Review: Chrysler Delta

Cars like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra have dominated the British family car market for years: hatchbacks which have grown bigger and more sophisticated with each redesign.

Cars like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra have dominated the British family car market for years: hatchbacks which have grown bigger and more sophisticated with each redesign.

That’s a tough section of the market to crack, but now Chrysler – best known here for its iconic Jeep brand and the big Voyager MPV – is hoping to make inroads into the big boys’ market share.

Clearly to do that it needs something different and the new Delta is just that – a sleek and sporty shape which conceals an interior with limousine-like levels of space.

Its competitively priced, from £16,695, and is packed with luxury features, the latest technology and modern, proven engines courtesy of its links with Fiat, which owns a controlling share of the American car maker.

The link with Fiat is vital for Chrysler to crack the European and particularly the British market, as its previous attempts have been seen as somewhat half-hearted, with offerings such as the Neon with its fairly crude two-litre engine and three speed automatic gearbox.

The Delta (already sold under the Lancia badge in mainland Europe) is not only reasonably priced but should be relatively economical run, with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines with punchy performance and fuel economy averaging from 44.8 to 61.4mpg.

The car’s distinctive looks, though, will be the first thing to attract potential buyers into the showrooms. Its sleek, extended wedge shape gives it a very sporting look.

Inside it’s possible the roomiest car in its class – with the sliding rear seats at their rear-most position passengers get an incredible four feet of leg room.

While the Delta looks low, the car’s high waistline is deceptive and headroom will be ample for virtually any occupant.

The rear seats also recline so the kids (or indeed grannie and granddad) can comfortably relax. With the seats in their normal position you have an average 380 litres of boot space – or fold them flat and you have a full-size estate’s loading bay at your disposal.

The interior conveys a premium car impression, with quality materials for seats and trim and plenty of chrome touches for a light, bright feel. The instruments are handily-placed and easy to see and use.

The Delta has daytime LED running lights like those seen on Audis, and a distinctive rear end with its vertical, curved lighting cluster.

I drove the version powered by the 1.6 litre diesel multijet engine, which proved both smooth and lively with 120bhp on tap which will take you from a standstill to 62mph in 10.7 seconds. It’s quite, too, with Chrysler’s new soundproofing measures a necessity for its premium car pretensions.

Fuel consumption is a very respectable 61.4mpg (combined) for a car of this size and performance.

The petrol alternatives are both turbocharged 1.4s, with outputs of 120 or 140bhp and 0-62mph sprint times of 9.2 and 9.8 seconds respectively. The more powerful engine is actually more economical, too – 49.6mpg compared to 44.8.

The Delta proved quiet and smooth on the road, its suspension coping well with some decidedly second-class surfaces.

And there is a whole battery of clever electronics which not only contributed to its maximum five-star safety rating but also to driver satisfaction.

Both brakes and steering are electronically monitored to both help the car around corners and to increase vital driver feedback while doing so.

It has, for example, a system which automatically counter-steers over surfaces with different levels of grip which can spot a spin and, according to Chrysler, cut braking distances by ten per cent in such circumstances.

It the car does start to oversteer (the back trying to overtake the front) the steering wheel actually gives the driver a hint as to which way to turn.

These are in additional to standard features such as anti-lock brakes and a ‘hill holder’ system for easier hill starts which all combine to give the Delta a safe, dynamic feel which no doubt helps the driver to be confident in his own as well as the car’s abilities.

The Delta has six airbags as standard, as well as a quality audio system with steering wheel remote controls, air conditioning and electric windows.

Upgrade to the SE version and you also get alloy wheels, a refridgerated storage compartment in the cabin, and upgraded upholstery and trim.

The SR adds two zone climate control, leather upholstery, and cruise control, An added option is a huge sunroof, covering 80 per cent of the cabin roof area.

Navigation versions use a new system to help the driver to manage audio and phone functions – for example ‘reading’ text messages to you over the car’s speakers. There are also remote controls on the steering wheel, and the option of using voice commands.

Breaking into this section of the British market isn’t going to be easy, but the Delta’s space, ambience and features, it could well bring new devotees to the brand.