Chrysler opens new market with Delta

The Chrysler name may be American, but you won't see many of these Chryslers plying the freeways of America. Not yet, at least. The Chrysler Delta, you see, is sold here under a badge of convenience.

What you see is actually the Lancia Delta. But, it couldn't be sold here under the Lancia name, for the rather fundamental reason that there are no Lancia dealers in the UK.

Chrysler Delta

Those with long memories will recall that Lancia abandoned these shores when sales dwindled following newspaper scare stories about rust. By 1995, Lancia had ceased producing any right-hand-drive models and the British dealer network was disbanded.

Fast forward to 2011 and the Fiat Group had ambitions to move back into the UK. But, how would they do it, with no dealer network?

The answer came through the Fiat Group's of Chrysler. The Lancia Delta would simply be rebadged as the Chrysler Delta, giving UK Chrysler dealerships a welcome new contender to offer in the all-important family hatchback market.

Lancia have a reputation for doing things a little differently, having been great innovators over the years. So that is probably why the Delta stands out from the crowd with its rather unusual styling. The black roof blends into the black glass of the tailgate, while the window line first drops before rising to the rear of the car, sweeping up to the roofline as the boomerang shaped rear lights sweep down.

Chrysler Delta

The Chrysler Delta is aimed at the market dominated by the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus. So, it is in for a tough battle in a hard-nosed market that is not likely to be conquered by stand-out-from-the-crowd styling alone.

Where the Chrysler Delta scores quite well is its accommodation. The rear seat offers good headroom and reasonable legroom, even with the driver's seat set well back. Adding to this versatility, the rear seats can adjust, not only backwards and forwards, but also recline. This offers a rare opportunity for rear seat passengers to take a snooze, as long as the boot is not fully packed.

Talking of the boot, opening the hatchback does reveal a rather high sill over which loads must be lifted. But, once hefted in, the boot is a good, deep usable shape with useful space below the floor where a spare wheel might normally be (on the test car it was replaced with a tyre inflator).

The bad news starts with the driving position, which is a shame because otherwise the interior looks quite inviting. The steering wheel is simply too high and I cannot abide cars where there is not enough space to slide your clutch foot easily off the pedal between gear changes. I was also disappointed how much the big windscreen pillars intrude into your vision at junctions and roundabouts. Similarly, rear seat passengers will curse the stylist's decision to sweep the windows up to the roof line at the rear.

Chrysler Delta interior

There's a reasonable choice of engines, ranging from the two 1.4-litre petrol engines, to a 1.6 and two-litre diesels. The £19,195 Delta 1.6 M-Jet produces 120 bhp to propel the it from 0 to 62 mph in 10.7 seconds.Combined fuel consumption is an impressive 60.1 mpg, with a real-life figure of around 50 mpg. CO2 emissions are 122 g/km.

This really is impressive power unit that delivers a good level of refinement along with a balance of performance and great economy.

The Chrysler Delta is at its best cruising on the open road. In that realm it is quite effortless and relaxed. Things get a little bit more frenetic and less-settled when you take to the B-roads.

All in all, the Chrysler Delta is a good effort and, most importantly for the UK dealer network, will bring some different buyers into the UK showrooms. But, it is not yet a strong enough proposition to really worry the established market leaders.

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