The Fiat Group’s latest B-category offering, the fourth-generation Lancia Ypsilon, débuted at this year’s Geneva motor show. In the Lancia tradition, it is the most upmarket of the Group’s superminis. From September, the Ypsilon will be offered in Great Britain and Ireland for the first time, though sadly with a Chrysler badge.
Technically, the Ypsilon has a lot in common with the smaller Fiat 500, not least the deployment of 95PS Multijet and 85PS Twin-air power-units; the latter can be had with a clutchless semi-automatic transmission, designated DFN. Fiat’s 1.2 Fire engine of 69PS is also offered, with a bi-fuel (petrol and LPG) version to follow. Disappointingly, all transmissions — including the turbodiesel’s — have five forward gears. A stop-start system is standard across the range. Where the Ypsilon is distinguished from its lesser sibling (and its predecessor) is in having five doors. It is also bigger than the 500: the Lancia’s wheelbase is 90mm longer than the little Fiat’s, at 2390mm, and overall length is nearly 300mm greater at 3842mm.
Smaller-scale technology includes the current incarnation of Fiat’s Blue & Me connectivity system, a Tomtom sat. nav. with live traffic information, bi-xenon headlights, LED tail lights, slimline seats and ‘magic parking’. More anon. LED lighting is used on the dashboard.
On a more serious level, there’s also electronic stability control complete with ASR (an anti-slip system), hill holder, ABS and electronic brake-force distribution.
So there is some quite high-end kit even on entry-level cars (designated ‘Silver’). Door-opening remote control certainly comes as a surprise.
1.2 Fire EVO II 69PS (Euro 5)
The latest evolution in the Fire family comes as standard with Fiat’s stop-start system giving a claimed five per cent. fuel consumption saving. Over the NEDC, a CO2 yield of 115g/km is returned. Variable valve timing is a notable feature for an entry-level engine, though historically we should have expected nothing less of a Lancia.
Exhaust gases are recirculated at low loads. The maximum torque figure of 102Nm is achieved at a rather unremarkable 3000rpm; power peaks at 5500rpm, with 69PS available.
900 Twin-air 85PS (Euro 5)
The second engine in the Ypsilon lineup is the much-lauded Twin-air. Although we haven’t tried the unit in the Ypsilon yet, we do know it quite well from the Fiat 500. It’s quite entertaining and makes an amusing noise, but its power delivery is not as flexible as the torque figures suggest it should be: to put it bluntly, you have to thrash it to get the best from it, and we doubt many owners will come within a mile of reproducing the car’s impressive NEDC fuel returns. Take a look at the data table and you will see that, despite the Twin-air’s superior power and torque, Fiat has given this version lower overall gearing, perhaps by way of acknowledging the engine’s character. Still, it’s a much better unit than the old Fire engine if you can’t run to the turbodiesel.
The 85PS version seen here is the first of a new family of two-cylinder engines. Ultimately, they will offer outputs between 65PS and 105PS.
If you want to your (and the car’s) enthusiam in the interest of economy, there is an ‘Eco’ button on the dash. This remaps the engine management, limiting torque to 100Nm at 2000rpm — adequate for most every-day purposes. In eco mode the Ypsilon Twin-air will deliver a CO2 yield over the NEDC of 97g/km with the DFN semi-automatic gearbox and 99g/km with the mechanical gearbox.
The DFN semi-automatic gearbox was developed in conjunction with Magneti Marelli and was originally launched on the Ypsilon back in 2003. Among other things, it has been updated to offer greater driving comfort and reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
As regular readers will know, Twin-air uses Fiat’s electro-hydraulic Multi-air valve management system. The air entering each cylinder is controlled directly using the inlet valves and without using the throttle.
Fiat claims that, compared to a traditional petrol engine of equal displacement, Multi-air engines offer an increase in power — ‘up to’ 10 per cent. — and torque — up to 15 per cent. There is also a reduction in emissions of CO2: up to 10 per cent.
1.3 Multijet II 95PS (Euro5)
The latest derivative of Fiat’s smallest diesel has been around for a couple of years now. It does a more than adequate job of powering the larger Alfa Mito, offering a very flat torque delivery from its low 1500rpm peak. It will make light work of the Ypsilon.
This 1248cc unit uses a variable geometry turbocharger, a new variable displacement engine oil pump and an alternator with smart charging — the generator is switched open-circuit when the engine is loaded, doing its work on the overrun and at light loads. Injection pressure is a rather modest (by modern standards) 1600 bar (160MPa). The Ypsilon diesel returns a CO2 yield of 99g/km over the NEDC.
A Multijet II injector’s servo valve with a balanced plunger allows up to eight injections per cycle. The injector is also simpler and more reliable than earlier variant because its construction is less complex: it apparently has 40 per cent. fewer components than the earliest Multijet injector.
Thanks to the new type of injector, more complex combustion strategies can be used. Rate shaping injection, for example, involves two consecutive injections so close together in time as to generate a continuous and modulated profile of the fuel supply into the cylinders. This offers quieter combustion and reduces emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
As with the other two engines, a stop-start system is standard. It can be deactivated using a button on the dashboard. A gear-change indicator is also fitted.
The new Ypsilon uses a new generation of 15" low rolling-resistance tyres developed by Goodyear. Known as Efficient Grip, they use a lighter structure to reduce the rolling resistance.
While the basic suspension layout of the out-going Ypsilopn has been retained, there have been changes. Up front, the McPherson assembly has been lightened; interestingly, this was apparently not for dynamic reasons but to improve the car’s crash performance. It was lightened using a monocoque lower arm made of ultra-high strength material, the first use in Europe for chassis components, and a modular cross member made with thin high-resistance steel sheets. The cross member connects with the front structure’s third load-path to improve crash performance during a high-speed collision or pedestrian impact.
The new front suspension has a ‘split’ type of damper-mounting that transmits the loads to the body through two different routes. This results in better filtering of the road vibrations and improved acoustics compared to the previous model as a result of dynamic stiffening of the lower bush; the axial rigidity, and thus the efficiency of the damper, is maintained.
The front suspension also has a new anti-roll bar. The bar is now connected to the damper instead of to the suspension arm, improving the anti-roll effect. The bar is also now lighter, with no reduction in its effect.
Finally, the bushes of the front suspension arm have been softened and redesigned to improve comfort and noise control.
At the back, the torsion-beam axle is fitted with a new bush larger than that of the previous Ypsilon. Again, this is aimed at improving comfort and reducing NVH. The bush’s shape has been changed to improve absorption of longitudinal bumps.
The mass-reduction efforts that have gone into the new Ypsilon’s suspension, using high-strength materials, are mirrored in the rest of the car. The capacity of the structure to absorb energy has been improved and, as we mentioned previously, there is now a third load-path in the front structure. This provides more effective control of deformations in front impacts because of its ability to transfer loads to the lower, more resistant part of the vehicle, reducing penetration into the passenger compartment. The bolted parts also demonstrate the technical evolution of this platform, such as use of high-performance tempered steels for the front bumper crossmember and the adoption of strong, lightweight plastic (Xenoy) on the rear bumper crossmember.
The Xenoy ‘alloy’ is a blend of semi-crystalline polyester — typically polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with a polycarbonate. The Xenoy resin family offers good chemical resistance, great impact resistance even at low temperatures, heat resistance, and outstanding aesthetic and flow characteristics. A number of formulations are paintable. Xenoy ‘alloys’ offer good performance in applications that are exposed to harsh conditions or that require toughness.
The roof panel is made from a polyester-based material. Apart from being light, it is said to reduce noise levels inside the car by around 2dB — noise is measured on a logarithmic scale, and a reduction of 3dB corresponds to a halving of noise intensity.
This is Lancia’s name for the Bosch park-assist system which we have seen elsewhere. Electromechanical power-steering allows the steering-wheel to be turned without the driver’s involvement, under the control of a processor that, in turn, takes data from parking sensors.
The system is activated by a button on the dash. Short-range radar sensors — one on each side of the car, inside the front bumper — detect a parking space: Lancia quotes a minimum length for the space of 4.6m, which leaves a total gap of rather less than 80cm. Divide that by two and the ‘skill’ of the system is clear. Multi-manoeuvre parking is part of the functionality of the current system, which is why the minimum length of parking space can be squeezed so much.
When a suitable space has been found, the system issues a beep; a message on the display indicates whether the parking manoeuvre can be completed in a single or multiple stages. The driver is responsible for controlling the car’s speed using the pedals: if he touches the steering-wheel or de-selects the relevant gear during a manoeuvre, the system automatically cuts out.
The maximum speed during a manoeuvre is 7km/h.
Blue & Me — TomTom Live
The new Ypsilon will launch a new development of Fiat’s ‘infotelematic’ system, developed by Fiat and TomTom.
Based on the TomTom Go1000 sat. nav., this device allows you to manage phone calls, satellite navigation and driving information, which is downloaded from the on-board computer systems. It also allows you to control your media player using the touch-screen interface.
The new version has a capacitive touch-screen and TomTom Live services such as HD Traffic; the latter combines accurate traffic information with a dynamic route calculation, providing real-time updates of congestion, traffic jams and road closures. Customers get free use of the Live services for a year.
Smart fuel system
This is a device that replaces the conventional fuel filler cap. It is, says Lancia, ‘designed with particular attention to female customers’. The device automatically opens and closes when the pump nozzle is inserted and removed, reducing gas emissions and fuel overflow. It also does not allow petrol to be pumped into a diesel-powered car.
The design and validation of the Ypsilon’s impact performance was carried out on an almost entirely virtual level, involving a claimed 20,000 hours of mathematical modelling. Live testing involved more than 80 crash tests, 100 tests on a Hyge slide and roughly 100 tests on components and sub-systems.
The third load-path connected to the vehicle’s struts produces a homogeneous front structure able better to adapt vehicle response in case of a front impact regardless of the type of obstacle, since it increases the capacity for energy absorption of the vehicle’s front end and reduces both inertial forces and passenger compartment intrusion. Also, the energy absorption elements positioned in front of the third load-path — made from a plastic (unspecified) with a high capacity for energy absorption — serve to minimise vehicle damage in case of low-speed impact, and to give the bumpers support to reduce the risk of dangerous knee-bends if the car hits a pedestrian.
The Ypsilon can be had with up to six airbags — front, window-bags and side. Both the front and rear seats are equipped with an anti-submarining system, which prevents the body from sliding underneath the seat belt. The front seats have an anti-whiplash system which limits the natural travel range of the neck starting immediately after the impact, reducing the risk of whiplash in a rear-end collision.
Lancia and Chrysler
The shotgun marriage between Chrysler and the Fiat Group always had more potential than the American conglomerate’s bizarre union with Daimler-Benz. But anyone with a sense of history cannot help being a little saddnened to see a Lancia badged as anything else, even if the ancient Italian marque is just a part of the Fiat group. After all, so is Ferrari.
The story of Lancia is an epic tragedy, and one which could easily have ended in the death of the hero. Once one of the greatest of car makers, the Company specialised in offering a rare if not unique combination of luxury and performance.
Fiat bought Lancia in 1969. Three years later came a formidable new model, the Beta. There were four main derivatives with two platform lengths — a roomy four-door saloon, a coupé, a convertible, and a sporting estate inspired by the Reliant Scimitar GTE. The Berlina (saloon) and HPE featured a 2540mm wheelbase; that of the coupé and Spyder (convertible) was 190mm shorter. The Betas were front-driven, with outstanding twin-cam engines and five-speed gearboxes. The engines, with displacements between 1.3- and 2.0-litres, were versions of Fiat’s legendary Aurelio Lampredi unit; the gearbox was a derivative of a box being co-developed with Citroën. All Betas were generously appointed by the standards of the day.
Lancia Beta (1975 model).
But the Beta was fatally flawed. The Fiat group had a policy of using recycled steel — allegedly imported from the Soviet Union — for its bodyshells, and paint preparation was second-rate even by early-seventies standards. As a result, it was not unknown for a new car to become unserviceable through rust penetration after as little as four years. The Company’s reputation and customer-base collapsed.
Lancia did set about fixing the rust problem, but the ship had very much sailed. And while later cars were much more rust-proof than their predecessors, they were still not competitive in this regard.
Lancia Beta HPE Volumex (1981 model).
With the Delta, launched in 1979 on the Fiat Ritmo platform, came an excellent opportunity for a new start. There was even involvement with Saab, which sold the Delta badged as a Saab 600 in Sweden. But rust-proofing was still below-par, and sales in Britain were never buoyant, despite the car’s many good qualities and its image as a rally car. In 1994, Lancia abandoned right-hand drive markets.
1.2 Fire Evo
Urban MPG (l/100km)
Transmission — I — II — III — IV — V — Final drive