What is it?
It’s the smallest of those Italian-built Lancias, uniquely badged as a Chrysler Ypsilon for the UK because Fiat would rather not confuse us by re-launching Lancia here having killed it years ago.
More to the point, it’s an ultra-compact five-door supermini, only 3.8 metres long but quite tall so it’s surprisingly credible as a five-seater. The underbits are closely related to the Fiat 500 and Ford Ka, but it it sits on the longer wheelbase (2390mm) of the all-new Fiat Panda, shown at Frankfurt recently and due for launch in Europe early next year. Chrysler’s TV ads stress space (for its size) and luxury, both of which the Ypsilon delivers in exchange for solid prices.
Our test car, ritziest of three trim levels, had a base price of £15,495 that was boosted to £17,795 by two-tone paint, 16-inch alloys, ESP, a sunroof, cruise control and rain sensing wipers. You don’t have to pay all this money, of course. Go for the spartan 1.2 litre, 68 bhp S-model (£10,695) and you get the useful cabin package, albeit with no aircon or alloys. The mid-spec SE, which has both, starts just under £12k.
What's it like?
It’s a useful, likeable little car. Once you get used to riding fairly high, and to the (attractive) central instrument cluster, it’s a relatively soft-riding little machine with lighter steering than most and a light-to-use if slightly rubbery five-speed gearchange. It’s a quite different experience from what has become the Ford-VW norm among small cars; the body isn’t so well controlled but the car copes better and more quietly than most of its peers with suburban potholes. Noise levels are also fairly low at top-end motorway cruising speeds, which makes the Ypsilon much more than a mere city car.
The engine is the familiar GM-sourced 1.3 turbodiesel currently offered in Panda, 500, Corsa and Meriva among others. In all of these applications – and Ypsilon – it is a little light on bottom-end torque but has a surprising turn of pace to the top end provided you remember to you push the long-travel accelerator far enough. A 114mph top speed with an 11.0 second 0-60mph sprint is okay for a car of this duty and character, especially when you match it with 74.3mpg combined and a CO2 output of just 99g/km.
The cabin is impressively comfortable, and has especially great-looking leather bucket seats. The only jarring note are some slightly flimsy-looking hard plastics. Exterior styling, like that of Ypsilon’s big brother Delta, which is being launched at the same time, is pleasantly distinctive. And very Italian. Little Lancias apparently sell well to stylish Italian women; Chrysler UK seems safe in hoping for annual sales between 4000 and 4500 units. In particular, the designers have been successful at giving the car a coupe-like look, neatly disguising its generously proportioned second door. The car is quite roomy in front, but the rear compartment is better at housing smaller adults (and two of them rather than three) than six-footers.
Should I buy one?
Depends, as with the Delta, how you view the new prominence of the Chrysler name. If you’re the sort who buys brands, this car may not do it for you, though the UK company is battling hard to give its brand some new impact. However, if you’re seeking a very compact, very economical five-door with cute looks and lots of equipment, the Ypsilon looks a decent choice, at least until the next Fiat Panda comes along.