The company chose the name Beta for a new vehicle to be launched in 1972. The choice of name symbolised a new beginning as it reflected the fact that the company’s founder, Vincenzo Lancia (1881–1937), utilized letters of the Greek alphabet for his early vehicles — such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and so on. "Beta" had been used before, for Lancia’s 1908 car and again for a 1953 bus. Lancia had previously utilized the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, but this was not chosen for the new 1972 Lancia due to the obvious confusion it might cause with Alfa Romeo.
All versions of the car came with DOHC engines, five-speed gearboxes, rack and pinion steering, fully independent suspension using MacPherson struts, both front and rear, with disc brakes on all four wheels. The front-wheel-drive models were available in a number of engine capacities ranging from 1.3 L to 2.0 L. Breathing was provided by a single Weber carburettor until fuel injection was introduced on late two litre HPE and Coupe models. As with a number of previous front-wheel drive-Lancia models, the engine and gearbox were mounted on a subframe that bolted to the underside of the body. However, in the Beta the engine and manual gearbox were fitted transversely in-line. This Fiat-inspired configuration not only enabled neat engine bay packaging, but also, by tilting the engine 20 degrees rearwards, the Lancia engineers achieved improved weight transfer over the driven wheels and towards the centre of the car, as well as lowering the centre of gravity. The rear-wheel drive Lancia Montecarlo employed a similar layout except the subframe was mounted at the rear. On the front-wheel drive Betas, Lancia designed a particularly original independent rear suspension with MacPherson struts attached to parallel transverse links that pivoted on a centrally mounted cross member bolted to the underside of the floorpan. An anti-roll bar was fitted to the floorpan ahead of the rear struts with both ends of the bar trailing back to bolt to the rear struts on each side. This unique design went on to be used in later Lancia models. The design was never patented by Lancia, and consequently inspired similar rear suspension system layouts in other manufacturers' vehicles during the 1980s and 1990s. A short wheelbase coupe was introduced in June 1973, then the following year the 2+2 Spyder convertible. At the 1975 Geneva motor show Lancia launched the HPE (High Performance Estate), styled in a similar style to the Reliant Scimitar and Volvo 1800ES, retaining the wheelbase of the Berlina. Later at the Beta Monte-Carlo, a 2-seat mid-engine coupe was launched. The different models all underwent various revisions and improvements over the years. Power steering specially produced by the German company ZF became available on certain Left Hand Drive models and was also used on the Gamma. For 1975 the exterior styling was modified by Pininfarina: "the back window has been relocated in a more upright position" to aid visibility, the rear quarter pillars gained sharper trailing edges, the waistline was lowered and windows made larger. Electronic ignition became available in 1978. Automatic transmission became available the same year; the Beta was the first Lancia manufactured with an automatic transmission factory option. In 1981 power steering also became available on certain Right Hand Drive models. Also in that year a fuel-injected version of the 2.0-litre engine became available on certain models. The Coupé and HPE underwent a facelift in remained in June 1983 (at the same time that the superhcarged VX versions were introduced) and remained available for a little while longer than the other bodystyles. The Mario Bellini dashboard of the Trevi and third-series Berlina, with deeply recessed dials and controls Late in the model's life Lancia released the Trevi VX, with a Roots-type supercharger fitted between the carburettor and low-compression two-litre engine; the Coupé VX and HPE VX followed soon after (June 1983). These three variants were known as Volumex models and had the highest performance of all the road-going production Betas, with 135 bhp (101 kW) and substantially increased torque over the normal two-litre 200 N·m (148 lb·ft). The Coupé VX and HPE VX can be distinguished from the normal cars by the offset bulge on the hood which is required to clear the new air intake, a spoiler fitted below the front bumper and the rubber rear spoiler. They also have stiffer spring rates. Lancia produced 1272 Coupé VX, 2370 HPE VX and 3900 Trevi VX. Most were left-hand drive (only 186 right-hand drive HPEs and around 150 RHD Coupés were imported to the UK,however the car was also sold in some other RHD markets so exact RHD production remains unknown). Only one right-hand drive Trevi VX was made.