Tuesday, 7 January 2014

REVIEW - Chrysler Ypsilon Black & Red

What you are looking at here is the Chrysler Ypsilon. It's based on the Fiat Panda platform, and is sold as a Lancia in Europe. It's a five-door supermini that brings a range of efficient engines and an unquestionably distinct style. I opted to test the 'Black & Red' edition with the TwinAir engine found in other Fiat and Alfa Romeo models. I wanted to see how well it performed in the real world, and if it had the style to appeal to the youth of today. Keep reading to see how I got on.

Looks - 5/10

You certainly wouldn't mistake the Ypsilon Black & Red for anything else in the car park. The Ypsilon itself is what I would call 'odd' looking, but the Black & Red paint scheme makes it even more distinctive. That being said, I think this is the best colour scheme to have on the Ypsilon. The lines are unusual, and I couldn't find an angle that made them any nicer. I particularly dislike the rear three-quarter view, but the front end is stiff competition for ugliness. I just don't get it, and I can safely say there's no youth appeal here; especially when you consider the alternatives of the Fiat 500 or Alfa Romeo MiTo. On a more positive note, I did really like the wheels though; they were very stylish.

On the inside, things are a bit better. The black and red theme continues, with lots of red indeed. However the materials are rather pleasant, so the effect works rather well. The door trims are the greatest success, because without the red these would be awfully bland. The seats are rather nice looking too, with the Ypsilon 'Y' featured in red. The dial cluster itself it rather nice, but unfortunately it's the wrong way round. With the speedometer being closer to the passenger than the driver, it is rather difficult to see. Then again, I never really understood the logic of centralised dials; they are for the driver so should be above the steering wheel. Simple. All in all though, the inside of the Ypsilon Black & Red is certainly funky, and you can't see the exterior from there; another plus.

Handling/Performance - 7/10

The engine in my Ypsilon test car was the 0.9-litre TwinAir turbo which is found across the Fiat/Alfa Romeo range. It's a rather good engine, offering up 85PS and 145Nm of torque. You could easily forget it's such a small engine, because 0-62mph takes 11.9 seconds and the top speed is 109mph. The Ypsilon is a rather nippy car if you work the engine. There is an optional 'Eco' mode though which makes it a bit asthmatic and it will struggle up hills on the motorway unless you leave this off. Power goes to a five speed manual gearbox which is nice enough. The only issue with the engine is that is doesn't work below 2,000rpm or so. You soon get used to it, it's just unusual at first. The TwinAir holds its own on the motorway quite easily too, although it's much more pleasant at 60mph than 70mph.

The handling is ruined by the steering for me. There are two modes; light and city. In light mode you wonder if the wheel is connected to the front of the car in any way; it is devoid of any feel or weighting. In city mode the steering is so light I felt a sneeze would result in a U-turn. It does help with manoeuvring though, but this isn't an issue in normal mode, so it seems like a solution to a problem that never existed to me. The seats lack any lateral support, so any cornering is hampered somewhat as you slide about from side to side. That being said, the grip level is there so you have the confidence in the car to get you round the corner, and the suspension copes well with cruising and country roads alike.

Economy - 10/10

The best aspect of the TwinAir engine is the economy. Road tax is free in the first and subsequent years thanks to CO2 emissions of 99g/km which put it in VED band A; the best one to be in. Quoted fuel consumption is also 67.4mpg on a combined cycle. Driving at 70mph or too much city driving means you won't see this kind of return. There is start/stop technology too which does help in the city as well, although I found the engine seemed to start up again rather quickly whilst sat at traffic lights.

Practicality - 7/10

The Ypsilon is a small hatchback, but the cabin is surprisingly roomy, and easily accessed thanks to five doors. Even rear passengers get plenty of legroom. For the driver there is a footrest for your left foot, although you'll have to be a bit flexible to be able to find it. Joking aside, I thought it was a very nice feature to have somewhere to put your left foot on a longer drive. Visibility is good, as is the driving position. However, the Ypsilon isn't designed as a motorway cruiser, and it isn't the most relaxing on a long drive. Also, with 4 adults in the car, the Ypsilon does become a bit limited in forward momentum, and I found myself really having to work the engine. I couldn't tell how fast I was going though because I couldn't see the speedometer. As mentioned earlier, manoeuvring is easy in the Chrysler, and this helped in car parks squeezing into tight spaces.

Fun - 6/10

The exterior styling isn't much fun at all, and catching your reflection in a shop window isn't a very nice experience. However, the colour scheme is a bit more fun, especially the interior. I also like the nippy little engine that you have to work, knowing that driving like your hair is on fire will still yield decent fuel economy. And with the bluetooth media connection and auxiliary input you can just plug in your iPod, put on your favourite music and hit the open road. I just didn't enjoy longer journeys and found the Ypsilon tiring. However, if you only want to nip round town then this is the car for you.

Concluding Remarks

The Ypsilon is an unusually styled car with some economical engines on offer and some good equipment to boast as well. However they do seem a bit pricey. The TwinAir Black & Red I tested will set you back £13,950 which I think is a bit steep, especially as I can't see residuals being as high as the Panda or MiTo equivalent. But then again, the rarity factor could just sway you, because I've yet to see a Ypsilon Black & Red on the road, and that means it's more exclusive than a Bentley where I live. And I'll leave you with that.

Total Score - 37/50

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