Chrysler Ypsilon driven

* Chrysler-badged Lancia supermini * On sale in September * Prices to start around £10,500...

Chrysler Ypsilon driven

What is it?

Years before Audi came up with the A1, Lancia was selling its own upmarket supermini the Ypsilon.

However, thanks to the Italian brand leaving the UK in the '90s, the only hope that British buyers had of getting hold of one, was hiring one on holiday.

This all-new third-generation model changes all that though. It will go on sale here in September, albeit with a twist because it will come wearing a Chrysler badge; a result of parent company Fiat's new alliance with the American corporation.

Like previous models the new Ypsilon will be aimed at the luxurious end of the 'mini market, although with prices expected to start from £10,500, it won't be a full-on rival for the Audi A1 or Mini. Instead the company sees it as a plusher alternative to the Fiestas and Corsas of the world.

The question is, does it live up to that promise?

What's it like inside?

If you define luxury through space then the little Chrysler does a good job. Front passengers get plenty of head-, shoulder- and legroom and although taller adults in the back may be scraping their heads on the ceiling there is a surprising amount of knee clearance for a small car. For the first time in its history, the Ypsilon now has five doors instead of three, which makes access to the back much easier. The boot is a usefully square shape, but with a 245-litre capacity, its a little behind the class leaders on outright space.

One potentially major pitfall though is the design of the cabin. The instrument dials are in the middle of the dash and the gearshifter is mounted high up below them. Coupled with a high driving position, the effect when you're sitting behind the wheel is of driving a baby MPV, rather than a slinky Italian supermini.

The drivers seat can be cranked up and down to help you find a comfortable driving position, but you might not be able to get as settled as youd like, because the steering wheel moves for rake, but not reach. Still, at least its pretty simple to use all the cars major functions, because the switchgear is logically laid-out and clearly marked.

We've got reservations over the cabins quality, though - it doesn't feel quite like the class act that Chrysler claims. Most of the materials feel solid, but also look rather dour at the same time. Even the soft-touch covering on the dash looks pretty unappealing, and it doesnt feel that plush, either.

The high-waistline and narrow windows conspire to make the cabin feel dark and gloomy, too. In short, it doesn't look or feel as stylish on the inside as it does on the outside.

What's it like to drive?

The Ypsilon is based on an extended version of the Fiat 500 platform and it feels like it on the road, especially in the way it rides. Undulating road surfaces cause the body to float around but this doesn't translate into a pillowy, soft ride either because bumps and potholes thud uncomfortably into the cabin. We're doubtful that it will cope with broken British roads any better.

This firmness doesn't translate into a sharp, agile drive, either, because there's little amusement to be had in bends either push hard and it leans over through corners and the steering is remote and slow to react, making it hard to place accurately on the road.

The Chrysler's engines are also taken from the Fiat 500. Petrol choices include a 68bhp 1.2-litre and the 84bhp two-cylinder Twinair, while there's one diesel option: a 94bhp 1.3-litre.

We sampled both of the petrols and if you've got any motorway work in mind then forget the 1.2-litre as it feels too weak for the job. The Twinair is far perkier though, providing you're willing to keep the revs percolating above 2750rpm. Letting the revs drop also ups the vibration and noise that filters into the cabin. The noise doesnt die down enough at motorway speeds, either, and with pronounced road noise also added to the mix, its not the quietest cruiser.

Should I buy one?

The Chrysler Ypsilon is some way off feeling like the most luxurious supermini in the class, but with prices starting at a shade over £10,000, it's far from being the most expensive. On top of that, running costs will be low even the dirtiest of the engines (the 1.2) gives you 57.6mpg and emissions of 115g/km, while the diesel can achieve an impressive 74.3mpg and 99g/km.

Equipment levels for the UK haven't been finalised, but they're likely to be generous.

So the Ypsilon isnt as good to drive as a Fiesta, and it doesnt feel as classy as a Polo. Where it does excel, though, is providing lots of style and equipment for an affordable price. Thatll be enough for a lot of buyers.

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