Fiat India is quietly resolute. While not much is visible to the general populace, the Italian carmaker, after its split with Tata Motors has been working diligently on expanding and overhauling its sales and service network. The infrastructure to support the next wave of Fiat products in India is being assiduously prepared without making too much noise.

The new Fiat Linea is the first new mainstream product from the company after its split from Tata, and we’re pleasantly surprised to see the effort they have put into the face lifted car to bring it up to speed with competition. Here’s why the new Linea is much more than a refurbished product.

Design: An Italian job
The classic Italian lines of the Linea have always allured the purists, and Fiat India has done a good job by leaving them unaltered. The longest car in its class, however, has received plenty of modifications at the front/rear for a more premium appeal. The front grille now houses a pair of chrome slats, with the Fiat emblem positioned between the top slat and the frame of the grille. The new bumper features a bigger central air dam with mesh effect inside and a chrome lined slat in the middle. On the flanks you have big housings for fog lamps, again lined with chrome. At the rear, the boot lid now gets a classy looking ‘Linea’ emblem in chrome on top of the license plate recess. The rear bumper is new too, with a horizontal chrome garnish and plastic under-cladding.

Makeover inside
On the inside, the Linea’s cabin quality has been significantly upgraded. The beige part of the black-beige interior is made of a soft-touch material which is unique to this car. One very nice touch is the introduction of mood lighting, with a warm orange glow illuminating certain sections of the car. The center console has been given a makeover, and is now finished in piano black with a redesigned audio unit. There’s also a small compartment on top of the center console with a pop-open lid. The dials in the instrument console are also new. The backseat offers adequate legroom, though it’s not class leading. The seats in our top-of-the-line test car (Emotion variant) came draped in high quality perforated leather. The top variant also comes with rear sun-blinds. The only grouse is the lack of headroom for taller backseat occupants.

Additions abound
The Linea has always been a feature rich car and some nice additions have been made to make the list even longer. Blue&Me system with voice command is carried over to the new model. Audio System comprises CD/Aux-in/USB/Bluetooth compatibility as well as AM/Fm radio. The big news in terms of the features is the introduction of cruise control which now allows you to keep a constant speed on open highways without any input from the accelerator. The Linea also boasts features like fire prevention system, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, reverse parking sensors and Follow Me Home headlamps. Boot release button is positioned very conveniently on the center console. Safety features like ABS and twin airbags are also available on the top spec variants.

Performance guaranteed
Fiat has retained the 1.3 Multijet diesel and 1.4 T-jet turbo petrol engines on the new Linea. The naturally aspirated 1.4 litre FIRE engine has been removed from the lineup and is available only in the more economical Linea Classic. Both engines on the new Linea are mated to a five speed manual transmission.

The tried and tested Fiat 1.3 Multijet diesel, which also powers a whole bunch of other cars in India, is efficient and responsive as ever. Delivering a mix of decent tractability and nice mid-range punch, the engine is one of the best suited units for the Indian conditions.

With an ARAI fuel efficiency rating of 20.4 kmpl, this engine is very economical to run, too. The 1.4 multi-jet engine, on the other hand, remains one of the most exciting engines in the mainstream segment with 112bhp of power and a tasty 207 Nm of torque. Coupled with Linea’s much applauded prowess in handling, this engine makes the Linea one of the most appealing of all drivers’ cars in its segment. The engine has an ARAI fuel efficiency rating of 15.7 kmpl

Ride quality of the car remains on the firm side, and translates into mild bounciness at low speeds. The car feels more composed as it gathers speed and the benefits of a firm suspension are evident once you go corner carving. The Linea rewards you with great grip levels and very well contained body roll to make for an exciting car.

Our verdict
Sturdy, classy, feature rich and fun to drive — the Linea has always been one of the strongest products in its segment. Brand Fiat took a drubbing with its unsuccessful partnership with Tata Motors, but the company is showing an unprecedented sense of eagerness to iron out all the sales and service related issues once and for all. In its new avatar, the Linea is offering terrific value. If you like driving, and want a car that’s high of features, fun and value, the Linea makes a very strong case for itself.