TEST DRIVE: Chrysler Ypsilon

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Steve Sharpe test drives Chrysler’s Ypsilon

Chrysler is a company which is striving to carve a name for itself in the UK.

Chrysler Ypsilon S Series

Chrysler Ypsilon S Series

Now actually under the wing of parent company Fiat, the company has a small number of models available on these shores, including the big, brash, luxurious 300C and the big MPV the Grand Voyager.

But the Ypsilon – named after the letter Y in German – is a much smaller affair, the company’s entry into the already-bulging supermini sector.

The little car is known as the Lancia Ypsilon on the continent, but it’s the Chrysler here presumably because the Lancia brand has been defunct for quite a few years in the UK – and there were, ahem, certain reliability issues associated with the name.

But Chrysler have high hopes for this model, calling it a “premium model in a small car’s body”, and reckon that it offers something different to the market.

Well it certainly has a different look to it.

I drove the 1.2 Series in two-tone blue and matt black, and it’s undoubtedly a striking-looking car.

The matt black makes up the upper section of the car, ending in a point above the distinctive grille on the bonnet, and taking covering rear hatchback door as well.

With its wheel-at-each-corner shape, and chunky black and silver alloys, it has a real three door hot hatch look to it, with the two rear doors cleverly disguised thanks to the door handles being tucked away in the corner of the windows.

With its unusual combination of curves and creases, it’s a distinctive, muscular-looking car which draws second glances wherever it goes.

At just 3.8m long it’s shorter than most of its rivals, but it’s still quite tall, so inside the cabin there’s a fair bit of headroom.

Things are very cosy otherwise. Driver’s pedal space is particularly tight, and the rest where you put your left foot when not using it is quite uncomfortable to access thanks to a bulky central console.

But the boot’s a decent size and while the rear seats are cosy there is enough room for a couple of normal sized adults.

With a high seating position and the dials and controls all positioned in the centre of the dashboard, you do feel like you’re driving in some kind of miniature MPV at first.

With most superminis having dials directly in front of the driver, it takes some time to get used to, and even when you do the speed gauge is the furthest one from the driver, practically in front of the passenger.

It’s very stylishly laid out, though, with a demure gold and black colour scheme and nicely cushioned surfaces. On closer examination the hard plastics which aren’t cushioned do let the side down a bit but it all goes nicely together to make a stylish travelling space that stands out from the rest.

The Ypsilon comes with a choice of two petrol engines – a 68bhp 1.2 and an 84bhp turbocharged 0.9 Twinair – and a 94bhp 1.3 diesel

I drove the 1.2 petrol version, which proved to be a mixed bag.

As a city car it’s a good performer around town, able to zip in and out of spaces easily and swiftly, but it desperately needs an extra turn of pace.

It’s partly a victim of its own look – with such a sporty exterior you expect more of a punch.

Quick enough off the mark, the Ypsilon gradually loses steam through the gears.

Even keeping the revs high is undone by the arrival of an incline and you settle into a kind of mid-speed cruise on long stretches.

The Ypsilon handles nicely when cornering, despite the steering being a bit woolly.

Grip is good and despite the Ypsilon being short and relatively tall body lean is pretty well controlled.

It copes pretty well with the bumps and pothole littering the North East’s roads, and only the deepest ones cause a judder.

Chrysler have made a real effort to make this supermini seem like a big car experience and they’ve cut noise levels by installing a new roof lining, for example.

The 1.2 engine is nicely muted, but having to really work the engine pushes noise up somewhat.

But it’s a comfortable place to travel in – there’s some road rumble coming through the tyres and a little wind noise, but it’s still smooth.

The Ypsilon range starts at just under £9,000 for the entry level 1.2 petrol engine model, rising to £14,995 for the S Series 1,3.

It’s competitively priced but produces no massive saving over more established superminis, not to mention the recent glut of quality city cars.

You can opt for one of three basic trim levels and there are countless ways to personalise your choice, at a price.

There’s a good set of equipment on board – even the entry-level S trim features height adjustable steering wheel, electric front windows, 50/50 split rear seat, height-adjustable driver’s seat, 15-inch wheels, premium fabric upholstery and heated rear window, radio with CD and MP3 player, plus a full complement of safety kit.

SE specification adds manual climate control, electrically adjustable door mirrors, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear-lever gaiter, and improved upholstery available.

Limited trim has rear electric windows, fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels and leather upholstery. Extra accessories include 16-inch alloy wheels, side skirts and tinted headlights plus door kick plates with illuminated logo and a park-itself system.

The Ypsilon ia a snazzy looking, stylish alternative to the other superminis on the streets – like its stablemate marque Alfa Romeo, it adds a dash of Italian flair.

With emission figures hovering around the tax-free threshhold – and under for some versions – and economy figures of 55mpg average, the cost of running the Chrysler is decent too.

Up against some big-hitters which are already well established in the market, the Ypsilon will have to be a winner in every area.

But it’s a likeable little car and an easy everyday drive – it’s a shame it hasn’t got that extra oomph. Maybe a hot version will be on its way at some point.

FAct file

Chrysler Ypsilon

Engine: 1.2litre

Transmission: Five-speed automatic.

0-62: 12.9 seconds.

Top Speed: 101mph.

Economy: Avg 55.4mpg

Price: £13,520