You know, i'll make this Gran Turismo Review becaome regular thing on my kinja. So Here's Another one. Today i'll become a James May and drove a Fiat Panda in Gran Turismo. Yeah. You might think this is boring, but who knows the Panda might be has the potential.

EXTERIOR AND HISTORY

The Fiat Panda started production in 1980. It featured '80s-era boxy looks with an expected Italian flair for subtle decoration. In other words, it's a box, but it's got a certain look and style that define it as "Italian". Dozens of Panda versions were created, some with fancy names like Young, Dance, Cafe, FIRE, FIRE Crazy, Eletta, etc. There were hatches, vans, and even some 4X4s. Petrol, diesel, and electric powerplants, as well.

The original Panda stuck around until 2003, and had become a stalwart in Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia, but by the New Millenium its looks, powertrain, chassis (etc.) had become dated. A new Panda (Nuova Panda) was then created. It possesses typical New Millenium looks (swooping, curvy bodywork which is anything but box-like), carries the Panda tradition onwards, yet it's just not the same cheap, no-frills machine as the Old Panda. Some of us prefer boxes, lol. Personally, I am getting bored of all the new cars out there with swoopy, curvy bodywork. Bring back the box, I say....

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The main selling point of the Panda in its early days was that it was so inexpensive. Wikipedia writer #11,920,201 (ha ha) tells us this was basically a car for "peasants", and as I drove my Panda Super about, I started to imagine its original owner lived in the old Soviet Union. I nicknamed my car "Bloc", and started to think Bloc had originally been owned by a farmer's son, since the Super seems to have been created with younger folks in mind.

Like the original Beetle and Mini, the Panda was also rugged, dependable, and durable. Early Pandas suffered typical rust problems, but by the time the car in our game was extant, Fiat had solved this to some extent by using galvanized steel. Hence this could be why we get a 1990 car, rather than something from the early '80s.

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GT5's info on this car There were dozens of Pandas, but we happen to get one of the best: the Super 1000S i.e. During the Engine section below, we will learn why we are lucky to get the Super, and not some other version of Panda. Go ahead, take a guess why....

In GT4 I found one costing just 5,109 cr, just as I was starting off a Sunday Cup. Nice! It has some miles on it, but nothing out of the ordinary for a 27 year-old. My GT5 Panda had just over 8,000 miles on its odometer, so perhaps this could be why it's costing 8,551 credits more? Somehow I doubt it. Are Panda prices rising in real-life as the original ones get rarer? Either way, what we wind up with here is an underpowered car at first, but also a very light one, at just 1,609 pounds to start. These cars show up in GT4's used car lot more often than they do in GT5's so if you have the latter game and desire a Panda, it might take awhile to find one. The Panda starts light and doesn't move very fast, but eventually can become a little uber-machine; a Peugeot 106 junior, a pint-sized action hero.

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ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN

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Earlier it was mentioned that the Super i.e. happens to be one of the best available. Oh really? With just 44 horses after oil change, this seems hard to imagine. This car has an engine displacing just 999 cc. In real-life, there were several other engines (diesels as well as petrol-based), including a 652 cc 2-cylinder flat air-cooled type; something which sounds as if it came from the Fiat 500's day! Just be thankful we don't get this wimpmobile!

So we've got the best of the best, yet power still rates lowish, too low to do anything at all, so far as competing goes. Zero to 60 mph can be had in just over 20 seconds, and 400 meters in a newspaper-turning 22! This means that your typical Japanese Kei car can blow the Panda away! Keis can also sometimes make it over 100 mph, which the Panda is wont to accomplish until we start buying some more power! Yikes!

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But the good news is the Panda is not doomed to die an early Gran Turismo death. In either GT4 or GT5, it will need some engine work early on, but for those who persist this one does become very viable and valuable as a racer. I raced a Panda Super long ago in GT4's Sunday Cup, FF Challenge, and probably did some Compact Car stuff, as well. And in GT5, so far I've done Sunday, FF, and World Compact Car Cup. Granted, this car isn't a modern Punto with 120+ horses. In other words, we can't enter any of these races and not tune for more power. It'll take about 50k of credits or more in either game to get the Panda Super rolling in all of these, which means most gamers will simply avoid the Panda at all costs.

So what's so "super" about the Panda Super? It all starts to make sense once we get some tuning (and power) involved. GT4 includes three NA kits and two turbos, while GT5 includes three of each.

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Power in GT4 rates as follows:

HP torque

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Stock: 44 @ 5,250 54 @ 3,250

Tuned*: 49 @ 5,200 59 @ 3,250

Stg 1 NA: 73 @ 5,200 88 @ 3,250

Stg 2 NA: 107 @ 5,200 127 @ 3,250

Stg 3 NA: 120 @ " 104 @ "

Stg 1 Tbo: 100 @ " 111 @ "

Stg 2 Tbo: 152 @ " 152 @ "

*"Tuned" means it had computer chip installed. Oil change was done for all specs above.

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Notice that with a Stage 2 turbo, power increases dramatically. For Beginner League racing, most of us won't be needing this sort of power! The Fiat Panda will need this once it's doing the Clubman, perhaps. Now in GT5, the power rates as follows. Oil change was done for this car, and the Engine Rebuild as well, for all specs below except where it says "Stock".

Here we have:

HP torque

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Stock: 44 @ 5,400 54 @ 3,500

Tuned*: 61 @ 5,300 68 @ 4,100

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Stg 1 NA: 71 @ 5,300 77 @ 4,200

Stg 2 NA: 89 @ 5,400 95 @ 4,300

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Stg 3 NA: tba

Stg 1 Tbo: tba

Stg 2 Tbo: tba

Stg 3 Tbo: tba

*"Tuned" in this game means I had the best aftermarket parts (computer, intake, and exhaust) equipped, but no official engine or turbo stages

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As we can see, some power can be had, and it does come in handy. This keeps the Panda Super rolling through many races, but not all of them. One of the problems with this car early on is its transmission, which is geared very tall. 5th gear is basically dead weight while the Panda's power is stock or nearly so. A close-ratio transmission will help a lot at certain tracks, but at others it'll wind up being too short. What this means is full-custom racing gears may become a very possible option in the long run.

CHASSIS AND HANDLING

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I mentioned something about this car being a Peugeot 106 junior, basically a small but bossy sort of automobile. I imagine that in its day, the Fiat Panda Super must have been sought after by the youths of Europe the way Integras, Civics, and Golf GTIs are or were craved in my country. The Super got the best horsepower jump after all (compared to other Pandas) and is probably easy to tune, as well.

In either game (GT4 or 5) this car basically handles the same: lots of options. Lots of front-drive traction and madness, and lots and lots of fun, too. Those who pass the Panda Super by don't know what they're missing. It's like driving a Kei car, but with a much torquier engine! The main difference between GT4 and GT5 is that in the latter game, the Panda Super can be driven and raced on cheap tires much more often than the Panda of GT4. By the time the GT4 Panda is entering the FF Challenge, it must be driven on sports. Or else. This is not true in GT5, where I used medium or soft radials for the bulk of my racing so far.

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Here we have one of those boxes from the '80s that possesses above-average braking, accurate steering, a lack of weight, and a narrow 58 inch girth. For all these reasons, the Panda Super i.e. simply dominates the Beginner's races in either game, but also it has some limits. Braking can be forced late for instance, but not too late. I've been in several situations where I've over-estimated this car's braking abilities (after braking too early into certain zones), after which dreadful moments of understeer start to ensue. That's one thing this car does not have much of: damage control. Brake too late, and you will pay. Narrow tires are mostly to blame. But if braking is tried in a timely manner, this one does nothing but grip (and sometimes grab) inwards. It grips the road like an alkie grips a bottle of Mad Dog.

Once we're mid-turn, the Panda Super typically offers us options to tighten or loosen up the car's line, which is GREAT during those times when we're early in the race, and traffic has bottlenecked to the point that it's difficult to find a way through. In a Panda, if there happens to be a way through, chances are you'll be able to guide this one in that direction. And "that direction" often leads reliably to gained positions and possibly victory. When exiting turns, the Super still likes to play its new-found role of Track Boss. After years and years driving around cornfields, fish markets, and crappy little towns as the farmer's son's first car, Bloc the Panda Super relishes its new life, and it shows. Front-drive traction is great. I love the traction this car possesses! It's a very punchy sort of traction, too. Point the car, and give it all the gas you can, WHILE the steering is cranked! Its tires might protest a little, but the car still moves in the direction you want it to go, a decent amount of torque pulling it away. If there's no wheelspin (in effect, if we're leaving that hairpin more carefully), this car often offers Integra or Fiat Coupe-like options—grabbing out of that turn, sometimes with a tightened line.

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It's this sort of behavior that can make an older driver (like me) say things I'd rather not type here. Good things, not bad things, but also dirty things...and I'm not typing them. :-p

But (again) we have some limits. In either game, a limited-slip unit will probably become needed rather early. In GT5, I noticed Bloc the red Panda started smoking its tires reliably at Madrid Mini's Compact Car event, despite the fact that it only had 86 horsepower! It is possible to live with smokey tires for awhile (it's fun as hell, after all) but this mini-hatch could use some LSD if we want to take it more seriously, even when it seems it hasn't got the power to warrant such a part. Understeer and wheelspin aren't this car's only demons; since it is so light, oftentimes curbs and unseen bumps can wreck small havocs on the Panda's cornering lines. A curb can throw it off-balance, for instance, ruining this car's otherwise near-perfect traction. But overall, this one rates well in my opinion, so far as Handling goes.

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PROS

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1). Cheap and inexpensive (GT4 much more so than GT5).

2). Lightweight. What happened to all the truely light hatches over the years? 3). A virtual handling demon. The Panda brakes late, corners with precision, and offers some grabby traction while exiting. It does (however) require some eventual tuning as we tackle races more challenging.

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4). NA and turbo kits available in both GT4 and 5. Some decent power can be wrought, too, power I wish I could put under the hood of some of my Kei cars in these games.

5). Fun to drive! Pushy, tossable, and a true Hot Hatch, once we get our hands on some more power, especially.

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6). GT4: one of those used cars that isn't too troubling to locate.

7). A great beginner's car, and a great car for tackling early Beginner and Pro League races in either GT4 or GT5.

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CONS

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1). Slow. Acceleration is especially lacking, sometimes even after we've dropped dozens of credits for more power.

2). Understeer doesn't seem to be a problem at first. And then it DOES. By the time this one finally starts to push, chances are you're stuck with this for a few painful seconds.

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3). GT5: overheating tires easy to accomplish, on both the inside and the outside.

4). Tuning (especially limited-slip) is needed quicker than it seems it should be, early in the Panda Super's career.

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5). Tall gearing. 5th is too far to reach while power is near-stock.

6). To some, the Fiat Panda Super is one of those cars that should have not been included on the roster.

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7). GT5: rarely found as a used car in this game, for gamers like me who desire boxy, sluggish econoboxes. :)

8). Eventually, the Panda Super's career will end. I have yet to find where and when this happens personally, but this aint the most capable, powerful FF on the market.