What is it?
It’s all sorts of things. In summary, a Fiat re-skinned and stretched as a Lancia, rebadged as a Chrysler. Underneath, it’s an extended-wheelbase five-door Fiat 500. The sheet metal on top is designed as a Lancia. But because Lancia has no presence in the UK, and because Chrysler is now a sister company under Fiat, it’s being sold here as a Chrysler. What really matters is it’s a compact, slightly plush and highly individual city runabout.
This isn’t a sporty rival to a Mini or Citroen DS3. It’s a city centre supermini, and very agile, but sits on skinny tyres so it slips (amusingly) rather than gripping. The ride is correspondingly serene until serious potholes upset it. We love the TwinAir engine – torquey, quiet and characterful, and gutsy enough not to be embarrassed on motorways. The diesel isn’t worth the expense, and the other four-cylinder engines are a bit ordinary and slow for main roads. The gearlever is handily mounted on the dash. But no getting away from the fact you suffer for individuality; a Fiesta for the same price is a better drive, cheaper baby Koreans are pretty much as good.
On the inside
In the design as with the driving, Lancia – sorry Chrysler – has aimed to avoid any hint of misplaced sportiness. So instead of a cockpit of racy dials, you get a centre dash pod of instruments more like an MPV’s. Trim materials are just a bit handbag, but we like the soft main dash, even though it’s surrounded by sharp-edged brittle plastic and the matrix displays are horribly low-res. An optional semi-integrated TomTom is a good way to have satnav without huge expense, and it gives access to other car settings, too. For a little car, there’s enough room in the back, but the boot would be laughably inadequate for a family fortnight. Or even a substantive trip to the fashion mall, which is probably what it’s aimed at.
It’s a bit of an unknown, because depreciation is hard to predict for what is in effect a new brand in the small-car sector. It’s being sold by Fiat Auto UK, which hasn’t always known how best to keep used values up, except for the 500. On the other hand, small, economical, stylish cars usually hold their value. Servicing will be cheap. And the TwinAir has sub-100g/km rated CO2 for tax advantages. Its real-world economy varies wildly – drive carefully and the fuel needle barely moves, push on and it’s distinctly average. Buy a mid-range car and option it as you need – there’s the TomTom, parking sensors, Bose hi-fi, and the two-tone paint is attractive. No point getting the diesel though, as you’ll never recoup your investment.