Sunday 23 July 2017

No delta blues for Chrysler

CHRYSLER
DELTA
RATING 80/100
CHRYSLER DELTA RATING 80/100

This week's review car is a bit like the Budget. It is not all it seems. Only when you pare it down to its bare essentials can you fully assess its impact -- or the lack of it.

The Chrysler Delta is essentially an upmarket, highly specced rival for your money (if you have any left after next week) against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus etc. It is really an extremely cleverly well dressed up and disguised Lancia.

A Lancia Delta! Yippee, they got Lancia back in here without anyone noticing. I was always sorry to see it go all those years ago. Lancias could be a pain in the butt but there was something about them. A bit like a loveable old dog that would bite you now and again but not often enough to put the creature down.

Obviously many people here have kept abreast of developments because most of those who came with, or met, me instantly guessed the Delta was, at least, of Italian extraction despite the prominent Chrysler badge (Fiat own it now, you see).

Of course it was that startling grille, graphic rear tail cluster and, inside, the typically Fiat/Alfa/Lancia stitching in the leather on the seats (lovely, lovely touch).

But so what? Does it really matter what name a car proclaims if it does the business? Well, yes it does for many people. And on that basis they can make their decision.

But I will say this: the new Chrysler Delta is something different. It most certainly is and should be taken as such. There are not too many in that general price area that catch the eye as quickly, believe me.

And not too many with leather seats or -- practical eye cast here -- as much versatile room (it has a sliding/tilting rear seat) or as deep a boot.

Chrysler has re-worked it really well considering everything -- though I instantly thought 'Alfa' when I saw it, believe it or not. Something about that grille gave it away.

With its close underpinnings and ties to Fiat, I wasn't surprised to find a 1.6-litre diesel under the bonnet. I was surprised at how unrefined and clattery it was on start-up. There was plenty of pull when it settled down and quietened but I had already been disappointed.

And for the life of me I could never -- and by golly did I try -- get the seat and steering wheel combination where I wanted it. Both could badly do with more flexibility of adjustment because I have to say I was never 100pc comfortable. The irony of that is I loved the (leather) seats: really luxurious and looked brilliant in what is quite a decent cabin.

As I said, there was plenty of poke in the diesel and I got a good opportunity to push the handling, especially on a swirling, windy road to Glendalough. It surprised me: taut and tight on bends, unruffled by quick or late braking. That's a big attraction.

Against it, though, was its poor ability to cope with or shut out the ripple effect of merely moderately gapped road surfaces. It definitely lacks the driving finesse of the Ford Focus or that inherent solidity of the Volkswagen Golf but it had plenty of style and swish to it.

Those who like their cars to feel, look and drive that bit differently will be at least tempted to take it for a test spin. And, sure, after that you'd never know.

One of their main concerns, and it is a legitimate one, is what this car will be worth in three or four years' time. Chrysler is well within its rights to insist trade-in values will be good and is no doubt banking on the car holding up well over the next while to instil real confidence. Against it is a traditionally muted trade-in vibe with most 'Fiats' as such.

So while the price -- considering the amount of equipment -- looks to be fairly well positioned, you have to consider what you will get for it down the years.

The big problem for Chrysler, given its relatively small dealer network, and indeed for anyone buying a car at the moment, is that people are spending what money they have as 'safely' as they can and are reluctant to take even the slightest gamble with a new car.

Yet, after putting this through its paces, I still think it worth a test drive.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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