Fiat Panda II (Type 169: 2003-2012)

Used, red Fiat Panda, second-generation model, 5-door hatchback

 

Reliability & common problems

This section covers the potential reliability issues that you might have with the Fiat Panda II. Click on the buttons below to read more about the typical problems that fall outside the scope of routine maintenance.

Dualogic transmission

The Dualogic transmission is an automated manual transmission, which means that the car has a manual transmission and a Dualogic robotic unit attached to it. The robot does the gear shifting for you, you lazy bastard.

You might have also heard about Alfa Romeo’s Selespeed transmission. Fiat’s Dualogic and Alfa Romeo’s Selespeed are pretty much the same thing.

Let me very briefly explain the basics of this transmission. The Dualogic robot is a complex hydraulic device, made up of solenoid valves, sensors and actuators. It is powered by a little hydraulic pump, and it has its own hydraulic fluid circuit.

The oil is pressurized by the pump and then stored in a hydraulic accumulator. The accumulator has a rubber diaphragm inside and compressed nitrogen gas behind the diaphragm. Therefore, there is compressed gas on one side of the diaphragm and hydraulic fluid on the other.

The diaphragm can deflect to store energy (oil pressure) because nitrogen gas is compressible, while the oil isn’t. This stored energy is then used to do the mechanical work – changing gears and operating the clutch, which is what the actuators do.

Because there is no torque converter, the Dualogic can be as efficient as a manual gearbox. However, it’s not as smooth as a traditional automatic transmission, and in my opinion, not as reliable.

The problem is that it is a relatively advanced piece of machinery and a failure of an individual component, like a £20 sensor or a £5 seal, means that you may have to replace the entire Dualogic unit, which is very expensive.

You may be able to replace an individual part that failed if you can find someone capable of doing it, but it will take some effort and time as there aren’t that many places that can fix Dualogic robots.

I am fairly confident that if you simply go to the dealership with a faulty Dualogic gearbox and the problem is not something obvious or easy to replace like an accumulator or a hydraulic pump, they will try to replace the entire unit for £2,000.

 

My recommendation is to avoid Dualogic transmissions when buying a used car. However, if you are still determined to buy one, here are the symptoms of malfunction:

  • dropping into neutral on its own (this can happen at motorway speeds)

  • jerky gear changes

  • transmission warning messages on the dashboard

  • inability to select gears or missing gears

When the Dualogic transmission stops working, the first thing to check is the accumulator. Over time, the membrane inside can rupture and the accumulator will stop storing pressure. Even if the membrane is still fine and you don’t drive the car much, the nitrogen gas will eventually escape, just like air escapes from a seemingly airtight balloon.

It’s the same story as with the nitrogen spheres used in Citroën’s hydro-pneumatic suspension and Mercedes-Benz’ ABC. Because it could take a decade, the odds are that the membrane will fail before the gas disappears from the sphere.

Don’t worry about the accumulator, though. It’s not expensive and easy to replace. It’s just everything else that should worry you – the solenoids, the seals and sensors inside the Dualogic robot.

In my opinion, buying a second-hand Fiat Panda with the Dualogic defeats the purpose of the car, which is to be affordable, simple and low-maintenance.

1.3 MultiJet – timing chain wear

The camshaft in this engine is driven by a single row timing chain not much bigger than a bicycle chain. In my opinion, it’s not a very robust design and it is an area to watch.

Generally, when a timing chain is used, the intention is for it to last the “lifetime” of the engine (very roughly 200k miles). Therefore, there is no replacement interval specified for the timing chain. As I see it, trying to reach 200k miles on the original chain and tensioner is very risky.

If the chain wears and elongates (stretches), or the tensioner stops working properly, the typical symptom that develops is a chain rattle that lasts for a couple seconds after a cold start. In severe cases, the chain noise may remain for longer after the engine has started. The “Check Engine” light may appear too.

Here’s what timing chain noise sounds like:

 

Any chain stretch symptoms should not be ignored in this engine, regardless of the mileage. If the timing chain jumps some teeth, you will be looking at valvetrain damage. You may choose to replace the timing chain preemptively like you would with a timing belt, or you can wait until symptoms develop.

In my opinion, engines that have done more than 100k miles will probably qualify for a full timing chain service (new timing chain, guides, tensioner and gears).

If you are looking to get one of these cars, make sure there is no chain rattle after starting the engine. This needs to be a cold start when the car has stood still for a couple hours (ideally overnight). If the chain rattle is persistent, it means the chain or the tensioner is on its last leg.

Summary of problems & additional information

  • The Fiat Panda is simple and cheap to run (if you stay away from the Dualogic transmissions). Some Panda models come with 4-wheel drive. The 4×4 Panda can handle off-road quite well considering it’s a small and inexpensive car. The cuddly Panda can be a versatile animal… I mean car.

  • The 1.1 and the 1.2 FIRE engines are very simple and reliable units. If you are looking for an economical, low-maintenance car, these are the engines to pick. The 1.4 16v Starjet is more powerful and fairly reliable too. These three engines do not have dual-mass flywheels. Also, the 1.1 and 1.2 8-valve FIRE engines were non-interference designs until 2010.

  • In 2010, the 1.2 60 PS FIRE engine received variable valve timing (VVT) and increased compression ratio to meet Euro 5 emission standards. As of then, the 1.2L 69 PS FIRE became an interference engine.

  • All engines in the Fiat Panda, except the 1.3 MultiJet, have timing belts. Don’t forget to replace the timing belt on time.

  • The 1.3 MultiJet engine in the Fiat Panda also doesn’t have a dual-mass flywheel, unlike most modern diesel engines. I consider this to be a good thing. There is one expensive component less (ca. £200) and the cost of slightly more vibration in the cabin.

  • Watch out for timing chain stretch in the 1.3 MultiJet engines.Other than that, there are no other major issues with these engines. When this little engine was released, it was able to meet Euro 4 emissions limits without the use of a diesel particulate filter (DPF). The DPF was available as an optional extra with the 70 PS engine.

  • The 75 PS model introduced later meets the Euro 5 and is fitted with a DPF. The 70 PS variant without a DPF is much better suited for city driving. Click here for an article that might help you decide if a modern diesel engine, like the MultiJet, is the right choice for you.

 

Fiat Panda II specifications

This section contains Fiat Panda II specifications. You will also find technical information regarding the engines used in these cars. Press the buttons below to display the specs and engine technical details.

Petrol engines – specs & performance figures

ModelDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
1.11108 cm³ / 67.6 cu in54 PS / 40 kW88 Nm / 65 lbf⋅ftUntil 2010, 8v FIRE engine
1.21242 cm³ / 75.8 cu in60 PS / 44 kW102 Nm / 75 lbf⋅ftUntil 2010, 8v FIRE engine
1.2 Euro 51242 cm³ / 75.8 cu in69 PS / 51 kW102 Nm / 75 lbf⋅ftFrom 2010, 8v FIRE engine
1.2 Easy Power1242 cm³ / 75.8 cu in60 PS / 44 kW102 Nm / 75 lbf⋅ftFrom 2008, Twin-fuel (Petrol + LPG), 8v FIRE engine
1.2 Natural Power1242 cm³ / 75.8 cu in60 PS / 44 kW (petrol) and 52 PS / 38 kW (CNG)102 Nm / 75 lbf⋅ft2006-2010, Twin-fuel (Petrol + CNG), 8v FIRE engine
1.4 Natural Power1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in77 PS / 57 kW (petrol) and 69 PS / 51 kW (CNG)115 Nm / 85 lbf⋅ftFrom 2010, Twin-fuel (Petrol + CNG), 8v FIRE engine
Panda 100 HP 1368 cm³ / 83.5 cu in100 PS / 73.5 kW131 Nm / 97 lbf⋅ft2006-2010, 16v StarJet engine

Diesel engines – specs & performance figures

ModelDisplacementPowerTorqueComments
1.3 Multijet 16v1248 cm³ / 76.2 cu in70 PS / 51 kW145 Nm / 107 lbf⋅ft2004-2010
1.3 Multijet 16v DPF1248 cm³ / 76.2 cu in75 PS / 55 kW145 Nm / 107 lbf⋅ftFrom 2006

Petrol engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingFuel deliveryDMFInlet flaps
Legend:SOHC - Single Overhead Camshaft
DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
VVT - Variable Valve Timing
EFI - Electronic Fuel Injection
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
FIRE 8vInline-4, 8 valvesNoTiming belt, SOHCPort injection (EFI)NoNo
FIRE 8v Euro 5Inline-4, 8 valvesNoTiming belt, SOHC, VVTPort injection (EFI)NoNo
1.4 StarJet 16vInline-4, 16 valvesNoTiming belt, DOHC, VVTPort injection (EFI)NoPort deactivation

Diesel engines – technical details

EngineEngine config.Forced inductionValve timingInjection systemDMFDPFSwirl flaps
Legend:DOHC - Double Overhead Camshaft
DPF - Diesel Particulate Filter
DMF - Dual-mass Flywheel (does not apply to auto. transmissions with torque converters)
1.3 MultiJet 16vInline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming chain, DOHCCommon RailNoNoNo
1.3 MultiJet 16v DPFInline-4, 16 valvesTurboTiming chain, DOHCCommon RailNoYesNo

 

Fiat Panda II wheel sizes

Press the button below to see the original equipment manufactuer (OEM) rim & tyres sizes for the Fiat Panda II. These are the original wheel sizes that were fitted by the manufacturer.

TyresRims Centre BoreBolt PatternComments
155/80 R135Bx13 ET3558.1 mm4x982WD Panda
165/65 R145.5Jx14 ET3558.1 mm
4x982WD Panda
165/70 R145.5Jx14 ET3558.1 mm
4x984WD Panda
185/65 R145.5Jx14 ET3558.1 mm4x98Fiat Panda Climbing 4x4
185/55 R145.5Jx14 ET3258.1 mm4x98Fiat Panda 100 HP, steel rims (winter wheels)
175/65 R156Jx15H ET2458.1 mm4x98Fiat Panda Cross 4x4
195/45 R15 6.5Jx15 ET3058.1 mm4x98Fiat Panda 100 HP, aluminium alloy rims

 

Share this page:

2 thoughts on “Fiat Panda II (Type 169: 2003-2012)

  • September 4, 2018 at 3:42 pm
    Permalink

    Hi! Thank you for your most useful info. However, I just want to make sure: I have a 2011 petrol engine Panda (among the last produced “wearing” the bodywork in your picture!) and just want to be sure – does it have a truly non-interference engine? Like, if the timing belt suddenly breaks, the engine will stay unharmed? Thank you in advance!
    Vifo

    Reply
    • September 4, 2018 at 8:09 pm
      Permalink

      Hello!
      As always, the devil is in the details, so I’ve done a bit of research. I’m fairly confident that yours is an interference engine, unfortunately.
      The earlier 60 PS engines in the Panda were non-interference designs. However, this changed when Fiat added variable valve timing and increased the compression ratio to meet Euro 5 emissions limits in the middle of 2010.

      1.2L 60 PS = non-interference
      1.2L 69 PS = interference

      I’ll update the article with this information.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *