First drive: Chrysler Delta

Chrysler Delta
The Chrysler Delta is an interesting car. Launched in Italy as a Lancia back in 2008, it's taken a further two years to make it to the UK in right-hand drive form, but now with an American manufacturer's badge.

So, why has it not returned to the UK as a Lancia? Well, apparently Chrysler didn't want the hassle of relaunching the Italian sporting brand after it left the UK in 1994.

Chrysler is now owned by the Fiat group and as part of its plans, Lancia and Chrysler are to be merged in Europe, with the Italian manufacturer's models rebadged as Chryslers in the UK and Ireland.

So, how does this new Focus and Golf rival shape up?

The badge on the bonnet might have changed, but like the smaller Ypsilon, the looks of the new car are pleasingly avant-garde.

Highlights include the curvy floating roof and the radically raked side windowsills. At the front, there are distinctive sloping headlights with LED daytime running lights and the shield-like chromed front grille.

Move to the back and the Delta is fitted with a sliding rear seat, which either means up to 465 litres of bootspace or extra legroom.

A choice of four engines are available for the Delta in the UK: two petrol and two diesel. Petrol engines start with the lively 120bhp 1.4-litre TurboJet and a more powerful 140bhp, 1.4-litre that uses Fiat's ground-breaking multi-air technology. Co2 emissions for both of these engines are 146g/km and 132g/km respectively.

The diesel engines start with the 95bhp, 1.6 Multijet diesel with emissions of 120g/km and a Combined consumption figure of 60.1mpg. The most potent diesel engine is the 165bhp 2.0-litre with 135g/km Co2 emissions and a Combined fuel consumption figure of 55.4mpg.

The cleverest features of the Delta have to be the Magic Parking system and Lane Departure Control. Magic parking works by pushing a button on the dashboard, then uses radar sensors in the front and rear bumpers, combined with wheel speed sensors, to measure the length of empty parking spaces.

If it finds a space free, 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.

The Lane Departure Control works via TV camera with image-processing software. It sends data on the makeup of the road in front of the car to the onboard computer, enabling the Delta to recognise road markings. The car's control unit then works out what sort of steering inputs are needed to keep the car within the road markings.

Fall out of these lanes and a motor generates torque on the steering wheel to tell the driver which way to steer. Clever stuff.

S, SE, SR and Limited trims are available, with prices starting from £16,695. Standard equipment on all models includes air-conditioning, a CD and MP3 player, remote keyless entry and a height adjustable driver's seat. Key options include the award-winning Blue&Me system and a navigation system with 6.5" screen.

I had the chance to drive the Delta SR with the 1.6-litre Multijet engine. This engine is a bit gruff compared with rivals, but it makes up for the noise with fine performance and torque.

The six-speed manual gearbox is light, the steering accurate, but maybe too light and the Delta's long wheelbase means the ride is refined.

Despite all this, the Delta isn't that much fun to drive. The steering might be accurate but it feels slow-witted and the body control is also poor. Finally, the six-speed manual transmission isn't very precise and the cheap-feeling gearknob has to be one of the most uncomfortable I've ever tried.

In driving terms the Delta is a little way off the class leaders. However, if you're after one of the roomiest cars in this class, with low running costs (five years servicing is included in this price), all wrapped in distinctive styling, then the Delta is well worth a look.

Chrysler Delta

Chrysler Delta