After a fifteen year absence will Lancia's all-new Delta deliver?
The Delta is sure to win the Lancia brand new fans with its distinctive styling, strong engine line-up and excellent refinement. The cabin is versatile, roomy and generally well finished, too. A slightly uninvolving driving experience, as well as a potentially high price and some below-par cabin materials, detract from its appeal. But the newcomer has bags of character and exclusivity on its side.
After an absence of 15 years, Lancia is back. The Italian firm had abandoned Britain in 1993 when its reputation for rust and unreliability, gained in the Seventies, took its toll on sales.
Leading the brand’s return is its all-new Delta. It’s a mid-size hatch that promises enough luxury and sophistication to take the fight to the likes of the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series.
With its wedge profile, distinctive grille and two-tone paint, it certainly looks the part. The cabin is well built and full of decent-quality materials, and standard kit is generous. There’s a sliding and reclining rear bench, while it’s a roomier choice than its stablemate, the Fiat Bravo, because the wheelbase is 100mm longer.
Our car had the new 2.0-litre diesel engine. With 163bhp, it provides plenty of punch, but is a little gruff. There’s also a hot 190bhp twin-turbo oil-burner, plus 1.4 and 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol units.
Optional electronic damping gives the car a comfortable ride, which can be stiffened with a Sport button. But the lifeless steering is a letdown, and the Delta can’t match the agility of a Ford Focus.
However, exclusivity is guaranteed, as Lancia aims to sell only 2,500 in the first year.
Rival: Audi A3 Sportback THE A3 combines class-leading build quality with an enviable premium image. But it’s now four years old, and can’t match the Delta’s space or versatility.