbook: how the Fiat Panda pays off with natural gas drive-fiat

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… 3.66 meters in total length, it is easy to handle in the city and, thanks to a height of 1.55 meters, offers a …

Source: Fiat

Test series logbook: how the Fiat Panda pays off with natural gas drive-panda

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… amazingly spacious interior. Even the knee room at the rear is more or less sufficient, the rear seat backrest can be folded down and extends the trunk from 225 to 870 Liter.

Source: Fiat

Test series logbook: how the Fiat Panda pays off with natural gas drive-test

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The greatest advance compared to the two previous generations is the new cockpit, which follows its own design line and is well made for the price and car class.

Source: Fiat

Test series logbook: how the Fiat Panda pays off with natural gas drive-fiat

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The Fiat Panda is offered with two petrol and one diesel engine, the smaller of the two petrol can optionally be ordered with natural gas drive.

Source: Fiat

Should one still think about a car with natural gas tanks when the relationship with the major supplier Russia becomes more and more difficult? Yes, yes, one should. For environmental reasons alone. And because of the tax.

M.Sometimes there is a hiss, and especially in the underground car park you get a little scared at first. What happens between the natural gas tank and the engine?

A look at the owner’s manual helps: a car with natural gas drive starts on gasoline. And shortly after the start it automatically switches to natural gas mode, so a valve opens and – hissing.

In the end, it’s a familiar, yes, soothing sound. Everything about the Fiat Panda Natural Power (what a name!) Works as it should, they say. And it also means: Now you can start saving.

Standard consumption is clearly missed

No, the two-cylinder engine, apostrophized by Fiat as a breakthrough in terms of stinginess, does not even want to get close to the standard consumption in natural gas operation. It’s more the fuel itself that makes driving so cheap.

The manufacturer specifies the car with 3.1 kilograms of natural gas per 100 kilometers, optionally with 4.6 liters of premium gasoline. But neither of these works even remotely.We used 4.3 kilograms of natural gas per 100 kilometers and 6.5 liters of gasoline on various longer test laps.

So it is like other Fiat models with the 0.9 liter engine and pure gasoline operation: It’s fun to drive (if you like a sound that resembles that of a small motorcycle) and also has enough turbo pressure not to obstruct traffic being. But some four-cylinder engines use less fuel than the Fiat two-cylinder engine.

So: if so, then with natural gas operation, because that lowers the costs enormously. Initially, the Panda Natural Power increases the purchase price by 2500 euros, but at some point they will be recovered.

The natural gas engine saves 540 euros a year

If you assign the “world” test consumption to a typical small car driving distance of 10,000 kilometers per year, then you come to a natural gas bill of 430 x 1.07 = 460.10 euros. With premium gasoline it would be 650 x 1.54 = 1001 euros.

If you consistently refuel your Panda with natural gas, you save 540.90 euros a year and would have amortized the car in just under five years.

There are not as many natural gas filling stations (900) as gasoline stations (14,000), so that from time to time you can also tap super unleaded for convenience – but this extends the amortization period.

However, it does not work entirely without classic fuel, because petrol is used to start the engine. So that this doesn’t happen too often, the natural gas panda lacks the start-stop function. Traction control is also not available because it works by automatically interrupting and restoring the fuel supply. Obviously, this cannot yet be done with natural gas, which flows slowly.

Petrol running leads to five extra horsepower

Otherwise, however, you don’t have to worry if the natural gas pump you have come across should be out of order – the Panda Natural Power, like any other natural gas car, automatically switches to petrol operation while driving.

Very sensitive natures might then hear a different combustion noise, but in view of the very dominant two-cylinder growling it is rather difficult.

The five extra horsepower (85 instead of 80) that the petrol operation offers can hardly be felt. Perhaps at the very end, when the Panda is aiming for top speed (170 km / h with gasoline, 168 km / h with natural gas), it appears a little livelier in gasoline mode. But that is negligible.

Despite the Russian crisis: a natural gas car is an interesting alternative. Because it not only lowers maintenance costs, it also lowers carbon dioxide emissions.

25 percent less CO2

In this respect, natural gas burns cleaner than petrol, with the same amount of energy being used, 25 percent less CO2 escapes from the exhaust. The tanks under the trunk and under the center tunnel hold twelve kilograms of natural gas, which, according to the standard consumption, is enough for 387 kilometers. In the everyday test, it was only 279 kilometers, but that’s enough to avoid having to constantly look for a natural gas filling station.

And since natural gas is not only subject to a significantly lower energy tax rate than petrol and diesel until December 31, 2018, but according to the coalition agreement it should also remain less taxed, it is actually a wonder why not many more people drive natural gas cars.

In any case, the Fiat Panda Natural Power would be a perfect car for humble contemporaries, but of course it also has a few weaknesses that have nothing to do with the type of fuel used.

Worst of all are the seats. They are less of a factor on short journeys in the city, but the panda‘s soft seating is practically unsuitable for long journeys.

Natural gas only in conjunction with top equipment

Indifferent steering is not for everyone either. It gives so little cornering feel that you can leave the city button activated right away. It attracts all small Fiat models and makes steering as easy as a toy car, which is excellent for maneuvering.

Otherwise, the interior impresses with its lofty height and a well-made cockpit for this vehicle class. The trunk is tightly dimensioned with 225 liters, after folding down the divisible rear seat backrest (for a surcharge of 270 euros) 870 liters are available.

The two-cylinder engine, regardless of whether it is a gasoline or natural gas version, is tied to the top version Lounge, which makes the Panda expensive (13,290 euros with gasoline, 15,790 euros with natural gas) and presents it as a neatly but not superbly equipped small car: ESP, light alloy wheels , Air conditioning, roof rails, CD radio and fog lights are standard.

Conclusion: If you think about a Panda as a cheap car (it is available from 9290 euros), you don’t need to waste any extra thoughts on natural gas. But if you can climb a little higher, you should include the alternative fuel in your considerations. Because despite the higher purchase price: The low fuel bills are just fun.

"world"-Reporter Stefan Anker regularly tweets spontaneous car news and observations from everyday driving and testing and is pleased if you are here click and follow him. Or check out his Facebook page past.

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