The elegant exterior is one of the best works of Giugiaro. The design still maintains its luster and freshness even today, 18 years after its release. The most fascinating thing about THEMA is that it was designed as a practical berlina with a large cabin and a trunk, yet it did not lose its elegance. The interior is also refined and sporty just like the traditional Lancia autos. What distinguishes Thema from other 4-door sedans? The answer is the well-balanced style, with visual stability in spite of the high-deck style which was in fashion at the time of the first release. Although Thema is often considered with a straight-line boxed shape, it has the narrow front and rear ends by which we feel less volume than it actually has. Another factor is the design of A, B, C pillars which intersect at the point up in the air. It is the pressed flat door panel, in which the lower half and B pillar are on the straight line. Contrary to the conventional method to bulge out lower half to bring luxury atmosphere, Giugiaro designed the panel flat, however he succeeded in expressing quiet and luxury feelings. Furthermore, it also helped to maximize the cabin space. In relation to that, the metal frames of the windows give some definitions to the exterior design. Thema's B pillar, clearly designed as a functional center pillar, rather plays a pivotal role in the exterior, compared with the other autos where B pillar is visually minimized in order to show the glass area larger. It seems that it is Thema's policy to have the design follows functional needs.
There are three generations of Thema. The first period called Phase 1 was from its release in 1984 till October 1988, when the first face-lift was introduced at the Paris salon. The Phase 2 period started from 1988 to 1992 until the second face-lift at the Paris salon. Lastly, the Phase 3 is referred to the period until the end of production in 1996.
**Review of each model
[ Phase1 ]
We find the basic concept of Thema in Phase 1 model, the original design of Giugiaro. It is also applied to Thema that the first model tends to be the best, since the idea of the designer is reflected most straightforwardly. One of the features of Phase 1 is, the thick head light, which is the most quadrilateral and largest among any existing autos. These big eyes gave gentle and mild impression though they have later become slit eyes. When we take a side view of Phase 1, we have a very clear-cut impression of narrow side stripes and no skirts, as originally designed by Giugiaro. The wheels for the Japanese version were alloy wheels manufactured by Chromodora, which were elegantly mat-finished but looked a little small for Thema bodies since they were made for smaller Prisma. When we see the details, we find that the front grill was made of stainless steel, unlike plastics used after Phase 2. This steel grill was the thinnest and finest of all models, fitting well with lying angle. The tail lamp, which was changed to reddish colors after Phase 2, was colored with plain red, orange and white in which side stripes had been clear. Also, plaques showing the model types in rear end are only seen in Phase 1 models.
Turning the eyes to the interior, we find black dashboard with no wood panels, of which design gives a feeling of high-quality. The highlight is the seat, which looks somewhat orthodox, but are covered with the materials used by the famous mens' suit brand, Zegna. The thick seat back, refined materials and expanded sides make the seats very comfortable to sit on although hard on the surface. The stitches are quite beautiful, too.
[ Phase2 ]
The first face-lift was the work of IDEA that was acknowledged by the design of Lancia Dedra and Alfa 155 in 1988 and thus Phase 2 was born. The seasoning added to the elegant body by Giugiaro was, a "classical-modern" taste. LANCIA "luxury" was more successfully expressed in Phase 2, and this was presumably due to the necessity to clarify the positioning of Thema in FIAT, since the children of TIPO Quattro project, ALFA ROMEO 164, FIAT Chroma and LANCIA THEMA were all presented out in the FIAT group.
The most obvious change was its front view; the large eyes had become slit-eyes that made the thick face a lot thinner, and changed the impression from gentle to sporty. Black, long sideways winker lenses were embedded beneath the headlights which were also changed from single to double bulbs.
Front grill was changed to stand more upright and its upper chrome got thickened which produced feeling of quality as a prestige saloon. The horizontal grids became vertical and the plaque, which shows the model type, became a rectangular plate.
When we see its side, the striking difference was seen in the side protection plates, which were also made thicker, and the letters "THEMA" were embedded in the front end. Black plastic skirt was equipped, thus its side view became firm and compact. New aluminum wheels by Speedline were changed to that of a glittering type. 15-inch wheel was arranged for Turbo and 6V, and 14-inch for i.e.16V. Both types appeared visually larger than Phase 1 wheels.
The tail lamp was changed to one with deep reddish color. The plaques showing model types were all removed except for the center LANCIA emblem, making the rear view clear.
Turning eyes to the interior, a wood panel was installed to the audio hood, the ashtray and the top of inner door panels, which brought more luxury taste. The wood panel was not that of a shiny type as commonly used, but was made of chic, matted African rosewood without gaudiness. We feel "LANCIA" in the design like this.
It was regrettable that the Zegna seat was dropped from Phase 2, however, the casual check cloth newly introduced for i.e.16V had an exquisite taste. It was also from the phase II that the new alcantara cloth was introduced which is currently regarded as the symbolic seat material of LANCIA autos. The chic alcantara colors, beige, green and blue, brought elegance and high quality
[ Phase3 ]
The last face - lift was completed by LANCIA in 1992. The major change was in the front view; a parking lump combined to the fog lamp was newly equipped below the bumper,. This modification made the lower part below the bumper stand out, and changed the face dramatically. Grids of front grill were plated with chrome, and together with the new combined fog - parking lamps, they made the face more splendid.
Contrary to the front, the rear was made simpler. The pressed lines on the upper and lower parts of the number plate disappeared, making the rear view very modern and clear. A black plastic below the bumper was colored, and the high-deck style was more emphasized.
Silver window frame, a trademark of Thema, was colored blackish as 8.32. We were a little disappointed when we saw it for the first time, however, now we understand that it was the change to keep up with the times. We saw no major changes in the interior. In LX grade which was made in late Phase 2 period, it was equipped with the leather covered seats and the dashboard by Portrona Frau just like those of 8.32.