What is it?
The Lancia Delta that has already enjoyed reasonable success in Europe for the last three years finally makes it to the UK – but now wearing the badge of Fiat group’s American subsidiary. We’ve driven the petrol-powered 1.4 MultiAir 140 SE, the middle-of-the-range predicted bestseller which starts at £18,495.
The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is shared with numerous Fiat Group products – Abarth 500, Alfa Romeo Mito, Fiat Bravo et al – and combines 138bhp and 170lb ft performance with 49.6mpg economy and 132g/km CO2 emissions. For now, it’s the most powerful petrol Delta you can buy.
On the inside, it’s all about space. With a 2700mm wheelbase (100mm longer than the Fiat Bravo it’s related too), the Delta boasts class leading rear passenger room and those in the back can enjoy sliding and reclining seats. The manual adjustment is a little uncouth and best done when not on the move, but it does give Chrysler’s new Focus rival a unique boast over rivals.
What’s it like to drive?
Rather uninspiring. There’s nothing bad about it – the long wheelbase ensures the ride is largely smooth, only upset on particularly rutted roads, and body control and grip levels are good. But the key controls are too light and lacking in feel, the steering in particular, and there’s little feedback when pressing on. A drivers’ car it is not.
The engine is impressive, and provides perky performance throughout its rev range. Overtakes are relatively easy work in most of the manual gearbox’s six speeds. 138bhp isn’t quite enough to make an elongated 1395kg hatchback feel properly quick, though, and a sedate 9.2sec 0-62mph time sounds about right.
A chat to a Chrysler spokesman revealed a more powerful Delta isn’t certain; the 178bhp version of the 1.4-litre MultiAir would be enough to create a brisk warm hatch, if not a reborn Integrale (which almost certainly won’t happen).
How does it compare?
It looks smart and promises to be an appealing alternative to the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus. Sadly the competition is all pretty much excellent these days, and they all look and feel far higher quality than the Delta inside. The Chrysler’s small cost advantage over a Golf in the showroom will no doubt disappear by resale time.
Anything else I need to know?
‘Luxury Liberated’ is Chrysler’s tagline, and the Delta is being advertised as a plushly accommodated C-segment hatch. Our mid-spec car came with numerous low-grade bits of trim and blank switches, though, and without full climate control fitted the centre of the dashboard is left looking bare and shiny. The Delta is over three years old now, and it simply feels off the pace.