So, Lancia Delta, what are you like to drive? Driven To Write continues its quest to test every Lancia available.
The Lancia Delta appeared under the banner of spearheading a rebirth at Lancia. The background to the Delta looked like this: a replacement for the Lybra saloon and estate and also a vehicle to cover a market the Bravo didn’t reach. As such, the Delta had to be luxury and estatey-wagony. Thus Lancia based it on the Fiat Bravo but with a longer floor-pan and a half-hatch, half-estate profile. Lancia sold the car with a quite broad engine range.
One could have two petrols – a 1.4 turbo and a 1.8 turbo. And one could have three diesels: 1.6, 1.9 and a 2.0 multijet turbo. All of them were burdened with six-speed manuals or a “robotized” semi-automatic. The car weighed about 1400 kg. All of the engines were the same as ones available in Fiats. VW does the same thing.
The Delta had a longer wheelbase than was typical, making for a car 4.5m long with 2.7 m between the axles ( 40 cm more than a Focus Mk2). That allowed much more interior room than a Focus or Golf without increasing the overall length very much. Two, it could
really be said to have striking styling. The bold grille and elegant vertical slit tail lamps drew from the Lancia Thesis of 2002 and also made a visual link to Lancia’s perennial best-seller, the Ypsilon. The interior also offered features that tried to put clear water between it and its peers: soft leather seating, nice colours, opulent-looking metal and distinctive seat forms. The dashboard spoils this by being carried over from the Bravo almost wholesale apart from a modified centre panel and rotary dials instead of HVAC buttons. Flashes of bright metal adorn the doors and the rear passenger area is actually quite nice to look at; it looks as you would draw it.
Another handy feature of the car is the fact that the rear seats can be moved forward to increase the boot volume from 350 to 450 litres, making it very flexible. With the seats forward, the rear legroom is more super-mini though not unacceptable. Lots of i20 owners get by with that kind of space.
Despite using mostly the same engines and dashboard as the Fiat Bravo, Lancia still didn’t save enough money to stop the rest of the trim being problematic. I will come back to that.
Setting off, one immediately encounters the rough rattle of the engine. For this test the 1.6 diesel-burner did the pulling duties. The engine provides 120 PS or 88 kW. The gearbox is about up to the usual standard one finds these days: mostly smooth changes but occasional rubbery shifts that seem to
go nowhere. The pick-up is good and the car moves off the line smartly. The steering wheel spars are annoying imediately. They stand proud of the plane of the wheel and when one tries to twirl the rim using the palms the spars get in the way. I know driving schools don’t encourage this style of steering but it’s what one tends to do in town when using full lock or navigating winding lanes. It’s like having a pebble in your shoe.
The Delta’s ride quality isn’t at all bad. The car ran on 16” rims while the 17” received criticism for their rumbling. The car handles road humps with creditable aplomb and the suspension absorbed pavement scars quite well though I did notice a rattle and also creakiness all around, as if the extended floorpan wasn’t structurally rigid enough.
Damningly, the Lancia failed to be as smooth as the Astra estate I tested in the spring. The body rolled a bit on sharp corners. I tend not to mind this but perhaps passengers would. Body roll isn’t a necessary corollary of a plush ride: that Astra stayed upright despite its well-damped and well-sprung chassis.
Some people dislike light steering. I don’t. The Delta’s felt light and also pleasant, with the option of an extra feathery town setting which I appreciate. Characteristics like turn-in and road-feel didn’t register meaning they were adequate: not good, and not bad.
If I turn to things such as minor controls, one finds those rotary HVAC controls. Credit for that. I hate buttons. The credit is cancelled by dint of the controls being loosely anchored and having glutinous action. The air-con didn’t con that well though even at full-blast the fans made little noise. The radio controls are as bad as anyone else’s. A general summing up is that everything in the Lancia felt slightly below par.
As a potential family car, the Lancia offers the possibility of impressive rear leg-room and a centre arm-rest. There is an air-vent in the centre of the console too. The view out matched that of other cars in the class: large head-restraints and thick pillars cropped the view out markedly.
Where it falls down very badly is that the seat is not just flat but feels as if it is inclined very slightly forward (though it is not). This impression is created by the large radius on the leading edge and the flat surface of the rest. The seat is also too short so it offers no thigh support. One’s weight rests on one’s
feet and hips. It quite simply wasn’t at at all comfortable. I think the large radius was there to make the rear seem roomier. I call this a major demerit. The driver’s seat, though, did provide good support. Dragging that down: the centre armrest is angled forward so one’s elbow can’t rest on it. It slides forward. That makes it useless.
So, in terms of driving and passenger comfort, the Delta is very patchy indeed. For every good point there is a clear black mark cancelling it. What hammers the final nails in the coffin is quality. The Delta is, wherever you care to look, the most carelessly detailed and poorly
assembled car I have been in. Even quite old cars I have driven do not have as many failures as this one. It is as if the design team had never been in a Kia or Hyundai, Opel, VW or Ford never mind cars from the
classes above. The list of gaffes is a long one, detailed in the photos accompanying the text. Stand-outs are the exterior plastic trim coming adrift, the uneven gaps on the door window consoles, the mismatch
materials on the dashboard and the simply crude fitting of the hard trim around the doors. The strip which is there to close the gap between the hand-brake and the surrounding trim screamed cheapness: a thin, flimsy and frail corrugated grey plastic part with a visible sharp edge. I don’t
know which manufacturer offers this kind of thing at any price. At a distance the interior looks opulent and inviting. Once inside, this impression dissolves into a muddle of badly detailed parts badly assembled.
With its unusual package and striking looks it could so easily have been a good, steady seller to people wanting a distinctly different car from the common herd. But it doesn’t drive particularly well (the 2009 Astra beats in every area), is not especially comfortable and is splattered with the evidence of careless craftsmanship. Given how much I wanted to like this car it has overcome with inexorable force my goodwill to Lancia. It is hard to believe that such a poorly-conceived car managed to make its way into production. Quite simply the Delta is a tinselly car that sets out to deceive and fails.
[There will come a more impressionistic musing on this car soon.]
55 thoughts on “Swimming in the Bight”
The Delta’s perceived quality is truly abysmal. I’ve sat inside a few during numerous car shows, most of which were equipped with Poltrona Frau leather seats. The contrast between the soft leather and the Kinder Surprise plastics was simply absurd.
Its shapes are fine, but the Delta’s materials and build quality are just shoddy. It’s a very Rocher car.
This is a very sobering review indeed.
I can relate to your feelings, it’s about the same as when I tested the DS5: you want to like the car, but it just doesn’t let you. I wouldn’t even mind sloppy fittings as you mentioned, provided the atmosphere is inviting and comfortable. But having also uncomfortable seats would be a no-go for me. And it also sounds like it’s neither comfortable nor fun to drive in a sporty sense – again a parallel to the DS5 I mentioned.
Yes and despite that it’s still the least tedious affordable car available.
Ooo! That’s an interesting comment … in what way do you find it the least tedious affordable car available? Having been pretty damning about it in so many ways, that was an unexpected comment.
Just on Simon’s commented parallels with the DS5, I hadn’t made that connection before, but he’s bob-on (as ever)!
As a piece of exterior styling, it certainly stands out from the crowd in an attractive and appealing manner. I love the rear lamps, the grille and headlight arrangement, and, strangely for me, the upward curve of the rear section of the DLO – the bright-work set off by the small Lancia shield (on non-UK cars). The effect is somewhat spoiled in the UK by the fact that this very Italianate car is marketed as a Chrysler. As such, Chrysler decided that the main marketing USP to be stressed in its advertising was that the car had the most rear legroom in its class. For context, the last new model launch in the UK in my memory that resorted to such worthiness was the Austin Maestro in 1983. And, in any case, I doubt the truth of the claim (being the owner of an Octavia, I find it hard to believe there is anything in the ‘Golf’ class that can get close). But, I digress, Chrysler clearly felt too coy to call out the Delta’s distinctive and elegant styling lest the public guessed the real provenance of the car and so decided to focus on the prosaic.
The real problem for this car was a lack of back-up across the rest of the Lancia range, a common problem for FCA marques, meaning that it never really made an impression in the public’s consciousness.
What I mean is that it´s so markedly different from the rest of the grey, white, black and silver metallic FWD hatchical cars on sale that I am not far off overlooking the very poor detailing and not-very-comfortable rear seats. That says a hell of a lot about the rest of the car market. If Opel or Ford offered a very cheerfully trimmed version of the Asta or Focus they could certainly attract people depressed by the uniformity of the market. In the case of Ford the Vignale name could be used to lure ex-Lancia people and ex-Citroen people: imagine a Focus-based derivative with two engines (decent ones) and a few choices in the interior colours. Opel do something like this with the former Meriva and Zafira. The uptake in Denmark has been nil (except one, I saw) but maybe the French, Swiss, Italians and Germans might want this option. As my rag-bag article showed, Kia aren´t afraid to offer a semi-luxury colourway for their i30.
“Kia aren´t afraid to offer a semi-luxury colourway for their i30”
Really? Each time I look I find you can have any colour you want as long as it’s black. Maybe that’s just in the UK…
Laurent: the bronze metallic
and tan leather option is sold and bought here.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the Delta was launched in 2008. Compare it to the Astra and Focus of that year and you’ll get a different impression. All three Deltas were based on contemporary Fiat C segment cars and as in the case of this one, was built on the same production line as the Bravo, you’d be somewhat optimistic to expect a higher level of quality. Having owned one for three years, I can testify to its reliability and was confident it would be after five years with a Bravo.
Impressions are a subjective thing, my view is that while fit and finish aren’t great, the overall feeling of the interior is pleasant enough, durable and surfaces you touch are superior to its contemporaries and some current cars like the Cee’d. The HVAC controls are the same as the Bravo, push buttons for the dual temp climate control on higher trims. The front seat lacks thigh support like many cars in this class but lumbar and lateral support are excellent. The armrest slopes forward to make it more comfortable and to facilitate gearchanging, it is adjustable in that it can be moved forward for shorter drivers. The gearchange is baulky at low speeds but rapid and easy at higher speeds. Steering feel is no worse than other electric setups and is certainly adequate. Grip is prodigious as is high speed stability. The pedals have nicely weighted short movements. There is a slight buzz from the floating centre dash panel which disappears when warm and an occasional buzz from the steering column. Otherwise the interior is rattle free. The 1.6 diesel engine is almost silent on the move and wind noise is very low. Most important of all, the sunroof opens, something that not all its competitors have as an option. It has plenty of low down torque and fuel economy is fair. No, it’s not like Lancias from the 50’s and 60’s, it’s just an interesting and stylish alternative to mainstream Euroboxes.
Having sampled the equivalent
Astra I have to disagree. The Astra is very nicely made and I’d have to hunt to find fit/finish errors. The rear seats are also better, much better even if the centre armrest is absent. I am glad you found it reliable though.
The Lancias I had in mind were the 90s cars. There’s not much wrong with a Kappa or Lybra.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I got a Kia Cee Apostrophe Dee rental car the other week. It was no brilliant drive, but the interior was a marked step in the right direction compared with the first generation of Peter Schreyer Kias. The current Cee’d is leagues ahead of the Delta in terms of fit & finish and perceived quality, I’m afraid.
They sell these in the UK with a Chrysler badge. Seriously, how toxic does your brand have to be before it’s preferable to be a Chrysler?? It’s like choosing between going around in life looking like Fred West or Jimmy Saville.
When I say “Kia” I might mean Hyundai.
It´s a Hobson´s choice: silver grey competence or stylish shoddiness. What does one do? I will be seeing a Lybra on Friday. It has 100,000 more kilometres on the clock and it´s grey/black leather.
Richard, I’ve lost track of your Lybra review.
Sorry this is 6 weeks later, but I’m still looking for the right Lybra.
Surprised that so many (of its mere 160,000) buyers chose silver when buying such an individual car. The other colours are as good as the Kappa’s, but I might have to go as far as Hungary to get it! Low milers are less than €3k, many decent ones half that.
What the Lybra has, which Delta III doesn’t (I think) is separate heating controls for the front passenger, which will please Mrs Vic no end. And I’ll like heated seats, rain and sun sensors but they’re only on later cars which are even rarer.
But if you see a 2003ish 2.0 auto (which has sequential option) SW in rich red/green/blue not due a belt change soon, and service history, let me know. (Berlina might be OK.)
Delta III’s only attraction is the slidable rear seats, but they have strangely high residuals in France – maybe because so expensive to start with.
both the Delta III and the DS5 were small deceptions to me. the former, for the reasons mentioned in this great article (thanks, Richard). moreover, I think the Beta nameplate would fit it better; even if the Delta II has no Integrale version, the first image that comes to mind when I think of “Lancia Delta” is a turbocharged Mark 1 Integrale in Martini livery, dealing with the worst roads one can imagine.
Thanks. Many share the association with rally Deltas. I don’t. However, Lancia probably thought it made sense and it doesn’t. The Delta 3 is not a rally car and it’s not sporting (which is nice).
Fully agreed, Richard. Hence I think Beta would be a better name.
Do you (and fellow DTW writers/readers) think there’s any chance for Lancia amid these FCA spin-off talks?
Eduardo: not a tiny chance. It’s too hard a brand to place in today’s rigid market. Eoin and I are the only people with a worked out vision for Lancia and FCA still haven’t contacted us.
Seconded. No amount of money, engineering resource, styling genius or marketing nous could possibly save Lancia now. It’s just too big a task and to be frank, too much damage has been done to make it worth the toil.
Eoin: with €2.3 bn we could do it. Three new cars by 2021.
Let me guess: two SUVs and a city car based on a Malaysian project?
Eduardo: you’re hired!
Actually when Eoin and I hatched our plans AR had a model range Lancia could have dovetailed with. I’d have to rethink the idea in the light of the SUV situation: a supermini and two SUVs sounds plausible.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again – Fiat missed a trick by not making the Delta an SUV. In 2008 that wasn’t exactly a radical or reckless idea; the Nissan Cashcow had been on sale for a year before the Delta showed face at Geneva.
If Lancia had seized the Zeitgeist, they could now be selling more cars than Alfa Romeo.
Oh, hold on…
Funny you should mention that. Luca Ciferri noted as far back as 2002 that…
“‘A couple of years ago Giugiaro proposed a new Lancia Delta,’ di Giusto said. ‘It was to be a compact sport-utility vehicle with four-wheel drive. That project will never be produced, but it was the seed that will lead to a compact crossover for Alfa Romeo.'”
Stradale: IIRC, the Alfa Romeo 145 (developed circa 1993) was also supposed to be a Lancia. so that makes two times Alfa stole a project in less than a decade – even if the Stelvio only hit the road last year.
Interesting! I didn’t actually know that – but it does Google:
Taxi ride today. 2017 Audi A6. What did I notice? The rear seats have the same lack of thigh support as the Delta. It has good door-mounted ashtrays though. The points of contact were pointy and hard: centre armrest like a lunch box and a nice sharp edge on the door. Whatever happened to comfort?
A bit overly negative as a review, clearly the approach was to cut the car to shreds. I’ve had a Delta 3 for a few years, it’s not a bad car and not expensive to buy. The finish is not so bad and I can be quite picky so I do notice obvious flaws. Yes it could do with less fittings carried over from the bravo but overall it’s a spacious, economical and reliable car. The broken handbrake cover on the featured car is due to the handbrake being out of adjustment, this causes the handle to come up too high bending and cracking the cover.
Hi Alan: thanks for stopping by. Actually, I didn´t set out to shred the car. I really liked it in advance and as you can tell from other posts, I am a fan of Lancia. On paper the car suited the household´s shared ambitions for a newish and distinguished car. From a moderate distance the car looks very fine and can not be mistaken for anything else. However, it disappointed me in the metal, not only because of the inadequate rear seats but also because there were just too many places where FCA cut corners. I have been in a good number of contemporary cars and can´t remember one which had so many carelessly handled details. I would really like to have liked the car and could have overlooked a few of the problems but not the suite of them and the way what was there didn´t seem to have been stuck together properly. I am glad yours suits your needs and is running well – it´s clearly not all bad. If we compare the Delta to the Lybra they seem to come from two different manufacturers. The Lybra, apart from the silly glove box lid, was impressive and solid. It also felt better to drive too. I loved the standard of trim in the rear and the boot and the rear seats were good enough for my two cost centres as well. It´s a shame the seller couldn´t sell it with a new timing belt – I didn´t fancy spending €6000 on a car only to have to spend another grand to keep it from exploding. No, Lancia gave up on quality with this car and it is trounced by the Astra, Focus and Golf. Maybe the Auris had some slipshod details but it worked very well. Of those cars, a well-specced Astra would be my choice as it managed to provide a lovely ride, a comfy interior but no blasted rear centre arm-rest.
We run an Delta Turbojet Platino 150PS since 2012, Perla Nadir with glass roof and original 18“ alloys, now having close to 50.000km on the clock. Always parking outside it has no rust and so far no item was broken. After reading the article I checked the depicted points of trouble – but ours has not. So I am wondering if Chrysler Deltas are less refined and are leaking quality control. We will keep the Delta and look how many years he will do. Best Regards from Vienna
Thanks for the pingback, Richard, an interesting and somewhat sobering read indeed. I’m quite intrigued to learn about possible trim/finishing differences between the (UK) Chrysler- and Lancia versions, even though the Chryslers haven’t sold here in NL Interesting also to learn where companies cut corners in order to retain some margin, as is clear from poor Delta….
Hi Joost – the Delta turned out to be a major disappointment. It is not a patch on the Lybra which had so many nice quality touches. The Delta looks like the quality has been sprayed on. More than anything it smacks of a Fiat with aspirations above its station. If they had made the Delta as well as the Lybra it would have been a different story. I really wanted to like the car. The money was there to spend on it but I could not bring myself to accept the compromises demanded by the fit and finish and detail design. I´d have a Lybra like a shot. The Delta? No , thanks.
What do you mean it’s built like cr*p? This is how every Chrysler minivan I’ve ever been in looks and drives!
Let me give you an example: the door cards on the Delta III have black polyurethane door cappings. Let’s go and have a look at the front doors. At the front part of the driver or passenger window, we have a roughly triangular black plastic cover with a grille for the tweeter. The problem is that, as you (driver or passenger) are looking towards the outside mirror, you see an uneven gap between the tweeter’s plastic cover and the black door capping: on the outside part, i.e. where the window’s seal is located, the gap is big and exposes the untidy extension of the black polyurethane door capping. Under the tweeter’s grille, there’s no gap. This is inexcusable. I’ll take a few photos later on and I’ll upload them so you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
No, no, I understand you, I’m just joking that every American Stellantis née FCA née Daimler Chrysler product for the last 20 years has had build quality either equal or worse than what you experienced. Sure, by Lancia standards this is a sad sight, but in America’s high-volume, low-standards market it’s perfectly acceptable to have heaps of unaligned black plastic; that’s why the Dodge Journey (Fiat Freemont) sells just fine. To be fair, as a transportation device there’s nothing wrong with a hard-wearing and low-rent interior, but I suppose better fitment is always a plus!
From this you get a clear picture of the fundamemtal difference between the US and European market. For Americans a low price is more important than finicky details. For Europeans (or those who design for them) this stuff matters as a point of pride. Neither attitude is better but gives plenty of grounds for mutual criticism. I expected a lot from a Lancia. If I had been sitting in a Chevrolet I´d have expected less. Further, the Delta seemed to be worse than a Fiat in fit and finish. I´ve poked around really cheap Fiats like the Punto and Bravo/a and they don´t have as many nasty details as the Delta.
Having just read the discussion on perceived quality from the article regarding the Fulvia saloon, I think it’s rather a consequence of historic circumstances that the American car and customer can be characterized this way. Back in the ’50s and ’60s when cars with “mainstream” badges (i.e. Peugeot, Citroen, even Lancia) provided the expected standard of quality with regards to finesse and usability, I’d imagine that GM, Ford, and Chrysler cars from the time provided a similar level of well-constructedness and engineering poise. OPEC in the ’70s was the beginning of the end for US carmakers, but it is odd that they went about their business by seemingly decreasing overall quality as well as pursuing better economy. (this is all generalized; obviously a ’50s engine is likely less reliable than an ’80s one)
At this time, of course, was when the Germans and Japanese were mounting their siege with unparalleled quality and craftsmanship which certainly dulled the appeal of domestic products, but I find it fascinating that the Big Three ended up finding the niche to fill in the most basic of transportation needs rather than creating a new image of quality for themselves. I suppose it’s rather reflective of American society, though, isn’t it; when you absolutely need a car to drive every single day of your life, price becomes paramount over choosing the nicest thing that will suit your fancy. That’s what I find most disdainful about American car culture—by forcing cars to be an absolute necessity, they lose a lot of their romance and indeed personality.
A couple of months back, looking for something else on some old hard drives, I found some old photos taken from Geneva 2008 that I thought had disappeared into the ether. They really say it all about the Delta and its reputation here and elsewhere for less-than-stellar quality:
Some are somewhat awkward angles I am afraid, but the first image tells you everything you need to know. These were the cars presented to the world’s press, critical to Lancia’s future and heralded as the jumping-off point for a major relaunch…
…and the paint run at the bottom of the grille was not only at a level I have NEVER seen on any car, not even something out of the Eastern Bloc, but it was like this on all five cars. Simply staggering. But it encapsulated nicely the lipstick-on-a-pig approach to management that Marchionne favoured and the press was by and large too stupid/credulous to see. These things were pre-pre-pre-pre-production models, really – the utter inadequacy of the bracket in that last image to provide any support to the front wing panel is a true sight to behold.
Have you seen the detailing on the Delta in the article? The hallmark (though not that important) was the flimsy plastic strip that covered the handbrake slot. I especially hated the mismatched radii on the door handles. The vehicle felt cheap and having then seen the Lybra with its Mercedes-esque seating and carpet and overall heft, the contrast between Lancia and Fiat-sprayed-over-with-Lancia was stark.
Those images are really depressing, Stradale. I could forgive a pre-production car some dynamic shortcomings but they should have been fettled to perfection as static exhibits. That they weren’t tells you just how far Lancia had fallen under Marchionne. The car buying public may often be less than fully informed and too easily seduced by shiny trinkets, but they know a turkey when they see one (or at least can hear others describing a car as such).
Guys, I own one of these cars. They wasted money to slap some Benova polyurethane on the front of the dashboard, but the fit and finish are utterly unacceptable. Also, much of the front system is marginal for the engines’ torque and, therefore, short-lived. Replacing the half-axles and the engine and transmission mounts at just shy of 100,000 km is unacceptable. The high regard in which Marchionne was and is held is completely undeserved. The guy was a disgrace and should have been unceremoniously ousted before his first year at the helm.
Reposting, because I really messed the first link up – please delete the previous comment, as it’s really embarrassing:
So, as promised…
1. The atrociously uneven gap between the tweeter mount and the door capping on the driver’s door of the Lancia Delta III. The passenger side is exactly the same.
2. A fine example of how Marchionne’s FCA set out to remove our right to repair our cars: the sun visors of the Lancia Delta III. One screw can be (un)done with an ordinary screwdriver. The other? Nope. Was there any real reason for this? No. The idea was merely to push us all into the clutches of the terribly inept and extortionately expensive dealer network. Marchionne was on a mission to screw FCA customers over.
And that’s not all. It’s really no wonder Lancia’s reputation was further ruined under Marchionne. And no, it wasn’t the brand’s fault; it was all Sergio Marchionne’s fault. Not the workers’, not the buyers’, no one’s but Marchionne’s and the shareholders who kept him in power for so long, although they should have thrown his sorry posterior out while they had a chance.
Hi Konstantinos. That gap/misalignment in the first photo would annoy me every time I caught sight of it. Grrr…
In the second photo, the left-hand bolt has a Torx head and (I assume) the right-hand bolt has a Philips head? If so, then all they have achieved is to annoy customers because Torx screwdrivers, although less common than other types, are readily available. (I have a set in my toolbox.)
It’s beyond weird to have two different fixings here. I assume you’ve removed plugs covering the bolt heads, otherwise it looks cheap and crude as well.
There is another type of screw/ bolt head I’ve recently come across that is definitely designed to frustrate DIY work. Imagine an equilateral triangle, but with concave rather than straight sides and you’ve got it. Very annoying!
Daniel, that’s precisely what they were trying to achieve: annoy, frustrate, and discourage. It’s all part of all industries’ (especially IT and auto) drive to remove people’s right to repair, and to ensure that we don’t actually own the things we’ve bought (and get taxed for owning and using).
Exactly the same two-different-screw-types arrangement is used for the fusebox cover, which is located to the left of the driver and under the vent that points to the door. When my left-hand tail light’s turn indicator ceased working, guess what the repairman (at an “official” shop!) did? He simply broke the tongue where the bottom screw (the Torx one) was. That tongue also serves ast the attachment point for the cover of the footwell/pedal area, which I’ve never been able to secure in its place since then. Mind you, the footwell wasn’t made for people who wear shoes bigger than UK 6.5 (US 7, EU 40), because the tip of their shoe rubs against that soft cover, eventually causing it to fall down, along with whatever sound deadening material there is. It’s an atrocity. Here’s what I’m talking about: https://alonghardlook.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/driver-footwell-cover.jpg
Every flippin’ time my car is handled by someone else (often bigger than me), in places like car parks or repair shops, I have to rearrange the damned footwell cover, jamming it however I can, before I can drive off without it getting in my way. Whoever designed the lower part of the dash and the footwell on the Delta (my recollection of the Bravo is very vague, as I’d driven it only once and very briefly), needs to have his degree annulled, his contract canceled, and – of course – he needs to be sent back to grammar school. Or kindergarten.
As to whether the screw heads were originally covered: no, there were no plugs covering the bolt heads. From day one. Not on my Delta, not on a colleague’s Delta, not on any Delta III that’s ever been made. These screws have always been exposed.
This is ALL Marchionne’s work. Lancia per se is not to blame. HE is to blame. And the same goes for every financial and automotive “journalist” (or, I should say, HACK) that’s been singing his praises, despite indisputable hard evidence that the man was unfit for any managerial post.
Wow, Konstantinos, what an indictment of the Delta III’s design and build. I had a Delta Mk1 and it was pretty well put together, and certainly had none of the foibles you have identified.
Perhaps the designer of the footwell came straight from kindergarten and had very small feet? 😁
Well, on the plus side, the two-zone automatic climate control has never failed me. Set a temperature, and it’ll keep you comfortable, regardless of what’s going on outside. The 150HP 1.4 T-Jet engine pulls well and responds quickly to the throttle, with the Goldilocks Zone being between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm. You can easily cruise around on big avenues with sixth engaged. But a frugal engine it’s not, and its exhaust note is gruff and hoarse like a George Patton-wannabe drill sergeant with throat cancer, a literary James Bond-esque smoking habit and (obviously) a death wish. The steering is OK, although it lightens up a bit too much for comfort on fast sweepers, thereby making you think the car has less grip than it actually does.
The Delta III also has another thing going for it: it actually has a proper footrest for the driver’s left foot, unlike other cars I’ve seen (the early ’00s Fiesta ST didn’t have one).
It’s really frustrating that most of the things you highlighted aren’t necessarily designed to be cheap as simply badly designed. They could have done do much better for not much more money. As you say, the Delta III certainly has good points, but they are subsumed by carelessness elsewhere.
Yes Daniel, it seems like they didn’t care at all. This becomes obvious by the fact that the car was not really developed further; besides the Multiair engines, all they did in the facelift was give it that horrendous Chrysler grille and remove the chrome coating from the external door handles on the base-spec versions. I’ve already commented on the marginal engine and transmission mounts, the failure-prone CV joint boots, and the marginal half-axles. The clutch, although it’s perfectly progressive and controllable (a marked improvement over the otherwise fantastic Clio II Phase II 1.2 16v Dynamique that was my squeeze), wasn’t made to last for long. At just a shade under the 100,000 km mark, I had to replace all those parts.
Mind you, the 17″ rim designs really should have been available in 16″ as well. The 16″ wheels looked like their bigger brothers’ poor relatives, and the 18″ ones were tacky. The satin chrome surround for the instrument cluster is an ergonomic nightmare: the sunlight gets reflected on it and straight onto the plexiglass of the instrument panel, causing lots of glare and making it hard to see anything in there. The turning indicator tell-tales aren’t bright enough (a huge problem in direct sunlight), and their auditory signal’s volume is idiotically low, so you end up forgetting them. In fact, you often find yourself driving for miles and miles with your hazard lights on without noticing.
The handbrake slot’s cover is a disgrace. The people who designed and OK’d it need to have their inboxes clogged with pictures of broken ones, accompanied with snide remarks. As for the posh-feeling Benova leatherette on the face of the dash, it’s a waste of money, since they didn’t bother to extend it to the door cappings and since the design of the various sub-panels on the door cards is so haphazard as the article explained.
I do remember, from car magazines and forum posts of the time, that the Delta was developed in less than two years and that they spent less than the typical amount of money that’s needed to develop a new model from an existing one – I can’t remember who had written these things, though; was it Octane‘s John Simister, who also wrote back then the Delta’s rear doors were sliding ones? Yes, he actually wrote that, confusing the version for people with disabilities with the stock ones. You can’t make this crap up, and this says a lot about the quality of car “journalism” out there. I’m of a good mind to think the car wasn’t just rushed into production, but that Marchionne issued a diktat saying “keep the development budget down to this limit”, with Olivier François (why has he evaded criticism for so long?) happily obliging.
Konstantinos — Thank you for your unique perspective, informed both by your ownership experience and your engineering expertise.
Regarding Marchionne, you seem to assume that the shareholders—Agnelli really—were willing to invest in the business. This was not the case, and the reason was simple. They had come to the conclusion that, on average, you cannot earn an appropriate return in the automotive business. At the time they hired Marchionne, in the eyes of the shareholders the equations was as simple as it was depressing: Invest billions in development, add an environment where competitors were reducing costs 5% per year, multiply by ever-increasing regulatory requirements, top it up with an Italian unionized workforce that was as powerful as it was out-of-control, divide with a currency union (Euro) designed to kill lower productivity manufacturers, and finally multiply with an average return on capital in the low single digits. Simply put: just not worth the risk.
When I met Marchionne in 2015, he was very clear that he did not expect to make money in the car business. Like any CEO, he was a hired gun who had to make do with what resources he had and could obtain; in this case not much at all. If he cut corners, killed products, and moved very (too) quickly, it was because these were the only weapons he had.
So yes, he was ruthless, and, like all managers, he made mistakes—admittedly many due to his pigheadedness, inclination for fast action, and lack of self-questioning.
But in the end, whether by luck (read: Jeep) or skill, he delivered for shareholders: losses stopped, very little capital was invested, and, ultimately, the whole lot looked good enough to be sold to a greater fool.
This was truly a happy ending for the shareholders who, for a while, had feared a disaster that could bleed them dry.
Theodore: Thanks for finding the time to comment and for your insights into the Fiat Auto group and the late Mr. Marchionne. Most interesting. I trust you will find other diverting subjects amid DTW’s smorgasbord of content.
He delivered for shareholders, but are you sure you want to discuss how he shafted the buyers, the ones who give the company their money? The end product was sub-par, and after sales service remained insultingly horrendous.
Also, yes, he was ruthless. But he was unable and unwilling to manage or lead. You said it yourself: he was only there to put a little touch-up paint here and there and pass the lot on to the next moron.
Also, like all MBAs I’ve ever encountered in my life, he was full of himself, actually, full of this brown matter that can’t be polished. He was no Harvey Specter-like overachiever. He was a chronic underperformer who would always set sales goals he could never reach with the insane product development decisions he made, and no one ever asked what was going on. If it were up to me, he’d be unceremoniously sacked. Then again, as you said, the Agnellis et al wanted out, so that’s why they hired him.
As for his relationship with the workers (who are always portrayed as the “out of control faction that ruins everything”)? Well, he blamed the workers in the plants that were producing slow-selling models for being “non-productive” compared to their counterparts at Tychy, where the 500 was produced. As a production engineer, I have to say he was simply blaming others for his own failures. In the era of lean manufacturing, where you make as many or as few units as you have orders for, how can the factory that produces a slow seller like the MiTo produce as many units as the one that produces the 500 that sells like hot cakes? Basically, he was lying off his teeth. And he could never lead or inspire.
Yet, none of the so-called “journalists” in this field had the spine to make him prove what he was claiming. He won’t be missed; he was another sample of the mass-produced, overrated, arrogant, ignorant, and overpaid mediocrity that MBA programs churn out every year.
«are you sure you want to discuss how he shafted the buyers?» Actually, I don’t believe I suggested I wanted to discuss that. That’s a different topic.
I also don’t suggest to discuss how I got shafted by the Greek public service (and its public servants). That would be too long a thread. By the way, I’m also not suggesting that all Greek public servants should be unceremoniously sacked, even though I felt that way many times.
We can discuss however the role that Greek unions played in shutting down the Mahindra&Mahindra plant in Volos, or the Pirelli plant.
In any case, I guess I’m perhaps lucky our paths have not crossed so far, so that I can still hope that I’m not «full of myself, actually, full of this brown matter that can’t be polished» despite my MBA degree.
The unions had nothing to do with the death of the “Great Greek Automotive Industry.” Corporate politics did. European legislation, which made assembly plants like Automeccanica and Teokar obsolete, did. And don’t take Mr. Cavathas’ stories as gospel.