In 1989 the little Lancia Y10 looked like the runt of Lancia’s litter. What was it doing in the range?
At that time Lancia dealers stocked the ordinary Delta, the Delta HF, the Prisma 1600, the Thema and Thema Ferrari 8.32. Did any European manufacturer have such an inconsistent or heterogeneous range? Isuzu had a coupé and an SUV – (Piazza and Trooper), while Subaru had the tiny Justy, midsized 1800 4wd estate and the XT. Perhaps only Volvo’s odd mix of the 340, 480, 240 and 740/760 gets close in terms of antiquity/novelty and visual difference. No, the prize for incoherence must be Lancia’s.
By 1989 the Lancia Y10 had been on sale for four years, going on five. At this point Lancia offered some revisions and new variants to keep interest in the car alive.
For late 1989 Lancia launched the GTie version of the car, sold as an Autobianchi in France, Germany and Japan. On the credit side of the ledger customers got a usefully small car with appointments not usually seen in that class. Typical of Lancia, the interior evoked high-end Italian furniture design with its bold, clear and modernist forms. The doors skins seem to have gone from concept sketch to production unmolested. The dashboard featured dramatic expanses of cloth or Alcantara in minimalistic masses; the radio lived behind a small drawer under the instrument pack.
The exterior is a mixture of subtlety and simplicity: a reductionist take on the Lancia grille, a clam-shell type bonnet and a Kamm tail marked by its black satin finish. The bonnet shut-line and black tailgate do most to distinguish the Y from the 1983 Fiat Uno – perhaps that’s the main reason for justifying the colour choice. That detail counted when an Uno cost a little over £5300 and the base model Y another £300 rising to nearly £2000 of a difference for the GTie model.
The GTie had a 1.3 litre engine with multi-point fuel injection, revised suspension and standard Alcantara trim. The cheaper versions had either a 1.0 or 1.1 litre engine. Its enemies in the showroom included the Citroen AX, Suzuki Swift, Nissan Micra and Renault 5 Prima GTS.
The little 1.3 engine was unusual in being normally aspirated and fuel-injected (most engines this size did not feature this pairing). It produced 76 bhp and 74 lb ft of torque (accessed low down in Italian style). Nought to sixty arrived just under 12 seconds (only slightly slower than a 2.0 litre Citroen XM). Testers criticised the buzzy, frenetic engine, the spongy brakes and firm springing of the suspension. The same rear suspension saw service in the agricultural and admittedly dirt cheap Panda. To its credit it seemed to be stable and able to deal with motorway surfaces commendably. Light steering, yes, but also blighted by kickback and lack of feel. It’s worth noting that the Y10 GTie was outperformed by its predecessor, the Y10 Turbo which cracked 0-60 in nine-and-bit seconds.
The Lancia Y10’s package cleaves to a formula we are familiar with today: room for two upfront, lots of shopping in the boot and not much space in between. Essentially, the Y10 was geared for an urban setting due to its lively pick-up, good visibility and narrowness. Lancia did not follow through this refinement brief with the switchgear, seating comfort or gearchange. The GTie lost the USP of the Turbo which also meant it became an even worse fit in a range of cars characterised by luxury and sometimes absurdly high-performance.
Amazingly, the Y found 85,000 customers a year and soldiered on until 1995.