From £15,805
Italian hatchback majors on style, but can't quite deliver on substance

Our Verdict

Chrysler Delta
The Chrysler Delta, an Italian-bred family hatchback promises style and luxury for less

The Chrysler Delta is a bit different from the norm, but it is too patchy to recommend it highly.

  • First Drive

    Chrysler Delta 1.6 Multijet

    Styling will divide opinion, but the Chrysler Delta is a thoroughly decent small family car that can live with the class leaders in all important ways
  • First Drive

    Lancia Delta 1.9 Multijet

    Italian hatchback majors on style, but can't quite deliver on substance

What is it?

The third generation Lancia Delta is a rare and important car. There hasn’t been an all-new Lancia since 2004, and this one will lead a renewed assault from the firm on Britain and much of the rest of Europe. It’s distinctive and interesting, with several engines unseen elsewhere in the Fiat group, and some clever technology too. But unfortunately, it's still not the car we were hoping for.

Come to this car with no thoughts of the last range of dull, disappointing Lancias that were sold in the UK and the Delta will surprise you with elegant looks and unusual proportions. It’s longer than a Ford Focus but shorter than a Mondeo.

Underneath the Delta, the Fiat Bravo floorpan has been stretched to include another 100mm between the front and rear wheels, and with another 100mm in the rear overhang. With rear seats that slide fore and aft by around 150mm, that gives the new Delta a cabin with as much rear legroom, or as much boot space, as the most accommodating cars from the class above.

What’s it like?

If you remember Lancia’s far-off history of mechanical innovation, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the new Delta. Three of the engines from this new Delta’s range of six are brand new, among them the twin-turbocharged 1.9-litre 190bhp diesel we’re testing here.

But the car disappoints in exactly the areas we’ve been lead to expect greatness by Lancia’s own pre-launch build-up. If the new Lancia is all about comfort, quality, luxury and refinement – if it is indeed ‘Italy’s answer to Lexus’ – you wouldn’t know it from the Delta’s driver’s seat.

This car’s material cabin quality is inconsistent; its rich leathers and soft touch dash materials are too often juxtaposed with shiny silver trims and hard plastics. And levels of fit and finish are equally variable, both inside the cabin and outside it.

Moreover, the Delta’s driving position is poor – and this is a fundamental flaw for what’s supposed to be an upmarket product. The position of the pedals and steering wheel were skewed to the left in the left-hooker we tested, and the squab of the front seats was too short for good leg support.

Mechanical refinement levels are only adequate; our 1.9-litre diesel was a strong performer, but no more quiet than the class average.

And perhaps most disappointing is the way this car rides; on the standard springs and dampers it affords occupants less comfort from ruts and bumps than many superminis, and while the secondary ride improves with the addition of the adaptive dampers, the Delta’s never as cosseting as it should be.

So, should I buy one?

With the Alfa Romeo brand to carry its sporting ambitions, the Fiat Group has recast Lancia in a unique mould; that of a maker of stylish, advanced, refined and spacious mainstream cars. With the Delta though, it has delivered a car with only half of those virtues, and plenty of faults besides.

We've already been waiting 14 years for Lancia to return to the UK, and we'll have to wait longer, until July 2009, for this Delta to touch down in the UK. But even then, on this evidence, the wait for a really good Lancia will go on for even longer.

Join the debate

Comments
28

13 June 2008

Is this not the problem with whole Lancia re-introduction - it is style over substance?

The old Lancias were very good on engineering so ride, handling and performance were well above average. The build quality was the problem exacerbated by poor UK dealers and low second hand values.

Now the Lancia engineering has long gone and it just a badge on modified Fiat underpinnings. It is just like a Rover badged Honda used to be - there probably is a market if the quality is right for it but not for the enthusiast.

TUK

13 June 2008

As someone who is potentially interested in the Delta and who saw the car at the Geneva motorshow I have to say I was a little disappointed by the interior trim quality. It wasn't that it was poor quality considering similar vehicles in the class, it's just that I was led to expect a whole lot more, something more in keeping with the elegant and high quality interior of the Thesis. The Delta shows it's Bravo roots more than I would wish. The "floating" centre console effect actually looks more "glued on" and I would urge Lancia tweak the interior before considering the UK launch. As for the exterior .. I like it a lot!

13 June 2008

Why did u cut part of the article?

14 June 2008

I think it looks brilliant; a welcome antidote to the Golf/Focus class. The twin turbo diesel sounds like a cracking motor too. Remember not that long ago when only super cars attained the magical 100 hp p/liter of displacement? Now we have family hatches that do it, and they're diesels! Also, Car Magazine gave it 4 stars, and I tend to trust Car's editors much more than anyone at Autocar., who believe if isn't German, it can't be good.

TUK

14 June 2008

[quote xxalfaxx]Why did u cut part of the article?
[/quote]

Wasn't aware that I did. And anyway this is my opinion after having seen the show car and sitting in it for some time. It just so happens that the article suggests the same. I remember that the last platform sharing exercise involving the Tipo/Dedra/Tempra/Alfa155, the interior appointments were considerably different from one vehicle to another, the Lacia dedra and Alfa 155 being much better tyan the other two. In this case you can tell the Bravo origins, and it's OK, just not what I expected. I would still be interested in a Delta though.

17 June 2008

I love Bangle - the greatest mass market designer the world has seen since the italian heydays.

However I would have to disagree totally with your view that others should think this Lancia unattractive just as you and probably some (many?) others do.

Personally it doesn't appeal - a badge engineered mess (Rover/Honda indeed) without a doubt. But I hope there are plenty of people it does appeal to. Nothing wrong with having the FIAT group have something strong in the lower exec class.

Don't think this is it though...

Ubi

17 June 2008

Some clown persuaded our MD to put a Lancia Beta on the fleet 30 years ago. Never, ever, ever would I touch this brand again.

18 June 2008

[quote Kee Law]

erm... are you guys looking at the same pics?

this car is awful!

looks like bits of some Ssangyong with bits from a hearse coupled with some weirdo lights from some concept i saw years back.

some slate bangle, he's a regular da Vinci compared to the muppet who designed this!

[/quote]

Wow, this car is officially ugly! I thought the Rhodius was bad but this beats it hands down. I am an Italian car fan, loving the lines and the detail in most of the designs that come out of the design houses.

Who actually put pen to paper and thought yes I've cracked it, then did the double and convinced the board of the same? David Blunket's dog could have done better.

18 June 2008

I actually really like the Delta - because it's different. I wouldn't really call it ugly - it's a bit Fiat Multipla-ish - you either love it or hate it. I love it. I love the Multipla too. This sector needs a bit more different stuff, I think. Not sure about the interior though!

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

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