Chrysler Ypsilon review
by David Finlay (29 September 2011)
Nothing in the long list of names used by Chrysler in the past would lead you to imagine that it would ever call one of its cars Ypsilon. As you probably know - or just in case you didn't - ypsilon is almost exactly the same as the Greek letter upsilon (Y), and Chrysler doesn't use Greek letters for car names. Lancia, on the other hand, has been doing so for more than a century, hence the Beta, Gamma, Delta, Omicron and so on.
The Ypsilon's name is not the result of a change of policy on Chrysler's part, but a clue that this car is in fact a Lancia, whose badge it wears in all left-hand drive markets. Fiat has owned Lancia since 1969, and became the major shareholder in Chrysler (which, it's safe to say, would almost certainly have collapsed without that intervention) two years ago.
Along with that of the Delta, the introduction of the new Ypsilon therefore represents, in all but the use of the badge, Lancia's return to the UK market from which it was withdrawn during the 1990s, its reputation damaged beyond immediate hope of repair thanks to a history of rust and reliability issues.
It's generally reckoned that these would still prevent the Lancia name being used in this country, though personally I think these would affect only people old enough or interested enough to remember them. The official line on using the Chrysler brand - that it has some, if not much, momentum in the UK, while that of Lancia has effectively none - seems reasonable enough.
This is by no means the first Ypsilon, though since the previous models were never sold over here there's no reason why British motorists should know that. If they had been, we might have been more prepared for the looks the latest one, which I suggest may come as a shock to some of you. The older cars were, shall we say, distinctive, and this one strikes me as being positively freakish.
To me, it has absolutely none of the charm of the Fiat 500 to which it is closely related (and which, like the Ypsilon, is built in Poland). There are too many design details, and most of them emphasise that this is a very tall car for its length. I can't look at it without the word "dumpy" coming to mind; nor can I think of any supermini which rivals it for ugliness.
That's simply my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree. It is, however, beyond dispute that the window design is deeply impractical, especially towards the rear. Visibility back there is abominable, to the extent that I would, in the unlikely event that I ever owned an Ypsilon, be very cautious about attempting to reverse it.
Things are slightly better inside. There isn't quite enough room for me to sit behind myself, as we say in the trade, but a very slightly shorter - still over six feet - colleague was able to do this without any difficulty (though, as a father of three, he imagined his children fretting over the fact that they wouldn't be able to see out).
The interior design is better than that of the exterior and includes an instrument panel mounted on the centre of the dash. It's fine, though the speedometer is mounted on the left, which is the correct place in a left-hand drive Lancia but wrong in a right-hand drive Chrysler. The steering wheel, ridiculously for a car so fresh off the drawing board, is not adjustable for reach.
I would leave it at that, but am goaded into further comment by the fact that Chrysler describes the Ypsilon, optimistically, as a "premium" car and, absurdly, as a "luxury" one. At the very least, it would have to match the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo (both of which, incidentally, have more luggage space) for materials and ambience to justify even the first of these adjectives, and frankly it doesn't.
The driving experience is also at a sub-Fiesta/Polo level, and no better than average among superminis in general. All the major controls feel as if bubblegum has been designed into them, and neither the handling nor the ride quality are going to appeal to an enthusiastic driver.
The Ypsilon comes with a choice of three engines, and although I've tried only the wonderful little 875cc 85bhp two-cylinder turbocharged TwinAir I'm sure it would be my favourite even if I'd also driven the 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol and 95bhp 1.3-litre diesel alternatives.
For many people, the 1.2 models will make the most sense financially. Their 115g/km CO2 rating may mean that you have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty (only £30 a year, though) and the London congestion charge, which you don't with the TwinAir or diesel, but they are the cheapest to buy and insure, while their inferior fuel economy won't matter much if your annual mileage is low.
If, however, you want - or perhaps need - automatic transmission, you have to go for the TwinAir, since the 1.2 and diesel are offered only in manual form.
The cheapest Ypsilon is the 1.2 S, which costs £10,640. All other versions are in SE and Limited trim levels, and range from £11,995 for the 1.2 SE to £15,695 for the TwinAir Limited automatic.