The cars we loved.
Mention the name Lancia Delta to most motorheads and images of boxy rallying cars some to mind. Although that was how the Delta in various forms made a name for itself many years ago, the name faded away unceremoniously after 1999. Since that time a lot has changed with Lancia and its parent Fiat.
Re-launched in 2008, the new Delta was reborn as a premium small family car with Fiat Bravo underpinnings. Its design, styled around the popular-in-Europe 5 door hatch was perhaps its most distinctive trait. From some angels, it looked like an elegant bride in an ill-fitting dress. The Delta was certainly not a car to be confused with other popular 5 door hatches like the Ford Focus or VW Golf. Designed in-house by Lancia Centro Stile, the third generation car arrived just in time to celebrate Lancia’s 100 year anniversary. Lancia chose a careful rollout of the new model, making past efforts look grandiose.
While building on a storied name and selective availability, Lancia would move the Delta decidedly more upscale. The interior is nice but has been criticized as being less than upscale in execution by the English magazine Autocar. Small car interiors are one of the areas that have become major selling points for even cheaper cars like the Hyundai Elantra. If the Delta is to truly earn its billing as a near luxury car, it clearly will need to step it up. Similar criticisms have been aimed at its seats, which are said to be flimsy and uncomfortable on long trips. Once again the competition has made great strides in this area.
In contrast to the old car, the new Delta has almost no straight lines from its bottom edge. It’s curvaceous nature tapers and slopes to a rear tailgate anchored by high fender shoulders. While it imparts the look of substance, it’s also rather elegant thanks to elongated tail lights, a new Lancia design trait. It’s a look that when taken as a whole can be polarizing, but bold like Citroen once were. Think of a organically styled Dodge Caliper and you’d be close.
The Delta’s handling and general performance are considered average. The MacPherson strut front and torson beam rear suspension are not a match for class leaders like the Focus or Mazda 3, but the Delta provides a comfortable ride.
Speaking of Dodge, it already uses Alfa Romeo DNA in its Dart, so it would seem logical that the upscale Chrysler brand would sell the Delta. Chrysler is already selling rebrand Deltas in some parts of Europe. In 2011 it got a more Americanized Chrysler grill, leading many to speculate that at some point in the near future it will replace the Chrysler 200 in the States. Before that happens, the Delta is likely to get some manner of small makeover to remove its Euro design quirks. As it is it would still be a surprisingly good compliment to the 300 sedan. It’s already the largest of the so-called C-segment cars, making it a natural for Americanization.
The front wheel drive Delta only comes only in a 5 door hatch configuration. For those with sporting pretensions, it can be matched to a six-speed manual gearbox. There are a range of engine options available in Europe that range from a 1.4L four-cylinder (120 hp) up to a 200 hp turbocharged version of the same engine. If the Delta does make it to American dealers, it’s likely to closely follow the engine line up of the Dodge Dart, or start with its 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir four cylinder. Expect more American Chrysler oriented design traits to appear by the time the Delta arrives. It already comes as a left hand drive car, so the Chrysler 200’s days are numbered.