Words: Mihir Gadre | Photography: Eshan Shetty
Extreme Road Testing the Fiat Linea: Pune to Delhi (1600 Kms)
Design & Engineering:
The Linea is an utterly gorgeous looking piece of metal, no 2 ways about it. Often I wonder if the laws of genetics also apply to cars. I have never found out the reason why anything and everything penned by those Italians looks so achingly beautiful. The only rule I can observe is that of the inheritance of conventional good looks. After gawking at the Linea’s perfect form from every angle, I pull open the door and the sense of occasion is somewhat lost. The interiors feel like a bit of a letdown, but only because the exteriors lead you into expecting much more from the car.
If judged on their own merit, the interiors reasonably well styled and well made. Our car had been used and abused by the entire journalist fraternity but hardly showed any signs of wear and tear. A dual tone, beige & black color scheme has been used to good effect and makes the interiors feel bigger than they actually are. Inspite of being the only car in its class longer than 4.5 meters, the interior space is surprisingly tight. Over long distances, we found the rear bench much more comfortable than the front seats which caused lumbar pains to whoever sat in them irrespective of the person’s height and weight.
Engine & Gearbox:
At 1.2 tonne, the Linea is by no means a light car. The 1.4 litre, 84 bhp petrol engine is a peaky unit. It revs enthusiastically and sounds sweet at the top of its rev range. It also delivers some nice turn of speed near the redline. But, it doesn’t have enough firepower to move the Linea’s considerable girth unless you give it the beans. Not only does this make it a difficult car to drive around town, but it also makes it a less than ideal highway cruiser. Even the gearbox was a bit notchy than what one has come to expect from the cars in this segment.
Fiat should for once make up their mind about the 1.4 T-Jet engines and get it here as soon as possible, until then the Honda City will continue to make mince meat of it’s competition. The buyer’s priorities in this segment have certainly changed. If he is buying a petrol car he expects it to out-drag the hordes of diesel saloons at the traffic light GPs. No wonder then that the new Honda City is selling much better than its predecessor inspite of being nowhere near as fuel efficient as the old one and the Fiesta variant which got the boot was infact the one with the smaller petrol engine.
Ride Quality & Comfort:
The Linea has one of the best underpinnings of any mid-size sedan. It is not just marketing babble when Fiat says that Linea’s underpinnings have been developed according to the needs of developing nations. The ride is quiet and pliant. It’s composure on rough roads at high speeds is a revelation. You would never dare to tackle the unfinished sections of the quadrilateral in say a Honda City, the way you can in the Linea. It feels like it can weather such conditions for thousands of kilometers. The handling too is equally impressive. It has bags of grip and fights understeer with a steadfast determination. It has definitely set a new benchmark for dynamics in its class. But its hatchback underpinnings become apparent after a limit. The comparatively short wheelbase for such a long car causes excessive body movement at high speeds, and takes its toll on back muscles.
Inspite of Rash and Amit giving it a thorough thrashing on the highways, the Linea consistently returned around 13 kpl. However, being on a petrol diet meant that we spent a lot of money on fuel bills. But then the top of the Line Emotion variant replete with the much publicized Blue and Me retails for under 8.5 lakh(On-Road), a good one lakh rupees cheaper than the base City.
Overall, the Linea 1.4 petrol can be an enjoyable experience for short weekend getaways on twisty roads, or it can be your daily commuter with unmatched style and that too at a very reasonable price. But if you are thinking about doing some insane cross-country expedition, we suggest you shell out for a bigger, beefier beast.
The launch of the Linea is considered to be one of the most significant launches for Fiat after its revival attempt in India. It represents the comeback of Fiat in India. In the global car industry Linea has been around for quite a while now, but in India it’s still a rather new sub-brand.
Design and Features
First glance at the car, and you have to love it, and why not! It has been designed by Fiat’s design director Frank Stephenson who is responsible for some of the most beautiful Ferraris and Maseratis on one hand or Minis or new Fiat 500 on the other. And these design cues can be seen on the Linea too. It’s got some genuinely pretty bits, like the sweep of the roof and the brilliant nose with its two-part grille.
An ergonomically and aesthetically designed interior is complemented with dual tone interiors, leather finished steering wheel, impressive instrument panels, glove boxes, powered mirrors, and a 12V power socket.
Fiat’s Blue and Me system, made in collaboration with Microsoft, adds something extra to the interiors(which only work on Microsoft windows mobile phone) and you get a full fledged trip computer as well, which is one of the most accurate ones.
The driving position is quite good and the layout of the centre console and instruments is simply spot on. The seats are large and offer plenty of thigh support and the adjustable arm rest adds to the comfort. Visibility out of the cabin is great and not blocked by the sloping A-pillar, which gives a sense of space as the windscreen falls far ahead of you.
Fiat has managed to keep that solid plastic feel for many of the interior bits, some of the plastics panels feel a bit crudely built. There are some hard plastic bits too that detract from the otherwise luxurious cabin Fiat has created.
Some of the most significant safety features in the car include dual front airbags, fire prevention system, anti-theft engine immobilizer and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.
All three variants, Active, Emotion, and Dynamic, have much in common in terms of car technologies, interior features, and safety technologies. However, there are certain attributes that are either optional or absent in the Active and Dynamic, which are made standard or optional on the top-end variant Emotion.
Driving abilities and comfort
Linea has managed to strike the perfect balance between low and high speed ride comfort. As a result, it’s comfortable at any speed on just about any surface. The chassis and the front suspension are very well set up. The front wheels have a lot of grip and hold on even when you think the tyres would give away at high speed turns
In terms of space the Linea’s rear seats aren’t as generous as you would have imagined. Though seat width is pretty good, legroom isn’t that impressive with cars like the City and substantially cheaper Logan having more of it. A big disappointment is the lack of headroom The Linea, however, does have a rear air con vent and a rear sun blind on this Emotion version as well, which is great for keeping the sun out.
The hydraulic steering is responsive, accurate and has a great feedback at all speeds and makes Linea’s impeccable handling traits even more evident to the driver. The increased ground clearance, on the other hand hasn’t affected the handling adversely with body roll well under control.
The car is available in six variants with two impressive powerplants, advanced multi-jet diesel engine and FIRE petrol engine. Active, Emotion, and Dynamic are the three variants that are available in both diesel and petrol.
The diesel variants are powered by a 1.3-litre advanced multi-jet engine producing 85 bhp at 4000 rpm and a torque of 203 Nm at 2500 rpm, Which provide a smooth ride, improved responsiveness, lower emissions, and exceptionally high fuel efficiency.
The petrol variants are powered by a 1.4-litre FIRE engine that generates 89 bhp at 6000 rpm and a torque of 115 Nm at 4500 rpm. Both the engines are coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission.
For the Size and weight, the engine options do seem quite underpowered, but the strong mid-range is great for small overtaking on the highway. The Linea’s forte lies in city driving and highway cruising at moderate speeds. It takes almost 15 seconds to reach 100 from a standstill.
The Linea looks and feels so much more expensive than it actually is. It looks stunning, it’s comfortable on the inside, has a solid build that could last several years, and rides and handles brilliantly too.
With the Linea, Fiat challenges the success of mid-sized sedans like the Honda City, Ford Fiesta, Maruti Suzuki SX4, Chevrolet Aveo and Hyundai Verna which fall under the same price bracket.