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Chrysler's shortcut to credibility in the small car sector has been to borrow and badge-engineer Lancia's stylish little Ypsilon, a car that in Europe, has proved equally popular with both Citycar and Supermini buyers. Here, a combination of unique looks, hi-tech options and the choice of clever TwinAir petrol engine technology might yet establish it as a surprisingly appealing package, especially now that prices are slightly more competitive and trim levels revised.
Once upon a time, size suggested the price you'd pay for your car. The bigger the model you chose, the pricier it would be. That's no longer necessarily true. Spiralling fuel prices, emissions-based taxation and ever-more congested city streets have left many buyers no option but to choose a very small runabout, but sales of models like the MINI have proved them quite willing to pay premium prices, provided the package on offer is stylish enough. This was an approach perfected by Italian brand Lancia long before the modern era MINI turned up, the Latin maker offering style-conscious European city folk a succession of comfortable, chic and responsible city runabouts wrapped up in cutting edge technology. Cars like this one, the Ypsilon, a Lancia, but not as we know it. Yes, as you see in the picture, it's a Chrysler, badge engineering borrowed for the UK market where Lancia hasn't been sold since 1994, where the costs for re-launching the Italian marque are prohibitive and where the Chrysler brand (now owned by the Fiat/Lancia conglomerate) urgently needs a range of more compact models to sell alongside its larger US-sourced saloons and MPVs. For all these reasons, every future compact Chrysler will, like this one, be borrowed from Lancia, a pragmatic approach to which it's difficult to object, given that badge engineering already dominates proceedings throughout the small Citycar and Supermini segments in which this Ypsilon will compete. Under the skin of this Chrysler lies a Fiat Panda floorplan, a slightly stretched version of that found in the diminutive Fiat 500 city runabout. Chrysler claim that it's big enough to give this Ypsilon the versatility of a Fiesta-sized supermini at the same time as offering the small, urban chuckability of a Ford Ka or a Toyota iQ. And they reckon that this car has the style and interior class to tempt buyers of the premium, fashion-conscious high cost models I mentioned earlier - cars like the MINI or the Audi A1. Big claims. Let's put this revised model to the test.
Under the bonnet of this model, buyers have the option of one of the most advanced engines ever developed for a small car, the one I tried, the 875cc TwinAir. This 85bhp petrol unit may be less than a litre in size with only two cylinders, but it's darned clever, combining sparky performance (sixty in just over 11s on the way to a top speed of nearly 110mph) with CO2 emissions lower than any other quantity production petrol engine currently on sale. Everything, in other words, a small car engine should be. I've already praised it in the Fiat 500 and though the distinctive thrum doesn't suit this more up-market Chrysler quite as well, it still makes this Ypsilon a distinctive-sounding thing. You don't have to have it but it's a pity not to. The entry-level 69bhp 1.2-litre petrol option does, after all, feel feeble in comparison, struggling to sixty in 14s and only just managing to break the three-figure mark flat-out. The only other choice is a 95bhp 1.3-litre Multijet diesel, but its advantages over this petrol TwinAir in performance and running costs will be too slim for most to justify the diesel model's £1,000 price premium. It's as well to remember though, that this TwinAir model's headline-making fuel and CO2 figures can only be fully achieved by pushing the 'ECO' button you'll find on the dashboard below the unusually situated centrally mounted instrument binnacle. And that doing so slashes the pulling power on offer by 50% to the same kind of 100Nm figure you'd get in the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol model. The idea is that you should use this feature around town where you won't need all of the engine's torque anyway and it's here that you might also want to activate this 'City' button, there to lighten the power steering so that tight manoeuvring and parking become much easier.
Since neither Chrysler or Lancia seem interested in providing separate products to individually cover the Ford Ka-like Citycar and Ford Fiesta-like Supermini sectors, the designers behind this Ypsilon have felt free to bring us a product that sits somewhere between the two in terms of size, passenger accommodation and bootspace. I should point out though, that it's certainly priced at the higher Supermini end of the spectrum, justification for which is provided by what Chrysler calls 'segment-leading luxury' and 'eye-catching design'. At first glance, you'd pitch this as a sporty three-door, but closer inspection reveals rear door handles concealed in the C-pillar. Use them and you'll find in a cabin that, thanks to the tall shape of this design, is fine for adult headspace but (as you might expect given a total vehicle length of just 3.8m) a little tight on legroom, despite the use of 'slim seat' technology for the chairs up-front in a bit to try and improve the lot of those behind. Plusher Ypsilons like this one rather hopefully provide seat belts for three here at the back, but you'll only really want to use all of them if you've a trio of kids to transport. Behind in the boot, the extra 3.5 inches in wheelbase length that this Chrysler enjoys and in excess of its Fiat 500 donor design makes all the difference, luggage capacity rising from the 185-litres you'd get in the Fiat to a much more useful 245-litres, though that is still 40-50-litres less than you'd get in a Fiesta or a Corsa. As usual, you can push forward a set of split-folding rear seats (divided 50/50 in the base model but - as here - 60/40 otherwise) if that's not enough.
Chrysler has slightly reduced pricing with this revised range so that it dips just below the important £10,000 mark. There are now different trim levels too - Silver, Gold and Platinum. Whichever Ypsilon model you choose - 1.2-litre 69bhp petrol, 0-9-litre TwinAir 85bhp petrol or 95bhp 1.3-litre Multijet diesel - you should find your Chrysler well-equipped, provided you steer clear of the very basically specified entry-level Silver model. Here, you have to do without a third rear seatbelt and 60/40 split folding rear seats and accept a kit list that's hardly exhaustive, though it does run to electric front windows, an MP3-compatible CD stereo, a 12v power socket, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a hill-holder clutch to stop you drifting backwards on uphill junctions and 'follow-you-home' headlights that stay on briefly at night after you lock up to guide you to your front door. Most models though, are far better provided for than that, with features like climate control, power mirrors and leather trim for the steering wheel and gearshift gaiter. A top-of-the-range Platinum variant also throws in leather seats, front foglamps and 15-inch alloy wheels. And of course, as with most premium small cars, you can go a lot further than that if you're prepared to delve deeply into the options list and rack the price up to the kind of figure that would buy a trendy urban fashion accessory like a MINI or an Audi A1. I'd start with one of the two-tone paint finishes so popular with this car on the Continent: one of these really does create a very unique look indeed. And I'd also want to consider a few of the high-tech touches. Auto headlamps and wipers perhaps. Or the clever Blue&Me Tom Tom LIVE sat nav system, with its neat colour touch screen that'll clip into the provided slot here and enable you to easily manage your route and your 'phone calls. It can look after your audio preferences too, best served by a desirable - but pricey - 360-degree 500-Watt sound system that's unusually sophisticated for such a small car.
Though some buyers may well be prepared to pay a premium for Ypsilon ownership, they'd be unlikely to be so accommodating were running costs not to be at the sharp end of affordable. And here, that's exactly what you get. The TwinAir model is especially impressive, delivering a CO2 return of just 97g/km if you order it in automatic form (99g/km otherwise) - figures that no other petrol-powered rival can beat. The combined cycle fuel return is almost as good - at 67.3mpg. The 1.3-litre Multijet diesel version does even better, delivering 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2. Save your up-front cash and opt for the 69bhp entry-level petrol 1.2-litre variant and you'll get a set of running cost figures that trail the pokier models by some way - 57.6mpg on the combined cycle and 115g/km of CO2. All of this is possible thanks to an agile weight just a whisker under a tonne and the inclusion of all the latest fuel-saving eco gadgetry. So all models get a start/stop system that cuts the engine when you don't need it when waiting at the lights or stuck in heavy traffic (though that does also diminish the effectiveness of the air conditioning, which may cause you a few sweaty moments in the hottest summer months). The eco-conscious low rolling resistance tyres also play their part and there's a dash-mounted gearshift indicator to help drivers play their part. What else? Residual values? Chrysler reckons they'll be strong thanks to this car's trendy design and relative UK exclusivity. It'll be interesting to see. One final touch you may well appreciate is found behind this filler flap. There's no fuel cap: none is needed thanks to a 'Smart Fuel System' that opens and closes when a filler nozzle is put into it. It's a set-up designed to prevent mis-fueling of the various Euro5 engines, the spout unable to accept a diesel nozzle if you've a petrol model or a petrol nozzle if you've a diesel.
Had Chrysler's American engineers developed this model from scratch rather than simply borrowing a Lancia design, it's doubtful whether they would have brought us a better car than this. Or even one as good. Distinctive styling and a world-leading TwinAir petrol engine are both big draws for this Ypsilon, justifying premium pricing further offset by impressively low running costs. As long as you avoid the bottom end of the range, specification is reasonable and there are plenty of hi-tech options to make downsizing into a car of this kind a relatively painless process. True, there isn't quite the built solidity you'd get in something German but don't let that put you off too much: given the humble underpinnings used, the designers have done a fine job here in creating a high quality-feeling product. It won't be one you'll see frequently on British roads but for the select band of UK buyers who opt for one of these, that'll be part of the appeal. Chrysler at last has credible credentials when it comes to compact cars. If want one of the very smallest and you're after something just that little bit different, then here's a rather appealing place to start your search.
The Chrysler Ypsilon, or Lancia Ypsilon is a popular supermini in its third generation. It is based on the Fiat platform and shares common features with the Fiat 500 and the Ford Ka. However, what differentiates the Ypsilon from its brothers is unusual technology such as automated parking, start stop and bixenon headlights which these days are common but not when this car was released and certainly not a car of this size and class.
A lot of overseas companies used to rebadge other cars as their own to penetrate the market, some with success and others not so much. The Chrysler Ypsilon is a story of success. It has been very uniquely designed both inside and out and borrows some of Fiats best engines for a supermini. The Ypsilon believe it or not is in its third generation and has all the modern toys you'd expect. Engines available are 1.2 and a 0.9 Twin Air petrol car and 1.3 M-Jet diesel engine. Trims available are Silver, Gold and Platinum. Some of the easiest to follow trim names if ever you see one.
The Chrysler Ypsilon is a reasonably priced car to lease and has some well-known engines inside; it is designed completely different to not only the vehicles it shares a platform with but any car on the road. By leasing an Ypsilon you will get a very uniquely packaged supermini-come-city car at a snip. We, at All Car Leasing, get some fantastic discounts on the Chrysler Ypsilon and as such we allow our clients to benefit from that and save £1000's on the total repayable. Have a look at our price lists today and see how cheap you can get this smashing little car for.
To conclude, the Chrysler Ypsilon is a smart choice to lease if you're after good engine capabilities, striking and unique looks and creature comforts on the inside. Although the Ypsilon is not for everyone if you have a look around our high definition image gallery, interactive video reviews and full-text reviews you can see if this cup of tea is yours.
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