Fiat India have given themselves a new lease of life with the Linea, which is a sedan based on the Grande Punto, itself a car that has revived Fiat's fortunes worldwide.
The Linea finds the sweet spot between giving up looks for practicality, and sacrificing practicality at the altar of beauty. The bluff, Maserati-like two-part grille and twin-pod lights enliven things up at the front, and flow into the wheel arches, waistline and windscreen. The only external clue that distinguishes the diesel from the petrol lies on the grille: a discreet 'Multijet' badge sits to the left of the Fiat badge.
The side view also brings out the staid three-box profile of the car which somehow doesn't seem unexciting at all where the Linea is concerned. It's probably because of those wonderful alloy rims on the top-end variants, whose multi-spoke design, as with all Fiat alloy rims, will make you want to steal them if you own a Fiat.At the rear, the Linea echoes the front with the bootlid and bumper mirroring each other, and a row of three reflectors in each tail-lamp.
The interiors of the Linea have Italian styling influences. The beige and black interiors with the silver centre console is simple and most of the controls are user-friendly. The interiors have been ergonomically designed except for the power window switches on the driver's side which we feel are placed too far ahead - all tall drivers kept lowering the rear windows when reaching for the front window switches. The mirrors are electrically adjustable, but need to be folded manually. Driving at night is never an issue with the bright twin-barrel headlamps - going faster than 80kph at night will require you to switch the high beams on, but even the low beams are more than adequate on a dark road with many oncoming vehicles.
The Linea has a centrally integrated audio system that plays a single disc with USB connectivity in the glove box which can be slightly difficult to locate. The controls that are mounted on the steering wheel control the audio system through the Blue&Me - some sub-menus of which like hooking up your phone via Bluetooth can take a bit of time to understand.
The seating position in the Linea is more than adequate - at the price, none of its owners will be complaining about legroom. Two six-footers will sit comfortably behind one another in the Linea, and there is enough headroom at the rear for tall passengers as well, although the rear windows don't go down all the way, which can be annoying. There are a fair number of storage spaces for knick-knacks, but there is a lack of functional cupholders in the Linea. The doors won't hold any bottles, and keep a large-sized milkshake from McDonald's in the cupholders ahead of the gear lever, and they will tip thanks to the protruding centre console. This brings the total number of useful cupholders in the Linea to two, both of which lie in the centre armrest at the rear. There is space for your phone in the armrest between the front seats, the glovebox is usefully large, and we found that on long drives, chocolates can be kept cool by placing them in the small space provided above the central air-con vents.
Engine, Transmission and Fuel efficiency:
The Fiat Linea is available with two engine variants, the the 1.4-litre FIRE petrol engine and the 1.3-litre multijet diesel engine which even powers some Maruti Suzuki and Tata cars like the Swift, Swift Dzire, Indica Vista and Indigo Manza. Both engines are transversely placed and power the front wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Linea petrol possesses a 1368cc four-pot motor that generates 90bhp and 115Nm of tprque. It is refined at low revs, but doesn't manage to move its 1240kg bulk smartly. It isn't slow - a 0-100kph time of 15.8 seconds is decent enough. The 16-valve 1.3-litre Multijet engine used in the Fiat Linea has a variable geometric turbocharger (VGT) and the engine pumps out 85bhp of power at 4000rpm and maximum torque of 203Nm at 2500rpm. Keep the engine in the powerband, and you will rewarded with a quick, eager car. In our test, the Linea multijet took 15.3 seconds to clock 0-100kph and 20.18 seconds in the quarter mile run.
The gear ratios in the Linea are well matched to the engine, making both city and highway driving convenient. However, in the diesel variant, the difference in the first and second gear ratios is felt when up shifted to second gear at a low speed, as the power drops under 2000rpm.
The diesel Linea will offer you at least 10kpl during normal driving, and on a constant high-speed highway run, we managed to achieve 14kpl without trying hard. The petrol is also quite efficient, offering between 10 and 11kpl during normal usage.
The Lineas have been designed to give occupants a comfortable ride without compromising on great handling - people who own Fiats will vouch for this. Fiats have always been known for their precise handling. Get behind the wheel of a Linea and you won't be disappointed. This Italian beauty outclasses most Indian cars when it comes to handling. The level of confidence the Linea gives even an average driver is fairly high we could tackle corners at higher speeds compared to other cars. The steering wheel of the Linea is light and weighs up gradually while cornering and at high speeds due to the suspension setup. If you're in search of a car which can give you driving pleasure, the Linea should be one of the cars in your list.
The Linea epitomises what a Fiat is and should be to us. It's good looking, has good ride quality, packs in brilliant handling, is built like a rock and has a decently appointed interior with all the frills expected in the segment with the Emotion Pack Plus. Add to this equation a frugal pair of engines, and now better sales and service - there's little wonder why we've been seeing so many Lineas (and Puntos) on the road. This does seem to be Fiat's comeback car and this time around, with improved ownership experiences, there's little stopping FIAL from becoming a household name once again.
If you're in the market for a stylish, contemporary sedan which looks more expensive than it costs (especially with the alloys and chrome bits on the top-end variants) with a frugal engine, a perfect blend of ride and handling, and most importantly, if you're passionate about cars, look no further than the Linea. There's still some soul about Italian cars that makes them stand out from the competition.