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Steering, suspension and ride comfort

The Delta’s chassis is divided between MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. This car handles and rides with more than enough competence to meet the class average. It has a quiet chassis, rides bumps without harshness and steers every bit as accurately as most medium-sized hatchbacks.

Refinement is where we hoped the Delta would really stamp its authority on proceedings. It proved quite quiet and generated 71dB of wind rush, road roar and engine noise at 70mph, but its rolling manners aren’t particularly suave.

The Delta is impressively refined

Our main dynamic criticism is that it fails in the one area that a luxury car should succeed. Conventional notions of luxury may be changing, but a smooth primary ride is still vital, we feel, for any car that purports to provide it. And the Delta is a little too stiff legged to isolate its occupants from a broken road surface with any outstanding success. Although it doesn’t suffer with much pitch or roll of its body and seems quite well damped during sporting driving, the Delta always feels intimately connected to the road surface rather than insulated from it. 

So if you’re attracted to this car on the basis of how it’s described in Chrysler’s advertising and are hoping for a primary ride that’s cosseting enough to set new standards among £20k family cars, you’re in for an unsatisfactory experience when you try one.

The Delta’s torsion beam rear suspension seems to be the main culprit of the dynamic disappointment. This is a big car to have that kind of chassis technology, and in order to deliver good cornering stability and a quiet secondary ride, Chrysler/Lancia has opted for quite high spring and damper rates and particularly firm bushing – so the car struggles to provide calm, gentle and luxurious compliance over lumps and bumps.

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The flipside is much better grip, involvement and handling precision than we expected. That stiff rear end makes it feel quite responsive – pointy, you might even say – in slippery conditions. Although the car’s electro-mechanical power steering is overly keen to self-centre, it has reasonable weight away from the straight-ahead, even if it still lacks natural feel.

The car’s light pedals and gearchange don’t make it an easy car to get away from a standstill if you’re in a hurry; the primary controls lack the feedback you need to be sure of optimum traction. Having said that, the Delta’s Michelin tyres provide it with more than enough front-end grip to prevent wheelspin under full power, and throttle response is good.