First drive: Chrysler Ypsilon

Chrysler Ypsilon

Remember the Lancia brand? Many enthusiasts do and are still sad at the Italian sporting brand's departure from the UK in 1994.

Well, now its back - sort of. In case you weren't aware, Fiat Auto has taken over the US car maker Chrysler. As part of its plans, Lancia and Chrysler are to be merged in Europe, with the Italian manufacturers models rebadged as Chryslers in Europe, in much the same way as Vauxhall and Opel brands work.
One of two new Chrysler models launched here is the Ypsilon supermini. This all-new five-door version made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year and for Lancia anoraks, yes, it can trace its roots back to the individually styled first-generation Y10, which was sold in the UK.

The badge on the bonnet might have changed, but like the Y10 and Ypsilons of the past, the looks of the new car are pleasingly individual.

Chrysler Ypsilon

Highlights include the curvy floating roof that's similar to its bigger brother, the Delta. At the front, there are distinctive sloping headlights, a shield-like chromed front grille and a clamshell bonnet. Move to the back and the highlights are the curvy rear light clusters and deep rear window line.

I thought it looked at its best with the optional two-tone paint, which is expected to cost around £125 extra.

Sadly, the interior of the Ypsilon isn't as interesting as the exterior. You sit high and there's nothing wrong with the centrally-mounted instruments or soft-touch trim. However, the instruments are not very well integrated into the rest of the dashboard design.

Still, the finish is up to Fiat 500 standards, which is interesting as this car is built on a stretched 500 floorpan. The seats are comfortable, there's enough room in the back for six-footers and there's the practicality of a 245-litre boot.

Chrysler Ypsilon

A choice of three engines is available for the Ypsilon in the UK: two petrol and one diesel. Petrol engines start with the 2011 Engine of the Year, the 0.9 turbo TwinAir, which, like the bigger 69bhp 1.2-litre, has a 99g/km emissions figure.

The one diesel engine is the 95bhp, 1.3 Multijet with emissions of 115g/km and a Combined consumption figure of 57.6mph.

All of these engines feature green technology including a start-stop system and are Euro 5 compliant.

The cleverest feature of the Ypsilon has to be the Magic Parking system, which works by pushing a button on the dashboard, then uses radar sensors in the front bumper combined with wheel speed sensors to measure the length of empty parking spaces.

Chrysler Ypsilon

If it finds a space free from obstacles and is the length of the car plus 40cm at either end, the driver is notified by a beeping noise and a message on the dashboard. If you go for the space, the car takes over the steering, with the driver retaining control of the accelerator.

Other Ypsilon innovations include the Smart Fuel System, that prevents misfuelling.

S, SE and Limited trims are available, with prices starting from £10,695. Standard equipment on all models are electric windows, CD and MP3 player and a height adjustable driver's seat. Options include the award-winning Blue&Me system, that can be combined with a TomTom Go1000 sat-nav system.

I had the chance to drive the range-topping Limited with the TwinAir engine. It's a characterful engine that has a surprising turn of speed considering its size, but you have to get used to its lumpy idle and Citroen 2CV-like soundtrack.

The slick five-speed manual gearbox and light, acurate steering are other Ypsilon attractions. However, if you work the engine hard you'll struggle to meet this engine's amazing 67.3mpg economy figure. There's too much body roll in corners and the ride, though generally good, is unsettled by large potholes.

To sum up, if you think of the Ypsilon as a bigger, American Fiat 500, which talks with an Italian accent, the Chrysler is an interesting and high value alternative to the supermini mainstream.

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