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Chrysler Delta 1.6 Multijet Review

Sun, 26 Feb 2012

The Chrysler Delta - in for Review

We have the Chrysler Delta 1.6 MultiJet SE in for review and road test this week. Can a re-badged Lancia offer any competition to the Golf and Focus.

What’s that, asked so many people in our week with the Chrysler Delta 1.6 MultiJet SE? Which is a question we hear often with new cars in for review, but never more so than in a week with Chrysler’s new Delta. And it’s not the easiest question to answer.

That’s because in all the ways that matter this isn’t an American Chrysler, it’s an Italian Lancia. And it’s a Chrysler because Fiat (which now own Chrysler) didn’t think it worth the effort to rebuild the credibility of Lancia in the UK after they departed the market in an ignominious cloud of rust, so the Lancia Delta gets a Chrysler grill and Chrysler badges and turns in to the Delta for the UK.

What the new Chrysler Delta also is is Fiat’s attempt to grab a piece of the potentially lucrative market currently dominated by the Ford Focus and VW Golf, which is a big mountain for any car maker to climb. In truth, they probably can’t make too much of a dent in VW and Ford’s market share, but the Delta is a decent offering nonetheless.

And it’s a decent offering that offers a bigger car than most in the sector and is a well tried product as a Lancia Delta, and as the Fiat Bravo with which it shares much of what’s under the skin.

Before we get to the cabin, we ought to look at the way the Delta looks.

The Delta is one of those cars which seems to polarize opinion. Its steeply raked windscreen, big American-looking grill and long, tall sweeping tail lights and seemingly oddly proportioned rump do take some getting used to. We thought it a bit of an ugly duckling when it arrived, but by the end of the week we’d come to admire its individuality.

In a world of cars that look the same, the Chrysler Delta certainly stands out, and if you’re the kind of car buyer who doesn’t like to follow the crowd, the Delta could be worth more than a cursory look.

Inside, the Chrysler Delta carries on with the whole left-field approach to mainstream car design with a cabin that seems – and is – a chunk bigger than the average, and a control layout that takes a while to grasp if you’re used to jumping in to the latest German offering. But that’s not a bad thing.

Nor is the roominess in the Delta and the fact that the back seats slide so you can choose a big boot or lots of legroom in the back, or any compromise of the two you choose. That said, back seat passengers did moan that you sat on the seats instead of nestling in them, and it wasn’t the most comfortable of seating positions. Which is perhaps the price you pay for letting the passengers choose the seat position.

But up front things are better (and maybe brighter passengers would fare better in the back too) with a good set of chairs and controls that are, if unusually laid out, easy to use and with decent tactility.

A decent interior on the new Chrysler Delta

The Chrysler Delta 1.6 Multijet SE we’ve got comes with a 1.6 litre MultiJet diesel which offers a modest 118bhp and a not quite so modest 222lb/ft of torque. That means the Delta can get away quite well, but it does lack something if you get too adventurous. The steering is light and accurate and helps make the Delta – which is probably one of the biggest C-Segment cars on offer – feel much smaller on the move than it is, but doesn’t offer stunning feedback.

Handling is much as you would expect from a front wheel drive, C-Segment car at the lower end of the power scale, but that’s not to demean it. The handling is safe and predictable and although it’s not as responsive as a Focus there’s little chance of you going straight on and in to a ditch as you take a right-hander too enthusiastically.

Ride, on the whole, is better than average, especially when cruising on dual carriageways and motorways where the extra size of the Delta give it more of a big car ride. Noise is well addressed with just a hint of wind roar at speed. But just like many modern cars the suspension does get caught out by ridges and ripples on our rotten roads, which are perhaps more noticeable because the Delta is actually quite serene in its progress for most of the time.

Expectations of dynamic handling from a 1.6 litre diesel family car are not that huge, and the Chrysler Delta won’t disappoint. It’s able and capable and actually a lot better than you’d expect.

We were interested to see how much of a reaction the Delta got in a week out and about. If you do buy one it might get a bit wearisome explaining the whole Lancia/Fiat/Chrysler thing (although you probably wouldn’t bother) but if you’re the kind of car buyer who likes to be different there’s nothing that should put you off grabbing a Delta. Well, perhaps the potential depreciation compared to a Golf or Focus, although Chrysler reckon the Delta will hold its value well because of exclusivity. That remains to be seen, but don’t buy a Delta based on an expectation of stellar residuals.

But in everyday use the Delta will please more than you’d expect. The extra room in the cabin is very welcome, the handling is as good as it needs to be and, if you spend time pounding up and down motorways, it’s ability to cruise calmly is very welcome.

Economy isn’t bad either on the Delta. Chrysler say you can average 60mpg, although we averaged just over 54mpg; not a bad result from a decent-sized car that wasn’t treated especially gently. Servicing costs will be reasonable too, with 21k or two years between service, and the Delta comes with a 3 year, 60,000 mile warranty.

Chrysler are only looking to make sales of a few thousand Deltas a year at first, which should be easily achievable. If you’re looking for a roomy and economical C-Segment family car you really should add the Delta to your list and check it out before you opt for a Golf or Focus. You might be surprised.

(38 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)

By Cars UK