Road test: Chrysler Delta 1.6 M-JET diesel SE
There was a small bubble of interest and some TV advertising when the Chrysler Delta was released last year but since then, it’s been pretty quiet. Out on the roads, I have only ever spotted one Delta which is a shame, because it looks that little bit different. The good news is that one has come to stay with Motor Writer for a while so we can gauge opinion and try it for ourselves.
Actually, when I write that I have only ever seen one Delta, this is only true in the UK. In Italy, while not exactly common, there are a fair few out and about. This is because they are in fact very Italian and carry the Lancia badge in their home land. And this leads me into my first quandary: should I view this car as a rare Italian beauty or something a little different carrying Michigan’s Chrysler branding? Read on…
It’s hard to do something different in the C-segment hatchback without compromising aesthetics, practicality or capability, so it is worth celebrating the Delta for its unique styling. In profile, it sits somewhere between hatch and estate, a bit like the A3 Sportback and is characterised by a low nose, very gently raked windscreen and rounded hips encompassing the rear LED lamps. The Delta looks particularly striking with the contrasting body and roof options; our test car is a little less conspicuous in a dark metallic grey.
My first few days with the car comprised a considerable amount of driving, ideal to put the Delta through its paces and understand properly whether it is a serious contender for the Focus/Astra/Golf. However, during each and every journey, my mind wandered in and out of the origins of this car and most times struggled to come to terms with the Chrysler branding. Apart from anything else, in the middle of the dashboard sits the hazard warning button, shaped to match the Lancia badge; outside too, the shield-like front grill echoes the famous Lancia logo.
In terms of driving dynamics, it is a little unsettled at low speeds but on the autostrada it cruised particularly well, partly due to its long wheel-base. One of the challenges was a dash to Blackpool (easy to mistake with stunning Positano on the Amalfi coast road) where the Delta showed its true abilities as a high speed cruiser. Even with the 1.6 diesel engine and a tall sixth gear, it was very eager to climb above the national speed limit and flexible enough not to require down-changes on inclines or through heavier traffic. While not as crisp as Ford’s offering, the Delta inspired confidence in the corners and is very composed in the wet. Braking feel is good and steering is light enough never to need the over-assisted city driving mode.
Inside, it’s comfortable and as spacious as many D-segment saloons. Lancia is Fiat’s luxury brand, and whatever is written on the Delta’s nose, it does feel civilised and relaxed. There’s a little too much silver plastic for my liking and trim finish and alignment isn’t up to that on many rivals but otherwise it is comfortable and easy to live with.
Instrumentation is clear (and particularly pleasing when illuminated at night) and the switchgear is straight-forward, the only exception being the twist controls on the stalks. These stalks have rectangular cross-sections, so rear wiper or intermittent wipe speed switches stick-out oddly when partially rotated. This mid-spec SE has most things you would want or expect but is missing cruise control and an auxiliary input to the otherwise good hi-fi.
With a list price of £19,195 for this 1.6 M-JET SE, I’d want to haggle. Alternatively, the canny buyer will find one year-old examples with four-digit mileages £6k cheaper. And that buys you quite an exclusive little piece of Italy.
Power: 120 bhp (4,000 rpm), torque: 300Nm (1,500 rpm), emissions: 122 g/km CO2 (band D), 0-60 mph: 10.7 secs.
Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○Tweet