The market for a more executive sort of minibus-type transport is a growing one. You can see this sort of thing in hotel shuttle buses and in the rental market, where some clients are looking for something a little more akin to the types of car they normally drive. For example, a group of businessmen going on a golfing outing are likely to need transport, but they would want it to remind them of their upmarket, mostly German, saloons that they have left behind. It is no wonder then that the Germans have the upscale minibus market largely sewn up, with classy offerings from both Volkswagen and Mercedes. Fiat, however, provides a different option with the Panorama.
This is a luxury conversion of Fiat’s light panel van, the Scudo, and it has seats for nine people and an impressive specification. Fiat also offers a more utilitarian Combi version. The Panorama comes in long or short wheelbases, but there is no high-roof option. It can be configured with either two or three seating rows to accommodate between five and nine people, with a further choice of either two seats or a three-seat bench at the front.
The standard spec includes both ABS and EBD, and there is also a deadlock alarm, remote central locking, electric windows, dual-zone climate control and an assortment of air bags. The long-wheelbase version gets ESP traction control but only as an option.
Power comes by way of the impressive a Fiat MultiJet two litre engine, with a choice of 120hp or 136hp power outputs, paired with a six-speed gearbox. Early editions had no automatic transmission option. Fuel economy is fair, with the Panorama getting up to 39.2mpg on the combined cycle. CO2 emissions are up to 198g/km.
Inside the cabin, you will find some nice thick carpeting, which does the double job of absorbing road noise and creating a quite atmosphere while adding a touch of luxury. If you go for the short-wheelbase version, however, you should be aware that with all nine seats in place there is little room left for luggage. A better bet is therefore the long-wheelbase version, which has a decent 770 litre luggage space with all the seats in place. There is some flexibility, though, with five or six cubic metres of luggage space available in the short- and long-wheelbase versions respectively when you take the rear seats out.
The two rear seat rows are also split, allowing you to take one or two seats out of each row for more luggage and passenger combinations. A word of warning, though: the seats are pretty heavy, so it is not an easy job for one person. Up front, the three-seat bench is a little tight for three adults, and the two-seat version is much more accommodating. A neat feature is the raising of the seat rows as you move back, with each one elevated over the row in front to provide better forward views. There is a pair of handy overhead lockers. Overall, a used Fiat Panorama makes a decent fist of taking on the German opposition.by