Test driving the new Fiat Linea

Mar 16, 2014, 09:46 IST | Amit Chhangani

Visually zingier, more luxurious inside and laden with added features — the new Fiat Linea is a head-turner. We take it for a ride

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.

Prices Ex-Mumbai

>> Linea T-Jet Active Rs 7,65,726
>> Linea T-Jet Dynamic Rs 8,77,907
>> Linea T-Jet Emotion Rs 9,27,218
>> Linea Multi-Jet Active Rs 8,35,524
>> Linea Multi-Jet Dynamic Rs 9,50,504
>> Linea Multi-Jet Emotion Rs 9,96,629

Much has changed inside the cabin of the new Linea. Check out the center console finished in piano black. Instrument dials and dashboard trim are new as well. There is also an ‘orange glow’ lighting to lift the ambience in dark

Bells and whistles
>> Mood lighting inside the car
>> New feature: Cruise control
>> Greater leg-room
>> Reverse parking sensors
>> Longest car in its class

The new radiator grille frame with twin slats within is the most significant change. Fiat has embellished the exterior of the new car with dollops of chrome in a bid to raise the aspiration quotient. The changes made work well for the car’s design

Technical specs (Linea 1.4 T-Jet/1.3 Multijet)
Displacement —  1,368 cc / 1,248cc
Fuel Type — Petrol/Diesel
Max Power — 112 bhp@5000 RPM/92 bhp@4000 rpm
Max Torque — 207 Nm@2200 RPM/209 Nm@2,000 rpm
Mileage (ARAI) — 15.7 kmpl/20.4 kmpl

The audio unit features CD/USB/Bluetooth and aux input. Fiat’s proprietary Blue & Me tech allows you to control several functions with voice commands. Sound quality of the system could have been better though

Racing news
Mammoth Hustle
Tata T1 Prima Truck Racing
All of us have seen the excruciatingly slow and painful truck GPs on the Indian highways where no truck ever manages to overtake the other. This one, however, is different. For the first time ever in India, we’ll get to see those big trucks racing around circuits, squealing the life out of their tyres. Tata Motors is bringing the unique truck racing event to India in the form of the T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship.

Unlike the retro styled markings on the previous car, the new binnacle features a black dial and new font for markings. The central MID delivers useful info on trip distance, average and instantaneous fuel efficiency as well as vehicle range

Tata’s Prima trucks will be modified to race specification to compete in the event to be held at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida. The hefty monsters will be piloted by international T1 drivers to create an exciting spectacle. The event will be organised on March 23.

Six Tata Prima racing behemoths weighing about six tons each and heavily-modified to dish out 370 horsepower will compete for the top spot. Each truck/team is owned by a principal sponsor. There will be a total of 12 races featuring Tata Prima racing trucks, commercial and passenger vehicles. Each race will cover 15 laps.

The gala opening and closing ceremony for the event will see celebrities like Mika, Salim Sulaiman, Sivamani and Sanjay Shetty’s troupe of dancers performing along with a few other Bollywood personalities. Designer Manish Arora has been roped in to do art work on some trucks and organise a fashion show as a part of the event. The event will also feature a truck exhibition, merchandise shops, test drives on trucks for the public and media and a food court with kid’s fun zone.

 The first ever truck racing championship in India, it has been included in the international calendars of FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) and FMSCI (the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India). The event is being managed by Delhi based TIC.

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