Monday, 28 January 2013 9:50 AM
America is renowned for its enormous Cadillacs and other notorious gas guzzlers. It is not associated with small, efficient hatchbacks.
Not until now anyway. The compact Chrysler Ypsilon, the chic French sounding five-door hatchback looks like a three-door thanks to concealed door handles at the rear.
This cheeky little yank is actually based on a Fiat 500 and its appearance, mainly due to the bonnet and chrome grille, has hints of the larger Chrysler Voyager about it.
I test the perky 1.2-litre petrol, finished in an attractive two-tone brown. There’s pleasingly a lot of chrome on this vehicle – the chrome door handles are something you don’t get very often these days unless you’re in the market for a Rolls.
Step inside and the first thing you notice is that there is no speedometer in front of the steering wheel, which is quite disconcerting as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz.
Instead, Chrysler has positioned it in the centre of the dashboard together with the rev counter. It might look eye-catching and means that whether it’s a left or a right hand drive the speedo doesn’t need re-positioning. But I don’t like it. It is awkward to constantly look to your left to monitor your speed and particularly irritating when approaching speed cameras. Aside from this, the interior is pleasingly comfortable and the seats are upholstered in really cosy velour.
It can be noticeably lethargic with a slight delay, reminiscent of the Fiat 500 funnily enough, and so when overtaking in any of the Ypsilon models, plenty of revving is required. But that’s not a problem. You’ll also have to be prepared to change down a few cogs to complete the manoeuvre in a safe manner.
Demanding drivers though, will enjoy getting the most from the engine and hearing the attractive note emitted when it’s under pressure. It handles varying types of roads proficiently and all occupants arrive at their final destination relaxed. A little qualm is that the driver has to be careful where they place their hands on the steering wheel because of the angle of the stereo and telephone controls on the wheel. On a number of occasions my right hand operates the telephone switches cutting into the radio programme I’m listening to.
This eye-catching little American seems an efficient car easily covering 500 miles on a tank of fuel. This is helped by the automatic engine start/stop function.
Parkers, the car experts, says: “The distinctive headlights sitting either side of the shield-shaped grille set it apart from the other, more generic hatchbacks and when you move around to the rear, the drama continues: the well-sculpted LED tail-lights at either side of the boot-opening give the car a unique, yet satisfyingly rounded rear end.
“The Ypsilon has certainly got a European design (that’s a good thing) and it's much more curvy than Chrysler's more sizeable hatchback, the Delta. The Ypsilon has the underpinnings of the Fiat 500 and the Ford Ka but it has a longer wheelbase (the same wheelbase as the 2012 Fiat Panda). So, it’s a looker (of sorts) and should appeal to those after ‘something different’.”
Although its boot is large enough for a pushchair, the Ypsilon is perfect for the young, free and single as room in the back is a little tight. But its size makes it ideal for parking in tight spaces.
Chrysler Ypsilon 1.2-litre petrol 5-door
New price range: £10,695 – £15,695
Top speed: 101mph
By Tim Saunders