The Fiat Group has just released the first official photographs of the car with which it will relaunch the Lancia brand in the UK: this is the new Delta, the new upmarket, Italianate family hatchback headed to a showroom near you in early 2009.This production-ready Lancia Delta will be shown at next month’s Geneva motor show. The Fiat Group is billing it as the cornerstone upon which the new Lancia brand will be built – a classic example of its unique combination of elegant styling with an innovative outlook. More important than that, next year it’ll become the first Lancia officially sold in the UK since the Dedra saloon was phased out in 1994.
Engines, dimensions, mechanicals
Fiat has released only three images of the car ahead of its official Geneva unveiling. They show a car that, at 4.5-metres long, will be slightly longer than a conventional C-segment hatchback and, with a 2700mm wheelbase, will offer the kind of cabin space you’d expect to find in the class above. Rear legroom will also be boosted by the addition of rear seats that slide and recline, while at the rear of the car, a large hatchback will provide access to above average levels of storage space. The Delta shares a platform with the new Fiat Bravo, but the flexibility of that structure has allowed Lancia to make it look very different from the Fiat: only the shared windscreen and front door structure have had an effect on the final look of the car.The Bravo’s chassis has received an upgrade in crash safety for its application under the Delta, which should allow it to qualify for the mooted six star EuroNCAP crash-test regime. It’s thought that the Delta will get a multilink rear suspension system too, as well as Fiat’s new adaptive dampers. Both of these upgrades should also be fitted to the Alfa Romeo 147 replacement, the Delta’s sister car.Both normally-aspirated and turbocharged engines will be available on the Delta. The range is likely to start with Fiat’s 118bhp 1.9-litre MultiJet diesel, and range up to a 220bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol. Six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes will be offered, as well as Fiat’s new dual-clutch robotised manual transmission, Dual Dry Clutch.A revival of the iconic Delta Integrale model is thought to be unlikely at this stage. Fiat Auto sees Alfa Romeo as its sporting brand and is pitching Lancia as a more sophisticated and urbane brand with an emphasis on interior ambience and space.
Inside Lancia’s new hope
Designed at the Lancia Centro Stile, the new Delta is styled to pick up on the brand’s modern cues, but also move them forward into the 21st century. A full length sunroof will bathe the car’s cabin in light. Inside it you’ll find more upmarket materials than you’d find in a Fiat, as well as stylish colour combinations, unbeatable travelling comfort and refinement, and high levels of equipment including a Bose hifi, the latest Bluetooth wireless integration systems and Magneti Marelli satellite navigation.
Reviving Italy’s sleeping giant
Fiat bosses are hoping the Delta will help revive Lancia from a state of neglect. Currently the brand is languishing at the bottom of the European premier league of car-makers, having built just 118,000 cars over four model lines during 2007.The company wants to sell around 80,000 Deltas each year; production that will immediately bolster the firm’s bottom line, as the company currently doesn’t have a model in this all-important market segment. However, sources say the break-even point for the Delta is just 45,000 units per year. There’s no news on pricing yet, but Delta’s probably won’t come cheap, either; entry models will be priced close to £14,000.