Sorry I’ve been quiet the past few weeks. Blame sheer weight of work, the closing in of the nights and a lack of spare time, which I am sure affects many of you, too. Whenever my energy levels take a dip, a quick pick-me-up is to go out and buy a new car, especially if whatever I have on the go at the time is causing problems, or not inspiring me in the way it should.
A couple of weeks back, I put out a message on social media that I was looking for a new set of wheels for 2022. The requirement was something that’s capable of covering a 250-mile trip at the drop of a hat, while not costing me a fortune in fuel. I’d like to do a few trips in my own car (I rely too much on the new cars that pass through my hands as the Editor of Parkers), too – and do them in something that’s not knackered in some way with bits hanging off…
An interesting reply came from my old friend – and former serial Rover owner – Tim Burgess, who offered me his 2012 Chrysler Delta. With 75,000 miles on the clock, this SR-spec diesel promised great economy, looks fantastic and, most importantly, has the correct Lancia badges fitted to it. Ah, yes, this Italian-built hatch has been given an identity change which suddenly makes it a whole lot more appealing to me – especially considering my soft spot for the brand and the fact I’ve already owned a couple of Deltas, a Thema, a Beta and a Dedra in the past…
A deal was done, money was paid remotely, and I then considered how I was going to collect the car. Yes, that’s because Tim lives 380 miles away in beautiful Scotland. I initially considered getting one of my sons to give me a lift up, then realised it would be an act of cruelty to do it soon after I did the same, picking up a Skoda Fabia vRS from Cumbernauld recently. I looked at weekend trains, but at £120+ one way from Peterborough, plus the prospect of delays caused by engineering works, actually getting there in a single day would probably have been a sheer miracle.
In the end, I decided to take a day off work after it transpired that taking the train from Peterborough to Helensburgh would cost £60. That’s why I found myself sat in an almost-empty Azuma as it rapidly accelerated out of Peterborough on a cold, damp morning and headed north towards my first stop in Edinburgh. With my work ‘phone switched off, and mindful of the fact that the eye of Storm Barra was heading towards my destination, I was keenly excited about getting behind the wheel of a new car.
As the miles rolled by, the skies darkened, and my thoughts turned to AROnline, where I could write a new article in the near-silent carriage I almost had to myself. What luxury, and a sheer contrast to the stress I might have been facing on the A1(M) had I chosen to drive.
Three and a half hours later at the end of a pleasant journey. Yes, there’d been a slight delay and I missed my connecting train, but given the battering the north was receiving at the hand of Barra, I’d take that – especially as there’d be another train to Helensburgh within the hour, and I could take the time to pop my head around the door of Waverley Station and take a look at Princes Street. A shame it was sleeting and perishingly cold!
The second train of the day was almost as quiet as the first. Okay, it wasn’t as nice as the Azuma, but it was warm and chugged along at a reasonable rate, even if it felt like it stopped a million times between Edinburgh and Helensburgh. While I was on the train, looking out at the grey and rapidly darkening sky didn’t look that appetising, so I researched a little more about the Chrysler Lancia Delta and what I could expect during its ownership.
The news seemed quite good – mixed reviews when new, no horror stories used, and a punchy diesel engine which should, when driven gently, deliver around 55-60mpg. Okay, so that all sounds rational, and hardly enough to set the pulses racing, but I really wasn’t buying this car for those reasons – quite simply, I wanted something a little left-field which drives well, serves up some luxury and stands out from the crowd. Let’s face it, it would have been a Rover RDX60 has its maker not crashed in 2005.
Night was well and truly with me as the train rolled into Helensburgh, and Tim was there to meet me and drive us over to his place for the big reveal of my new Chrysler Lancia Delta. I wished it had been daytime – it felt like I was missing some spectacular scenery on the way to his gaff – but those are the breaks when travelling in the middle of winter. Still, it was a pleasant journey to his home in his new car – a lower mileage Chrysler Lancia Delta. Nice…
Once safely back to Tim’s, it was time for the big reveal. And what a nice example it was! The paint looked flawless, the interior unmarked, and everything worked as it should. That’s what comes with buying a car from a bodywork specialist, who’s also a car enthusiast, and a perfectionist. Nice…
A quick refuel for me thanks to Tim and Ailsa, paperwork exchanged, and it was time to head south and make myself at home in my latest purchase. Surprise number one is how roomy this car is – I assumed it would be similarly commodious to a Ford Focus Mk3 or Volkswagen Golf MkIV. Nope, it’s roomier than an Audi A6 in the rear, and has a quite excellent driving position.
Given the long drive ahead, I filled it up with diesel, bought a ‘phone mount, and headed for the border. Getting comfortable was straightforward and once used to being in a diesel again – throttle and turbo lag, narrow power band, and keeping it in as high a gear as possible – it settled into a gentle motorway cruise. Prodding and poking buttons as I drove had me learning the car’s functions.
Want to adjust the dashboard computer’s display? Press some buttons in the centre console. Want to turn the foglights on and off? Buttons in the centre console. Make the steering lighter? Yeah, you guessed it…
The roads were spookily quiet as I skirted Glasgow, and as I joined the M74 and clocked the sign telling me that Carlisle’s 100 miles away, I set the cruise for 70mph and settled in for the long night ahead. There’s not much to talk about here – it’s a night drive on the motorway, with just the radio for company, and I must admit that once again I kicked myself for not bringing any CDs or USB sticks, and lament the appalling content on our FM networks.
As Carlisle passed by, I felt at home in the Chrysler Lancia Delta, and was feeling pretty pleased with myself for this purchase. A few ‘phone calls made (it has built in USB) and I’m really getting bored with the radio – not just the content, but with the stereo’s inability to hold on to any FM stations, and decide the best thing to do is start talking to myself and count motorway signs.
Somewhere near Tebay services, boredom is soon alleviated with the arrival of Storm Barra – winds, rain and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse signal their arrival by battering us. Trucks waver, cars totter along at 55mph, and the Chrysler Lancia Delta just ploughs on unperturbed by what’s being thrown at it. Impressive. Thankfully, Barra doesn’t bother me for too long, and as I pass the M55 exit and my former home, the wind dissipates and the rain subsides to an annoying drizzle.
Somewhere past the Manchester/Liverpool M62 interchange, I consider stopping. The fuel situation is impressive – still more than three quarters of a tank left, but more for a coffee and a quick rest halt. I pull into Charnock Richard services to find all the shops in the service station closed, and the petrol station on night pay. How dull. Push on and stop at Sandbach services to find the same bleak outlook and nothing open or welcoming. How do truck drivers cope with this?
And with that, I push on to a 24-hour McDonald’s on the A50 near Uttoxeter, with the intention of grabbing that much-needed coffee. And yes, Ronald doesn’t let me down. It’s open and the staff are welcoming, even though it’s now 1am. The good news is that I’m an hour or so from home and my trusty Chrysler Lancia Delta hasn’t missed a beat, and my list of grumbles remain in single figures, as I consider what I’m going to do with the stereo.
Pushing on, and one of my least favourite aspects of night driving comes to fore, as a pair of truck drivers decide to have a bout of elephant racing somewhere near Derby. Mile after mile, this pair sit alongside each other, neither giving way, and leaving me frustrated behind at 52mph. At least it’s good for the fuel consumption. It feels like it lasts forever, but in fact I reckon they play this game for about five miles, until one falls in dutifully behind the other and lets me crack on.
The rest of the journey is uneventful, and home hoves into view after another 70 miles or so. At the end of the journey, I also reckon that if you really want to appreciate your next car, buy it from someone at the other end of the country and get to know it on a long night drive home.
Thoughts on the car? It’s certainly good, and now I’ve seen it in the cold light of day, I really like its unconventional looks and stylish, roomy interior. I also really like the fact I’m not likely to see another when I’m out and about. We’ll see how it pans out in the coming weeks and months but, for now, the Delta is going to be pretty useful addition to my fleet. More than that, though, it just has a little ‘something’ that you can’t say about a Focus or a Golf. Call it that magic Lancia difference…