Delta brings style and luxury to the family hatch … but is it really a Chrysler?

By Philip Hedderman

When is a Lancia not a Lancia?

Erm,… when it is a Chrysler of course.


You will be.

I’ll try to explain, but like all marriages it’s complicated,  so bear with me.


In an effort to clarify this conundrum and for reasons far too long-winded, parent company Fiat has decided to re-badge all Lancias as Chryslers and vice versa.

The only exception being in left hand drive countries like Italy where the locals are as loyal to the brand as the ‘girls’ are to Slivio after one of his legendary bunga bunga parties.

It seems that the word Lancia is a dirty word in the murky world of the car salesmen – particularly in the UK where the Beta went down like a lead balloon.


Those who were stung by the rust-prone little Italian were not going to get caught again and the brand died a death in 1994.
The current recession, while being atrociously bad for all car manufacturers, actually smiled kindly on the Fiat brand.


Just as they were breaking into the American market with the 500 and the all new Alfa Giuletta, the third largest of the US car giants succumbed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers.


It was the perfect opportunity to tap into the lucrative US market and their willingness to pay a little extra for European models.


The idea that ‘they’re like kinda cute in a sophisticated way’ ethos attracts a premium may seem ludicrous to you and me but on the other side of the pond it means greenbacks, and lots of them.


The flip side of the coin was a winner too as Chrysler had a pretty good reputation here with the Gangasta rappin C300 and the Voyager – the biggest people carrier on the market until recently.


So it was a no-brainer switch the badges on a mid sized C Segment offering and more so when you factor in just how bad its predecessor was.


Who can remember the hideous Neon?




Now, the ‘new’ Chrysler Delta has actually been around for two years in its real guise as a Lancia.


Unveiled at the Geneva Motor show in 2008, the third generation had a lot to live up to not only in the style stakes but also performance – as the cabinet-full of World Rally gongs will testify to.


So, if first impressions are anything to go by then the Delta has it made.


What a lip-smackingly, fabulous piece of automotive engineering this is.


It has been discreetly tweaked with new headlight units featuring LED daytime-running lights and  a sharper, fuller grille sporting the C word, albeit in much smaller font.


The rear, with the distinctive lights nestling just over the wheel arches, remain in its original state leaving envious passerbys in no doubt as to its real DNA.


The ‘two-tone colour scheme’, or black roof in my case, while not exactly an original idea does add a touch of class, although it is completely lost on darker models.


Inside it lives up to its promise of premium, with wall-to-wall Poltrona Frau Leather upholstery which bleeds into the dash and runs around the cabin and upper doors.


It’s loaded with luxury gadgets too including Sat Nav, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, leather multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth with voice recognition, automatic headlamps, parking sensors and folding mirrors.


She also has class-leading space  in the back thanks to the clever tilt/sliding rear seats which gives oceans of legroom even for this six footer.


But it is the drive which will seal the deal for the undecided.


We tested the top of the range 165bhp, 2.0 litre MulitJet diesel which has masses of torque and lots of poke.


A challenging, fun drive on country boreens and comfortable and refined while cruising on the motorway.


Clever stability technology is constantly beavering away as you push her to the limits ensuring that there is always enough power going to the right places in the exact time needed.


Fiat call it the Absolute Handling System which pre-empts loss of control and with out you knowing it, makes subtle corrections.


There is also traction control, torque transfer control and torque steer control to literally keep you on the straight and narrow.


We notched up over 1,000 kms during the week together and the Delta proved to be one of the most economical ever tested – returning around 50mpg while annual road tax is just €156.


In fact, all Deltas reside in Tax Band A and B including their petrol unit – a 140bhp, 1.4 litre turbo (B).


Any niggles?


The Blue & Me Bluetooth was a little messy to use, but nothing that would really put me off buying one except the uncertainty over resale value.


Only time will tell if the Delta will take a spanking in the second hand stakes like all Lancias of yesteryear.

Sorry, I mean Chrysler.

You see, I still can’t get me head around the badge on the front.

Again, only time will tell.

Pricing starts at €21,995 for the 1.4 MultiAir Turbo SE, while the entry-level 1.6 MultiJet diesel SE is priced at €23,995.

The 1.6 MultiJet SR is priced from €25,995 while the top-of-the-range 1.6 MultiJet “Selectronic” is €27,995 and the 2.0 MultiJet Limited is priced at €29,995.