The HF and Integrale sporting versions of the Lancia Delta have earned such a cult following that the everyday hatchback has been virtually forgotten about, despite being good enough to be voted the European Car of the Year for 1980.

That summer, we fully evaluated the Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed, front-driven family five-door in 1.5-litre form, its 85bhp petrol fourpot coming from the Fiat Ritmo. 

We said: “The abiding impression given by the engine is of a delightful smoothness with an eagerness.

“The Delta is very nearly among the top in its class in steering (having ‘excellent feel’), falling short only because of too slow gearing: 3.8 turns lock to lock.

“This is offset by the car’s marked reluctance to roll much. It corners very tautly for a normal car.

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“Married to the performance, the ultimate handling invites exhilarating cross-country driving.

“The ride is an unusual mixture. It copes well with low-frequency bumps, but most of the time you’re aware of a high-frequency shake.”

The Delta was beaten by the Alfa Romeo Alfasud and Volkswagen Golf GTI for practicality, but it was absolutely no less “endearing to the discriminating driver”.

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