You know them, and then again, somehow you don't. We're not talking about your own neighbours, but about cars that remained so inconspicuous that only die-hard fans still know them today. Such models need not necessarily have been flops, but they were under the radar of the average car buyer. At irregular intervals, we bring such old and youngtimers out of the fog of oblivion.

After the takeover by Fiat, many fans feel that the Lancia brand has lost its flair. In particular, the mid-range models of the 1980s and 1990s manifest this through shared corporate platforms and a rather arbitrary design.

Gallery: Lancia Dedra (1989-2000)

All of this culminated in the 4.34 metre long Lancia Dedra (Type 835), which rolled off the production line from 1989 to 1999. It was originally intended to support the Prisma and later replace it. The Dedra can be regarded as the saloon version of the second generation Delta, which was launched four years later in 1993.

Technically, if not visually, the Fiat Coupé has most in common with the Lancia Dedra, closely followed by the Fiat Tempra and Lancia Delta II. The design by Ercole Spada of I.D.E.A resulted in an outstanding drag coefficient of just 0.29.

In order to provide the Fiat Group with cost advantages, the Dedra is based on a platform called Fiat Tipo Tre. It forms the basis for three different vehicles with three different themes: Elegance for the Lancia Dedra (1989), comfort at a competitive price for the Fiat Tempra (1990) and sportiness in the shape of the Alfa Romeo 155 (1992).

Premiere in April 1989

In April 1989, Lancia presented the Dedra with the engines 1.6, 1.8, 2.0 and 1.9 tds; the saloon was launched on the German market on 2 January 1990. Price: from DM 25,500. The press praises the good utilisation of space and the fine materials inside. 480 litres of luggage fit into the boot. The engines did not deliver any particular highlights and proved to be inconspicuous everyday engines.

Lancia Dedra (1989-2000)

Lancia Dedra Integrale

The Dedra Integrale came onto the market in 1991. It used a similar engine and gearbox to the Delta Integrale 8v. It is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with fuel injection and twin camshafts, equipped with counter-rotating balancer shafts, an intercooler and a Garrett T3 turbocharger. Enough for 169 PS with catalytic converter. 

The Dedra Integrale is also equipped with the new Visco Drive 2000 traction control system and electronically controlled suspension, which is available as an option for the 2.0 and higher versions. The equipment largely corresponds to that of the Dedra LX, with a few modifications such as more upholstered seats and a sports steering wheel. The Integrale comes with all-wheel drive, with 56 per cent of the power going to the front axle. The Integrale is also equipped with a rear spoiler as standard, which improves stability at high speeds.

A two-wheel drive version with a turbo engine (Dedra 2000 turbo) is launched at the same time as the Integrale; it has slightly less power so as not to overload the chassis. This version also benefits from the Visco Drive 2000 system, which is necessary to prevent the wheels from spinning. The turbo engine with front-wheel drive is not only lighter, but also slightly lower.

Lancia Dedra (1989-2000)

Lancia Dedra Cockpit

A different kind of digital cockpit

An unusual feature of the Dedra programme is the optional electronically controlled suspension (computer-controlled damper adjustment between soft and hard, depending on the road surface and driving situation), as well as the optional digital (optoelectronic) dashboard. It features classic round displays with greenish digital technology. In the course of the production cycle, however, these equipment options are gradually removed from the accessory lists or the standard equipment.

Despite all this, the Dedra was not a great success outside Italy. A major facelift in 1993 did little to boost sales, and a year later the entire Lancia product range, including the Dedra, was withdrawn from the right-hand drive markets. The car, which from 1994 was also sold as an estate developed by the French coachbuilder Heuliez, remained popular only on the Italian market.

Lancia Dedra (1989-2000)

Lancia Dedra saloon and estate after the model update at the end of 1997

Major facelift shortly before the end

In December 1997, a major facelift (Series III) brought a new petrol engine (1.6 16V) and a new front axle (as in the Fiat Marea, Bravo, Brava and Coupé). The rear lights are now completely red, the headlights and front indicators are tinted black. The Lancia Delta II (836) has a new dashboard, new alloy wheels, painted bumpers and other exterior touch-ups, but still no passenger airbag or ESP.

New colours are available for the body and interior. All exterior parts are now in body colour. The power steering and suspension are improved to optimise handling. A brand new feature of the Lancia Dedra is the 103 PS 1.6 torque engine. This replaces the previous 90 PS version and provides a much livelier power delivery.

In total, Lancia builds exactly 418,084 Dedra in just over ten years. In September 1999, the Lancia Lybra was launched as the successor to the Dedra. Like the Dedra, it is available as a notchback saloon and as an estate. In Germany, the Dedra is a rarity: according to the KBA, 177 Lancia Dedra were still registered in the country on 1 January 2022.