The new Delta is an eye-catching beast in the flesh. It's a curious hybrid of the old long-roofed Lancia Beta HPE sports hatch and an imaginary medium-size version of the Rover 75. But the Rover comparison is apt.
Lancia has been on the rocks for over two decades. Last year it sold around 125,000 cars, relying on the home market and a continental taste for the ritzy Lancia Ypsilon supermini. Lancia's current design strategy, like that of Rover, could be looking for amarket for which little evidence exists. While the Rover 75 was a clever re-think of the hackneyed 'gentleman's club', the Lancia strategy is for the "relaxed, convivial atmosphere of an elegantly casual lounge."
So the idea of the traditional St James' gentleman's club interior has morphed into a vodka bar or a celebrity haunt such as Soho House, but it amounts to much the same thing.
Attempts, however, to sell space and interior ambience under a non-premium brand has never been more than moderately successful, if not a complete dead end. Think of the Rover 75 itself, the Renault Modus, Renault Vel Satis and Lancia's own Thesis executive car.
Worse still, Lancia is probably better known around the world as the maker of the Delta Integrale, a car that has lived on for the younger generations in the virtual world. Sure, the new Delta is very eye catching and stands out in the metal. And the interior space is impressive. But is it a Lancia as most of us would understand the brand? And who's really convinced by sophistication as measured by chrome, leg room and subtle interior tones?