Chrysler Ypsilon Red & Black - car review
The brilliance of the internet brought the glamour of this year's Paris motor show to my desk – not quite like being there, but close enough. What is apparent from many of the pictures from the show is manufacturers' desire to play it safe.
It seems, though, every now and again, a maverick penman gets his latest crazy sketch past his boss and into production.
It seems one of these mavericks is employed by Fiat, and was tasked with designing a new supermini along the lines of the Fiat 500. It would wear the legendary badge of Lancia and be tagged Ypsilon.
Fiat's stable has always been a fairly diverse affair, but the problem for Ypsilon in the UK was always going to be selling anything with a Lancia badge on it. No dealer network exists, so the outlay would be huge. However, Fiat had entered into a global alliance with American brand Chrysler and, with a network of UK dealers already in place, a simple switch of badge was all it took to return Lancia to the UK, albeit in disguise.
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The model on test here is the Ypsilon Red & Black. I'll leave you to guess the over-riding colour scheme – both in and out. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste, but the gaudy grille, clamshell bonnet, hidden rear door handles and sweeping lines certainly set it apart from much of the direct competition.
The two-tone paint works well in reducing the appearance of size in what is one of the taller cars in its sector. This is something that becomes apparent once you climb aboard. Ypsilon's designers opted for a four-seat configuration, allowing plenty of space for those seated in the rear and a 50/50 split rear seat to increase load capacity.
Being Italian in heritage, the Ypsilon, in Lancia form at least, is left-hand drive, and the centre console reflects this. Although it faces directly down the centre line of the cabin, the speedometer is on the left-hand side of the binnacle, making it tricky to see when you're seated on the right.
A choice of three engines is available: Fiat's award-winning TwinAir unit, a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 1.3-litre diesel, on test here.
Married to a five-speed manual gearbox, there's promise of meagre fuel consumption and plenty of oomph. Although the claimed figure of 70-plus miles per gallon on the combined cycle may be stretching the truth a tad, 50-plus is certainly realistic.
The Ypsilon handles the majority of journeys well, motorway work is made all the easier due to the diesel engine and sound-proofing, even at higher speeds, is decent. Sadly, the gearbox deters any efforts at enthusiastic driving. It's not really designed to slip effortlessly between ratios. This is a shame, because the ride and the engine itself are capable performers.
Urban driving is probably where the Ypsilon performs best. Despite the lack of any decent rear visibility, it's easy to reverse park and hustle through city traffic. There's even a city button to lighten the steering should you need to.
The Ypsilon may bear an American badge, but there's no doubting its roots. For those of you who mourn the passing of the Lancia brand in the UK, buy a Chrysler Ypsilon and ignore the badge.