Out of the confusing jumble of manufacturers and brand names that is Fiat, Chrysler and Lancia, a rather unique and eye-catching little super-mini has emerged on the UK market: the Ypsilon.
Just to be clear (or as clear as can be!), Lancia are effectively returning to the UK market, after scurrying away with their tail between their legs some years ago. But this time their range is being presented under the banner of ‘Chrysler’. Since Fiat own Lancia, one or two of the latest Chrysler UK range bear more than a passing resemblance to vehicles we have seen under the Fiat brand for some time. That’s certainly true of the Ypsilon. Although, it clearly seeks to offer something currently very rare indeed (in-keeping with other vehicles in the range), namely: luxury at a lower price point. Let’s take a look at how successful it is:
First Impressions: The Exterior
The first time I saw the Chrysler Ypsilon it struck me as having something refreshingly original about it. I get a bit tired of seeing the same kinds of designs for cars in this class, but the Ypsilon breaks the mould. There’s a whopping Chrysler badge at the front, and very large grille. It’s almost like a miniature version of a much bigger car. The front spoiler is fairly low to the ground and might make high speed ramps a little tricky. I quite like the boldness and self-confidence that this design projects. Around the back the rear lights are beautifully shaped into narrow curving strips. The rounded, bubble-like shape is reminiscent of the Fiat 500. Indeed, the whole chassis is effectively based around Fiat’s Panda and 500.
Getting Comfortable: Interior/Practicality
The Chrysler Ypsilon is put together like a neat little 3 door coupe, but has the advantages of 5 doors. I’ve sat in the back to see what the space is like, and was pleasantly surprised. I’m over 6 foot and the headroom was pretty decent for me. I’m not sure my knees would be in great shape after a long-ish journey though! As for boot space, there’s 245 litres with the rear seats in use. This is pretty respectable, but, because the back seats don’t fold fully flat, the Ypsilon does lack a bit of flexibility.
How about the driving area? A bit like the exterior, my first impression of the interior was of a larger, premium vehicle shrunk down. The finishings are smooth and tactile, especially the piano black centre console. The optional leather seats help enhance the premium feel. The bi-colour design options can look really cool, although I’m not a massive fan of the garish black and red combo that Chrysler have been flaunting!
You can start to feel that you’re actually sitting in a much bigger, up-market vehicle! But the bubble is slightly burst after a bit of close inspection of a few areas, which reveals some fairly flimsy plastic surfaces. The infotainment system is top notch. It handles iPods or MP3’s, Bluetooth, texts and more. Audio controls can be found on the steering wheel, and the optional 360-degree speaker system produces an immense all-round effect.
Driving the Chrysler Ypsilon
I was in the middle of town when I first took the Ypsilon for a spin, and that’s undoubtedly where its strengths are. It nips around tight corners with very agile handling, and a ‘City’ mode makes the steering even lighter.
I couldn’t wait to test out the so-called ‘Magic Parking’ feature, which is available with both automatic and manual models. It claims to let you sit back and allow the Ypsilon to maneuver itself into any tight spot. I went for a bay-park between 2 cars that were very well separated at first! No problem there. So I found a parallel parking opportunity that I would only attempt myself if there really were no other slots available. I engaged reverse gear – on the instruction of the car – and started preparing what to put on my apologetic note to the driver of whichever car I hit first! As it happened, the wheel began turning furiously, left then right, and deftly backed me into this tightest of little spots. It was genuinely really impressive!
So having been persuaded of the Ypsilon’s prowess for negotiating urban environments, I headed out to some faster roads. It’s fair to say that the light steering was not quite so confidence inspiring when stepping on the gas down English country roads. But it was surprisingly fun to drive at higher speeds, and body-roll when cornering seemed very well controlled.
There are 3 engine choices with the Ypsilon, including 2 petrol and 1 diesel. The TwinAir 2 cylinder petrol option has gone down well with customers. It’s been used to great acclaim by Fiat before, and is a good choice for the Ypsilon.
The Ypsilon brings something fresh and different to the UK supermini market. I think it’s one of the best city cars that I’ve driven in a while, with exceptionally responsive steering and brilliant Magic Parking feature. A combined fuel efficiency of 74mpg also makes it the most efficient Chrysler around, and fully exempt from the congestion charge. Not a bad re-introduction to the UK from Lancia/Chrysler, even if they are really Fiat!