It’s in many ways just an ordinary sight south of the Alps yet I can’t help my fascination with these fine cars. You don’t see them much in Denmark, so rarity is part of the appeal. But…
… I will concede this interest is definitely peculiar to me, that among the short list of cars I will always stop and look at for as long as I can is included a car like the one above: a middle-market supermini called Ypsilon. That puts the car in with the Saab 900 (or any pre-GM Saab, really), the Opel Astra F, the Jaguar XJ6 Series III, the Citroen CX, DS and GS and some of the Buicks carrying the Riviera nameplate.
Whereas I could make a semi-solid, semi-objective case for why any sentient person might accord respect to vehicles from that list, the Lancia is different. I can tell you why I like it but I honestly don’t expect you to be able to say any more than “It’s nice you can take pleasure from such a thing but I can’t see the attraction myself”.
I also don’t expect many people to stand back and topple in disbelief either. Few people will hate this car. What’s not to be indifferent about? So, objectively speaking, the Ypsilon lies in the vast Milky Way of not-bad/not great designs.
It hides far away from the extremes of the Lancia Florida, 1964 Lincoln Continental and any number of concept cars that kick the breath from your chest on sight. And it lies distant from the Pontiac Aztek, Buick Signia and Ssang Yong Rodius on the other side too.
That means the relation between me and the design is solely personal. Designers would really have loved more people to have been as enthusiastic about it as I am, of course. Alas there are very few designs that land arrows in the hearts of more than a minority.
Many designs that try to land arrows in the hearts of customers usually miss or land an arrow in the eye. It’s a tricky business being original, striking and appealing – different bad is often mistaken for different good (I learned that in relation to architecture where any kind of difference is preferred to attractive but familiar).
Slightly wonky is often mistaken for interesting (is that the bane of many serious singers?). Mostly what the designer sees as some clever and ground-breaking bit of originality is not even noticed except by a few. And those who do notice often take offence.
This is one reason in these high-risk, low-reward times many car designs are mere stirrings of the same old minestrone. Everyone likes minestrone: nudge the pea, move the pasta, add a bit of pepper and call it ground-breaking. No-one will hate your soup.
This would appear to be the formula followed by anyone you can care to name (with a few exceptions). You could even say the Photo Car Of The Day is more of the same. Well, yes, but I happen to like this type of minestrone a lot more than other types of minestrone.
The dark blue velour upholstery! The alloy door handle! The falling crease on the side! The liftgate! The idea of a small and comfort-oriented small car, for goodness’ sake. A Mini does not achieve the same effect at all and nor does a DS3. Are there other contenders? Where is Renault’s Baccara line? I haven’t seen the Fiesta Vignale – maybe that is an Ypsilon competitor. Yet, despite Ford’s inherent good qualities I don’t see Ford as being classy like an Ypsilon. Ford’s strength is classlessness, like VW.
The Ypsilon’s rear windscreen is verging on the aristocratic. In spite of all those things, I also recognise they are projections of my imagination.
I might ask readers if they have a car that they like to the mystification of others. If you do, please write in a let us know. We promise to be respectful (and actually insist on this). If you want us to understand why you like the example you choose it might help to suggest what it is you think the designer wanted to achieve.
The more idiosyncratic the selection the better. That doesn’t mean I’d be impressed by cars that are “so bad they are good” the way. I am more interested in the average sort of cars, the ones most people won’t even notice.