John Griffiths reviews the Chrysler Ypsilon, a distinctive design which should appeal to those who want something a little different.
The Italian-American connection has brought to Britain, among other things, a popular restaurant chain, pizza and ice-cream in a seemingly endless variety of flavours writes John Griffiths.
Now the link between Chrysler and Fiat has brought us something new, which both automotive giants hope we’ll find just as appealing to our palate.
Chrysler is hoping to reinvent itself in this country with no fewer than seven new models over the next five years, beginning with the Ypsilon and the larger Delta which went on sale this month.
While they carry the Chrysler badge and grille, both are powered by a range of proven, economical engines familiar from the popular Fiat 500 range, and Italian styling to give them a distinct, even head-turning, identity.
Both, in fact, have already enjoyed some success on the other side of the channel with a Lancia badge.
Chrysler has long had a relatively small but significant presence in this country with its legendary Jeep brand and the Voyager MPV, but has never managed to crack the all-important small family car and supermini markets.
Quite simply, it has had little to offer except for the likes of the very American Neon of a few years ago, which sold in small numbers.
Now the company has worked closely with its majority stakeholder, Fiat, to produce two far more relevant offerings, both hatchbacks with the accent on interior space with modern, economical engines including the Fiat 500’s Twin Air, voted International Engine of the Year.
The small of the two (a Fiesta/Corsa rival) is the Ypsilon (pronounced Epsilon as in the Greek letter E), a compact but curvy hatch with prices from £10,695.
Engine choices are the latest version of the familiar 1.2-litre ‘Fire’ petrol, the 1.3 diesel multijet and the 900cc Twin Air.
The diesel averages over 74mpg, the Twin Air over 67mpg, and both have CO2 emissions figures below the magic 100g/km mark, so are exempt from road tax.
The 1.2 engine, the cheapest in the line-up, has figures of 57.6mpg and 115g/km. All models have an automatic ‘stop/start’ system to save fuel in traffic.
I drove the Twin Air, although the first thing which struck me wasn’t the engine but the surprising amount of interior space hiding within this compact interior.
Headroom and rear-seat passenger space is particularly generous, even for taller occupants. And it still has a class average 245 litres of boot space, even with five people on board.
Thanks to ‘hidden’ rear door handles, the Ypsilon has a sleek, sporting look while maintaining all the practicality of a four door, which passengers will appreciate.
The interior has a quality feel, too, with comfortable seats and high-grade materials, the instruments are tidily placed in a central binnacle atop the dash, above the air conditioning and audio controls.
Chrysler has paid special attention to sound reduction, adding to the Ypsilon’s quality feel.
In spite of its mere 900 cubic centimetres and excellent economy, the Twin Air feels nippy with a lively 0–60mph time of 11.5 seconds, compared to 14 seconds for the cheaper 1.2.
It rides reasonably well, perhaps a little on the firm side, but it’s agile and feels firmly planted, even coping well with poor road surfaces which can upset some small, light cars.
It’s no surprise it was voted International Engine of the Year, especially with the bonus of a Ferrari-like growl if you test that sprint time for yourself. Do that, though, and you very rapidly hit the rev limiter and lose the fuel economy benefits.
The Ypsilon feels solid for a small car, with well weighted steering and confidence-inspiring handling.
Like Fiats, it has a ‘city’ button which makes the steering lighter for easier handling around town and when you are parking.
The basic model comes with anti-lock brakes and brake force distribution, driver, passenger and curtain airbags, electric front windows and mirrors, six-speaker stereo and adjustable steering wheel.
The SE model, which starts at £11,995, adds alloy wheels, side airbags, air conditioning, upgraded upholstery and heated/ folding mirrors.
The top grade Limited model (£13,295 to £15,495 depending on engine choice) has automatic air con, leather upholstery, front fog lights, steering wheel audio/phone controls, automatic headlights and automatic wipers.
So is this a Chrysler or a Lancia with a Chrysler badge? Well that probably won’t matter too much to potential buyers but there’s no doubt the American company’s sales ambitions have had a welcome boost thanks to the input of Italian style and technology.
The Ypsilon has an upmarket feel, proven engines and distinctive design which should appeal to those who want something a little different.