While scrolling through the radio, inside the new Chrysler Ypsilon I’m driving, I find one of the station presets tuned to Radio Italia. It’s an unusual choice and a reminder of this car’s roots. It’s possible you haven’t heard of the Ypsilon. It has never been sold in the UK, and elsewhere it wears a Lancia badge, a brand that pulled out of the British market years ago.
But now you can buy an Ypsilon because Chrysler, the American car brand better known in the UK for its large Voyager MPV and powerful 300C saloon, is under Fiat Group’s ownership. This compact five-door supermini joins the same segment as rivals including Ford’s Fiesta and VW’s Polo, although its real competitors are more likely to be Mini and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Because, actually, the Chrysler Ypsilon is a premium car. Chrysler’s marketing people use the term “luxury”, a word so overused in the car market that it is fast becoming as redundant as “deluxe” did in the hotel industry.
Though the Ypsilon is certainly premium. It brings some of the features and quality of larger cars and packages them in a segment that more commonly doesn’t do premium so well. Which immediately makes it quite an unusual car. It’s certainly unusual to look at. Chrysler is hoping to attract hip, young urbanites, commuters and downsizing empty-nesters with the Ypsilon, all attracted by its distinctive and stylish looks. The car is quite tall but has been given a sporty coupe-like shape thanks to the hidden rear door handles which help to give the car the appearance of a three-door. Despite this, I can’t quite decide if it is to my taste or not.
We’re driving the 95bhp 1.3 Multijet turbo diesel model, a version that should do well in the UK as its high fuel economy of 74.3mpg (combined) and low emissions of just 99g/km of CO2 are fantastically good and will make it very economical to run. First impressions are good. Unusually, you sit quite high up and the gear lever is on the dash, but there’s no doubt the interior feels large and spacious and it’s a very nice place to be. The cabin is dominated by the unusually large instrument binnacle that rises from the soft-touch dash and wins no awards for subtleness. However, it’s attractive enough and does mean the instruments are easy to read. Elsewhere it’s all leather, chrome and lacquered piano black trim. But the premium feel is let down in places, such as the flimsy interior over the dashboard and the gear knob which feels plasticky. On the road the car feels sprightly although the ride is soft rather than smooth and can jar over potholes, which can feel a little uncomfortable. We found the gear change to be a little floppy and the steering light but the car is agile enough.
For an Italian car with an American badge being driven on bumpy UK roads it was never engineered for, the Ypsilon stands up rather well. It’s comfortable, characterful and likeable. It shouldn’t work but somehow it does. Rather well, in fact.
THE FACTS: CHRYSLER YPSILON 1.3 MULTIJET
Top speed: 114mph
CO2 g/km: 99g/km
MPG Combined: 74.3mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ***