It’s almost exactly 18 years since Lancia threw in the towel in the UK. In autumn 1993 news filtered through that there was to be no right-hand drive version of the second-generation Lancia Delta (if anyone can remember that car).
It wasn’t a great surprise, in fact it was amazing that the brand had struggled on as long as it had. After widespread publicity in the late 1970s about rampant rust in the lovely Lancia Beta models, only the Delta Integrale had any credibility.
If I remember rightly, Lancia had the highest advertising spend per car sold of any manufacturer in the UK market. But, despite Fiat’s best efforts, shifting the ageing (but characterful) Thema and the Tipo-based (and pretty humdrum) Dedra saloon was a pointless exercise.
So I was amused to see the new ad campaign for the third-generation Delta appearing in the broadsheet newspapers yesterday. OK, this time around it is wearing a Chrysler badge on its be-grilled nose, but Lancia is back in the UK.
I’ve been a fan of the looks of the Delta ever since I saw it unveiled by Fiat boss Marchionne. It has to be the most original and distinctive looking car in the Golf-class. And it has been distinguished from its Fiat Bravo sister car through the use of an extra-long wheelbase. The rear space is just huge.
But looks and space aside, I’m not sure what else the Delta brings to the party. It’s not likely to be up there with the new Focus and current Golf for driving ability and Chrysler doesn’t have much of a track record in this market.
Even so, it’s curiously satisfying to see Lancia back - the Ypsilon supermini isn’t far behind the Delta - in the UK. It’s a long time since the company built a really competitive car, but there’s something about the brand, to my mind, at least - that still appeals.