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Frankfurt show: Fiat Panda an Aussie no-show

No show: Fiat's bigger, more comfortable and better equipped third-generation Panda will not be launching in Australia any time soon.

Fiat to remain a 500-only brand in Oz as Ateco passes on Panda, MY12 Punto and Bravo

2 Sep 2011

FIAT has revealed an all-new Panda ahead of its world debut at the Frankfurt motor show on September 13, but the mainstream Italian marque will continue to be a boutique brand in Australia, represented only by the 500 retro-micro for the foreseeable future.

Australian importer Ateco Automotive introduced Fiat passenger cars here with the light-sized Punto in July 2006, and in November of that year Fiat Cars’ then-president Luca de Meo told GoAuto the brand’s Australian relaunch would be a test-bed for its global expansion strategy.

The smaller 500 was released here in February 2008, followed two months later by the larger Bravo (sold here as the Ritmo), but both the Punto and Ritmo have since been discontinued following slow sales due to the lack of an automatic transmission.

Ateco says it has no plans to launch the redesigned Panda in Australia and that neither the Punto – including the upgraded MY12 version that will debut alongside the Panda at Frankfurt – or Bravo/Ritmo will return to local showrooms until they are available with an auto gearbox, timing for which is unknown.

In the absence of the larger Commodore-sized Croma, the only new model release on Fiat’s Australian horizon is the Abarth 500C Esseesse in the fourth quarter of this year.

36 center imageLeft: Fiat Panda interior. Middle: MY12 Punto. Bottom: Croma.

For the record, Fiat says the third-generation Panda is bigger, more comfortable and better equipped than the model it replaces.

It now measures 3650mm long, 1640mm wide and 1550mm high, promising more interior space and one of the largest cargo compartments in its class, and is powered by a range of TwinAir two-cylinder engines offering 48 and 63kW - both equipped with idle-stop technology.

A 51kW four-cylinder version will also be available from launch in Europe, but Fiat says a 59kW 1.3-litre MultiJet 2 turbo-diesel will also become available for the front-drive Panda, along with all-wheel drive versions that could spawn a compact SUV from sister company Jeep.

Wrapped in a sexier new body featuring daytime running lights, the new Panda comes with four airbags, ABS brakes with brake assist, seatbelt load-limiters and pretensioners, Isofix child seat anchors preparation and Fiat’s Blue&Me-TomTom LIVE infotainment system with steering wheel-mounted remote controls.

Apart from providing the basis for the born-again 500, the Fiat Panda was the first car in its class to win the prestigious European Car of the Year award in 2004, as well as the first compact (sub-four-metre) car to come with a diesel engine (1986) and the first to offer four-wheel drive (1983).

Meantime, the MY12 Punto will go on sale in Europe in early 2012 with new exterior colours and seat trims, plus new 62kW 0.9-litre TwinAir turbo and upgraded 62kW 1.3 Multijet engines.

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