From £10,695
Distinctive and intriguing new supermini, but Twinair engine is at odds with Ypsilon's luxury positioning

Our Verdict

Chrysler Ypsilon
Those who travel to Europe will recognise the Ypsilon as a Lancia. It is uniquely badged as Chrysler for the UK

The Chrysler Ypsilon is a compact, economical five-door hatchback with cute looks and lots of equipment

What is it?

This is the all-new Lancia Ypsilon supermini, or - as it will be known in the UK and Ireland - the Chrysler Ypsilon. As a consequence of Fiat Auto’s takeover of the US car maker, Lancia and Chrysler are being merged in Europe in a similar manner to the way Vauxhall and Opel operates.

The upshot is that the Chrysler badge will not be seen on the Continent from now on. Cross the channel and the expanded dealer network will be selling Lancias and Jeeps alongside each other. Only in the UK and Ireland, where the cost of re-launching the tarnished Lancia badge was seen too great, will the Chrysler badge still be used.

This is the fourth generation of Lancia’s supermini. British enthusiasts with longer memories will remember that the first of the series was sold in the UK with the Y10 badge. The last two Ypsilon models - noted for their individual looks and be-grilled noses - were only sold on the Continent in left-hand-drive form. Lancia withdrew from the UK market in autumn 1993.

Fiat Auto has built this car on a stretched version of the platform used under the Fiat 500. Much of the extra metal has gone in front of the rear wheels in order to improve accommodation for rear passengers and allow a five-door layout.

Three engines will be available. A 68bhp 1.2-litre Fire EVO II petrol engine, the 84bhp 0.9-litre twin-cylinder Twinair petrol engine and a 94bhp 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine. All three get stop-start as standard and all three drive a five-speed manual ’box as standard, although the DFN semi-auto ’box is an option with the Twinair engine.

The car’s styling is in keeping with the ‘floating roof’ theme that was launched with the current Delta, although the clamshell bonnet and shield-shaped grille is remarkably similar to that of the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Inside, it retains the same central instrument pod theme as the previous models, with the shift again mounted high on the centre.

What’s it like?

The Ypsilon is being sold - in Europe at least – both as offering ‘accessible luxury’ and as a premium city car. Odd, then, that the two most popular engine choices are so unlikely to deliver on this promise.

The Twinair, while impressively torquey and incredibly willing to work seamlessly around to the rev limiter, also has a very vocal, thrumming soundtrack. There’s no doubt that this remarkable little motor rather encourages the driver to press-on, swapping up and down the ’box to exploit the performance. To that end, the shift action is pretty (although not completely) clean and the lever very well-placed.

A drive in the diesel Ypsilon also revealed a distinctly less compliant ride and an engine that certainly made itself heard in cut-and-thrust city driving. Again, at odds with the luxury message.

It was hard to really nail down just how well the Ypsilon will ride in the UK, mostly because the Turin cobbles and craters were such a challenge. But out of town, the car seemed stable, unruffled and pretty able to cope with the odd sunken drain cover.

Overall, a car this short (with a wheelbase of just 2.39m) and light can’t help but be handy and nippy, but the Ypsilon has no great sparkle, either in the way that it steers, changes direction or rides. It exudes competency, but nothing more.

Upfront, the cockpit is wide enough for two adults to feel at ease and is a pretty comfortable place to sit, despite the rather high-set seats and lack of telescope adjustment for the steering wheel. In the back the story is rather different. While stretching the 500 platform has created a decent boot, the rear cabin is cramped.

The rear seat squabs are very short, the seatback very upright and headroom is limited, unless the double-glass sunroof is added. Even Lancia admits that the Ypsilon’s rear can only accommodate a 55th percentile person, which means half the population can’t get comfortable.

Should I buy one?

If you are a Citroën C3 or Toyota Yaris owner, Chrysler would like to speak to you. If you put a premium on individuality, you might want to speak to them. If you are an enthusiastic driver, you probably won’t be impressed by the Ypsilon.

It’s the promises of luxury, however, that are hard to understand. Distinctiveness is certainly on the menu, both inside and out and that will be enough for Chrysler to sell the 6000 cars per year it is aiming at. But the excitable Twinair engine and the vocal diesel are the wrong powerplants for a car that wants to reflect small car luxury, and the interior plastics are not quite special enough.

And, at an expected £14,500 for the well-specced - but as yet unnamed - mid-range Twinair model (which lacks only the leather trim, fogs and bigger alloys of the range-topper) this car is in a very competitive market.

A small, smooth, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine could transform the Ypsilon into something that gets at least closer to a baby luxury car. This Twinair, however, has a rather contradictory personality.

Lancia Ypsilon 0.9 Twin-Air

Price: £14,500 (est); top speed: 109mph; 0-62mph: 11.9sec; economy: 67mpg (combined); CO2: 99g/km; kerb weight: 975kg; engine: two-cylinder Twinair, 875cc; Power: 84bhp@ 5500rpm; Torque: 107lb ft@1900rpm; Gearbox: 5-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
23

26 May 2011

Is the back end straight from a Nissan Murano?

SDR

26 May 2011

What a sorry little device. I think the interior should be blacker - it's a bit too bright and airy for my tastes.

15k in round numbers for this tiny, poorly resolved, entirely mediocre... thing from a low-brow brand is unfathomable. Unless to be willfully strange I can think of absolutely no compelling reason why I would want such a thing over a Fiesta, a Corsa, a Yaris, a Jazz, a one year old Astra, a two year old Golf, a Pogo Stick... I can't see how this has a competitive edge over anything at all really.

It seems to me that most things emerging from Fiat/Chrysler these days are under-engineered, done-on-the-cheap mongrels. I understand funds are tight for this company but they seem to be rushing to do a half-baked job of everything, including their brand management. Lancia could be a great brand in the UK again - I suspect there's quite a lot of goodwill towards it and it could suit a good 'prestige' small car. Whereas Chrysler is associated with 70's junk which was no better than the worst Lancia ever shipped, just with the added bonus of also being entirely without style or charm, plus a general sense of more recent low-brow, crude, tasteless oversized underdeveloped American... well, crap. PT cruiser? Voyager? YACK.

If Fiat wants long term success it needs to stop, take a breath, and think. Had this little Lancia been launched with another few months of development work and the right badge it could have been competitive, even compelling. In fact it sounds like something I can happily never give a moment's thought to again.


26 May 2011

I like the fact it is different both inside and out and I would guess this is the thing that is going to sell it to a lot of people.

It's almost as if Fiat have deliberately engineered as a next step up for people that are tired of the 500 and want something more grown up or people that want a 500 with extra doors. I think that it will work in Europe, especially with the close link between Fiat and Lancia.

In the UK however, is the general public going to "get" the Chrysler bit? I'm not so sure.

Couple that with the (potential) so, so ride and handling, I think Chrysler UK's marketing department are going to have a slog ahead of them and this is going to end up as nothing more than a very small niche car.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

26 May 2011

I always used to like the look of previous incarnations of the Ypsilon when i saw them abroad, but not this one. I particularly dont like the great big slabs of metal around the rear three quarters, not very good for visibility on a city car. And yes, it reminds me of a PT cruiser.....

26 May 2011

[quote catnip]reminds me of a PT cruiser.....[/quote]

...previous generation C3...

Lancia has lost her way long time ago ( Libra, Thesis...they were harbingers) !

26 May 2011

Seems a shame that a company with such a long history of producing stylish and innovative cars should be reduced to this, a car which is no more than a retro-styled and bigger bodied Fiat Panda. And I can't see the car working any better under the Chrysler brand either, maybe for the UK it should be sold as a Hillman or Singer?

I'd like to see Lancia doing something a bit more contemporary and looking towards the future, otherwise Fiat might as well give up with the brand.

26 May 2011

[quote SDR]I think the interior should be blacker - it's a bit too bright and airy for my tastes. [/quote] I agree, it would be hard to make it any darker wouldn't it without blacking out the windows. [quote SDR]I understand funds are tight for this company but they seem to be rushing to do a half-baked job of everything, including their brand management. Lancia could be a great brand in the UK again - I suspect there's quite a lot of goodwill towards it and it could suit a good 'prestige' small car. Whereas Chrysler is associated with 70's junk which was no better than the worst Lancia ever shipped[/quote] It does look like that. I like the look of this car, (rather this than a Mito), it's distinctive without being retro (like a 500) and the two-tone paintwork is an elegant selling point, if they made the interior lighter and fitted quieter engines and did not increase the price, they might have a hit. However, to do that it absolutely must have a Lancia badge, imo, as a Chrysler one simply means cheap and nasty to me. After all, what would you rather answer to a mate "Hey, I've just bought a Lancia" or "Hey, I've just bought a Chrysler".


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

26 May 2011

[quote SDR]15k in round numbers for this tiny, poorly resolved, entirely mediocre... thing from a low-brow brand is unfathomable.[/quote]

+1

If it was priced on a par with i20, Aveo, Rio maybe worth considering.......

26 May 2011

Ugly Little thing....

Lancia really should leave the styling to Chrysler...

They should also change the name.. Ypisslon? What a wierd name, I can barely say it. They should just call it the new PT Cruiser when it carries the Chrysler Badge.

26 May 2011

[quote fhp11]

Ugly Little thing....

Lancia really should leave the styling to Chrysler...

They should also change the name.. Ypisslon? What a wierd name, I can barely say it. They should just call it the new PT Cruiser when it carries the Chrysler Badge.

[/quote]

I hope you are taking the preverbial....

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