Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Fire up the... Chrysler Delta

ARE you the sort of person who needs a sensible hatchback but deep down has a burning desire to be different?

Then read on, because this is a very Italian answer to your question, albeit one delivered with a slightly American inflection. The Delta might wear a Chrysler badge but it's made by Lancia, the Torinese makers of some of motoring's most memorable machines. It's a family hatch from the people who brought you the Stratos!

Let's get one thing out of the way - despite having a name and a bit of heritage in common, this is not a sporty successor to the old Delta Integrale, which was pulled from UK showrooms nearly 20 years ago despite having six World Rally Championships to its name. No, this Delta is more about good taste and living luxuriously, something reflected in its restrained good looks (although I'm not too sure about the chrome grille up front).

Key to the luxury is that it's longer than, say, a Focus or Megane, and while you'll like the tasteful leather and suede trim inside your passengers are going to love the amount of rear legroom. It's also quiet and lavishly equipped, with a nice feel of quality to the instruments and switches.

But the real surprise is that - for a car aimed more at luxury loungers than rev-happy hedonists - the Delta is strangely good fun to drive. Like the smaller Ypsilon I've also tested, the Delta is based on familiar Fiat underpinnings, in this case the same mechanicals you'll find beneath the Bravo, but unlike its smaller sister the whole package seems to gel much better and inspire more confidence. You sit low and the steering is reassuringly talkative, and if you push it into a corner the worst you'll get is mild, reassuring understeer. As a companion through trickier corners it's unlikely to let you down.

Is the 1.4 MultiAir version I tested worth 22,000 of your precious pounds? For what it's worth, I think it'd be a little more evocative if it came with a Lancia rather than a Chrysler badge, and the likes of Hyundai's i30 will offer you more gizmos for your cash, but for class, refinement and style I reckon the Delta's a belter.

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