The Chrysler Ypsilon offers individual design in the supermini sector with the potential of over 60mpg from its Fiat TwinAir engine, but what about any downsides?
The Chrysler Ypsilon isn’t really an American Chrysler at all , it’s an Italian Lancia. Lancia has a history of making some of the most interesting cars in the world, however the brand gained such a poor image when the Lancia Delta was on sale in the 1980s, due to its tendency to disintegrate because of the rusting of its poor quality steel, that the brand was withdrawn from the UK. It continued in Italy but has now made a comeback over here – but with a Chrysler badge . Just to confuse matters even further, the Ypsilon also has Fiat engines. The explanation for all this of course is that Lancia has been part of the Fiat Group since 1969, and Chrysler has had a global strategic alliance with its owner Fiat since 2009.
Chrysler Ypsilon is a Lancia with a Fiat engine. Because it’s a Lancia it has an interesting and unique appearance. Because it’s a Fiat Group car underneath, sharing a platform with the smaller Fiat 500 and Panda, (even though the Ypsilon is a supermini , albeit a small one), it also shares the range of engines. In this case it’s the two-cylinder turbo petrol TwinAir engine, which is award-winning and great fun to drive, but very difficult to get anywhere near the official fuel economy figures in real life.
Like the exterior, the interior may have some interesting design touches, although it’s nothing special overall – but even if you like the interior styling, this is overshadowed by the speedometer being on the passenger side of the car, which means you have to take your eyes well away from the road to see what speed you’re doing, which is just a crazy idea. Other issues include that we couldn’t get the ideal driving position as the steering wheel didn’t have sufficient adjustment, the interior is also very narrow, and the rear-three quarter view is poor.
In the guise of our test car the Ypsilon is characterised by two key things, a very bouncy ride and a very revvy engine (it’s actually easy to regularly hit the rev limiter). The combination of these two things results in a car that is actually quite fun to drive – for short distances around urban areas. Long distances on motorways are not recommended as it’s a real effort to coax the car with its tiny engine up any hills at motorway speeds, and the cabin isn’t well insulated from noise . Also the soft suspension, along with steering that isn’t the sharpest in class, doesn’t encourage you to drive enthusiastically on twisting B-roads due to poor body control. Yet the car can still crash over potholes, and its narrow track means that the car can’t quite straddle speed bumps positioned in the middle of the road.
Our test car had a five-speed manual gearbox, which was fine; however for maximum miles per gallon you need to specify the semi-automatic five-speed transmission. Members of our team who have driven the car with this unit didn’t come back with favourable reports, which fits with our experience of most semi-automatic gearboxes.
Our test car had an official fuel economy figure of 67.3mpg . The semi-automatic version improves on this slightly with 68.9mpg, however we would sacrifice the extra 1.6mpg and stick with the manual box. But the big issue is that although the TwinAir engine is impressive in many ways, along with everyone we know in the industry we struggle to get anywhere near the official economy figures in real-life driving.
We’re not talking a few miles per gallon difference, we’re talking about our test average for the Ypsilon over a week being 44.5mpg – more than 20mpg less than the official figures. We’re well aware of eco-driving techniques and if you apply such principles then you can see mpg in the mid-50s . But the reality is that the vast majority of motorists don’t implement eco-driving techniques everyday – it’s actually hard to do so when keeping pace with typical urban traffic. So if you’re prepared to apply a light right foot then you may reap the potential rewards of this car at the fuel pumps, but most people will enjoy the engine for its revvy and responsive nature, and its characterful note (or noisy depending on your view), and they won’t come anywhere near 67 or 68 mpg.
There are three engines available for the Ypsilon, the first being the petrol 1.2 Fire EVO II 69hp Start&Stop. Don’t be fooled by the ‘Fire EVO’ label – it may sound like a rally car engine but the 69hp provides the clue about its performance. This unit emits 115g/km CO2 along with 57.6mpg and is the cheapest way into Ypsilon ownership with prices starting at £10,695 for the 1.2 S. There’s also the diesel 1.3 MultiJet 95hp Start&Stop, which offers the best official economy with 74.3mpg and would be our recommendation for longer journeys.
The TwinAir as tested matches the diesel for emissions, at 99g/km (97g/km for the semi-auto), but its 67.3mpg can’t quite match the diesel for economy. However both TwinAir models are exempt from the London Congestion Charge . There’s also three trim levels: S, SE and Limited. SE trim gets you air conditioning and alloy wheels but there’s no standard stability control. The TwinAir SE manual costs £13,195, which is cheaper than the £14,395 for the semi-auto TwinAir SE model. This makes the car relatively expensive when viewed against its competitors. Some people may also have certain views about the reliability of a car with Lancia origins.
The Chrysler Ypsilon offers car buyers a unique-looking vehicle that’s fun to drive around town, and with its revolutionary two-cylinder engine it makes an interesting noise to go with its interesting design.
However, even with some people’s associations of Lancias in the 1980’s, we can’t help thinking that it would have more appeal if it retained its Lancia badge, because at the end of the day the Ypsilon is a characterful Italian supermini, and this is somewhat at odds with the brand values of Chrysler.
We’d sacrifice the extra 1.6mpg and recommend the manual box rather than the semi-automatic. However this car, along with all TwinAir-engined models, has to have a health warning – don’t expect to come close to the official fuel economy figures unless you’re highly disciplined in your driving style.
The Chrysler Ypsilon scores a Green Car Guide rating of 6 out of 10 ; we like the idea of the Lancia heritage, but compare the car with the superminis in the list below and it feels like a car from the class down, which, with its Fiat 500 city car platform, is what it essentially is – meaning that it struggles to compete with the best in its class.