2014 Fiat Linea Review
Car Tested: 2014 Fiat Linea Facelift (1.3-litre Multijet Diesel, Emotion)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 9 – 11.50 lakhs
The facelift to the Fiat Linea boosts the appeal of the vehicle by several notches.
Fiat knows very well how to make desirable cars, case in point being the Linea itself. First launched in India in 2009, the Linea hasn’t managed to sell in good numbers owing to poor sales and service offered by its JV partner Tata Motors. Fiat has now gone independent, going the whole mile of setting up its own dealership network with more than 100 outlets across India. This has surely got Fiat in the game and now with the facelifted Linea, the company expects to make a success of its C-segment sedan. Global production of the Linea facelift commenced in April 2012 and it has taken Fiat a whole 23 months to get the car to India. We get behind the wheel of the 2014 Fiat Linea to gauge the changes and if they make a big difference to this Italian sedan.
Motor Quest: The Fiat Linea was first launched in March 2007 and is based on the Grand Punto platform. It is a model for developing markets and is the largest saloon in Fiat’s car lineup.
Exteriors – The Fiat Linea has always been an attractive looking car and in spite of its age, it still manages to look very good and appealing, the vehicle hasn’t dated much even after being launched more than six years back. With the facelift, Fiat wants to inject freshness in the Linea and they have succeeded to quite an extent. While the pre-facelift model will be continued to be sold in India in Linea Classic avatar, the updated model isn’t vastly different in external appearance with most body parts being identical. In fact some even prefer the old car’s classy looks over the new model’s busier styling. What ever said and done, stay with the facelifted Linea for a couple of hours and you are bound to like the new model’s fresher looks.
Up front you get a new grille along with a new bumper which drastically differentiates the face of the car with the pre-facelift model. On the sides there is little to differentiate the old and the new which isn’t much of a matter as the Linea has always had an attractive profile. The key difference on the side is of course the new alloy wheels and the turn indicators on the rear view mirrors. At the rear, revision to the boot and bumper of the Fiat Linea are the biggest changes with faux diffuser sitting on the lower half of the rear bumper. The number plate no longer resides on the rear bumper but is now placed on the boot, between the tail lights. The Fiat logo has been shifted further upwards on the tail gate while the thick chrome strip above the rear bumper gives that premium touch. Overall the Fiat Linea facelift looks fresh and is much more appealing than the old model.
Interiors – Step inside and you will immediately appreciate the all new dashboard which has a very premium touch to it. Quality levels immediately feel a notch up over the old model with the plastics now being soft touch. Without doubt the new dashboard bring a dose of freshness to the Linea. The design is well executed and has an Italian feel. The use of colours is also well done, with the top of the dashboard getting black colour while the centre uses light beige (with an interesting pattern) and glossy black finish used on the centre console and audio system. Fiat has also added ambient lightning to the car, whose orange colour uplifts the mood in the cabin.
The instrument cluster is all new as well, taken heavy inspiration from the now defunct Bravo. The new cluster has large pods for the speedometer and tachometer (with smaller ones for the temperature and fuel gauges) with a large rectangular display in between for the multi-information system (which shows an array of data) and other tell-tale functions. At first glance, the cluster doesn’t appear as easy to read on the move as the one on the old Linea but with time it grows on you. The old Linea had an open storage space right above the centre AC vents, the new one has a closed one. One cup holder has been removed at the front, right below the AC controls as Fiat has now placed the AUX and USB ports in lieu.
The Fiat Linea has always come loaded and the new model isn’t any different. In fact Fiat has only added features like the top-end variant now gets Cruise Control, a feature of not much use in India. Other features include dual airbags, ABS, leather seats, rear windshield curtain, automatic headlights and wipers (standard on all variants), 16-inch alloy wheels (15-inch on the lower trims), reverse parking sensors (which don’t beep right into your right ear like on the old model), Bluetooth audio system with good sound output, etc. Space inside the cabin is almost unaffected and you continue to get decent interior room with all seats offering good all round support but rear legroom is just about average. The roof lining is very neat but tall passengers will find headroom at a premium at the rear.
The Fiat Linea feels like a tank, build quality is exceptional and you really need to put in some efforts to close the doors, they are just so heavy. The AC chills in no time and we particularly like the way the AC vents are shaped in the new model. The glove box is all new as well and is decently big with a cooling function which has a light and two separate compartments (USB port has been shifted out). The steering wheel is among the few parts on the dashboard which has been carried over from the old car but we aren’t complaining as the steering is one of the best to hold with the right contours. The boot space is decent but ironically the Emotion variant which comes with 205/55/16 alloys comes with a 195/60/15 steel rim space saver.
Performance – There are no changes to the engines of the Fiat Linea which continue to offer the same output as before. The facelifted model is available only with the 1.3-litre Mulitjet diesel and 1.4-litre T-Jet petrol engines. Neither powerplants need any introduction as we all are very familiar with them. The 1.4-litre T-Jet mill outputs 114 PS of peak power at 5000 RPM and 207 Nm of peak torque at 2200 RPM. This turbocharged heart makes the Linea a whole lot of fun to drive and can put an instant smile on your face anytime, all the time. Once you whizz past the turbo lag, you are greeted by a strong mid-range where the Linea simply moves ahead with gusto only to be bogged down past 5500 RPM as the top-end of this mill isn’t very strong. Still city drivability is excellent and the T-Jet motor is among the best petrol engines in its class.
Coming to the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine which outputs 93 PS of power and 209 Nm of torque, you get decent performance although more is expected at this price point. This small capacity diesel motor has a good mid-range punch and once past the turbo lag, you get going quickly. The gearing is on the taller side and you can whizz past 100 km/hr in third gear itself. Our VBOX run shows that 0-100 km/hr takes 16 seconds which is slower than other cars in this segment. Fiat should really have plonked in a bigger motor in the Linea as most cars at this price point output above 100 BHP of power. Both petrol and diesel motor use a 5-speed gearbox and gear shifts aren’t the smoothest around with a hint of rubbery feel. The clutch too has a lot of play but is light. Owing to the heavy weight of the Linea, neither the petrol nor the diesel Linea boast of class leading fuel efficiency figures. Expect 10 km/l in the T-Jet and 14 km/l in the Multijet in real world driving conditions.
Driving Dynamics – Fiat hasn’t made any mechanical changes to the Linea so driving dynamics are more or less the same as before. When we first drove the Linea in 2009, we instantly fell in love with it, being thoroughly impressed by its sharp handling characteristics. While Fiat has continued with the hydraulic power steering, the Linea (2012 onwards) hasn’t given the same feel to the driver as before, which is largely because the vehicle has had an increase in ground clearance to 190 mm. This has certainly ruined the sharp dynamics of the car and although it still is quite fun to pilot through a set of corners, it doesn’t give you the same surefooted feel as before.
The steering too lacks the razor sharp precision you would expect from a hydraulic unit but the wide tyres give plenty of grip even while cornering really hard. However high speed stability isn’t as good as before (pre-2012) although the Linea is relatively poised at expressway speeds. Braking performance is good and so is the NVH levels inside the cabin. What is stupendous though is the ride quality, the Linea’s suspension absorbing everything in its path with authority and not transferring any bump to the occupants. The weight of the car can be felt though which is both a good and bad thing.
Verdict – The Fiat Linea has always been a competent car but had to face poor sales due to the lackluster dealership support. Fiat has finally got its dealership act together and has worked extensively to address the issue of after sales and service. This is sure going to play a big role in the success of the Linea as the car is now even better than the original. Not only has Fiat spruced up the exteriors with more premium touches, the interior too has vastly evolved into something drastically better and thoroughly modern. While the prices of the new Fiat Linea are less than the model it replaces (thanks to the excise duty cut), will buyers give this highly competent car another chance in the Indian market is yet to be seen. We feel the Fiat Linea really deserves to sell as it is an excellent package which excels on several fronts.
The Fiat Linea has always been one of the best cars in its segment and now with a facelift, it is bound to appeal to a large audience who want a car which creates an instant emotional connection with them.
* Fresher looks
* Vastly improved interiors
* Ride quality
What’s Not So Cool
* No mechanical updates to the car
* Still no 1.6-litre diesel
Alternatives: Honda City, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Vento