Fiat Linea Emotion diesel road test

We know we are a quite late with a test drive of the Fiat Linea.  Test drives of new cars are not what we have specialized in so far, but all that is going to change in the next few months as we go after driving impressions, road tests and comparisons with a vengeance. What is the point of having a road test months after the launch of  a car? Well, better late than never. Plus, tomorrow, we do not want an avid reader to ask us why a certain road test is missing from our archives. So here we go, on our first ever car road test.

Fiat Linea: Fiat’s second coming in India

This is a second chance for Fiat in India.  The first attempt, as we all know very well, has been with the Palio.  While that hatchback was much loved by everyone who had a chance to own one, talk about maintenance and service issues as well as low fuel efficiency ensured that it did not do much for the Fiat brand in India.

Linea: A sales success

Then came the Fiat Linea sedan which completely turned around the fortunes of the company, and the Fiat Grande Punto hatchback.  Both restored the company’s position in the Indian market – especially the Linea which was very well received indeed.

Style

The Fiat Linea brings you styling that is definitely very Italian. There is a big grille, double barrel headlamps, wrap around tail lamps, large glass area – all coming together well to create an attractive shape. It is almost as long as a Honda Civic side-on, and the shape exudes elegance. The overall and feel of the Linea’s interior is quite classic, not modern.  We have no complaints about that at all.  Even the instrumentation and dials have a classic look.

The silver colored center console features a built-in music system and climate control.  The steering wheel is good to grip and features Bluetooth hands-free controls.  It is obvious that a lot of care has gone into minor details.  Even the wheel caps of the base version of the Fiat Linea can fool you into thinking that they are alloy wheels.  The instrument panel displays the approximate fuel efficiency and also warns you if any and which of the doors are open.  You can also set a speed limit, and if you exceed that you get an audio warning. In sheer features inside, the Linea scores over the new Honda City easily. The sheer length of the car, and the large boot makes it look it it belongs to a higher class. There is a negative – the car is not as wide as it should be, in pure aesthetic terms. For its length, it demands more width to be properly proportioned. Not that many would mind, we are just nitpicking here.

Interior – legroom

You are not going to have any problem with the leg room of the Fiat Linea which is adequate for comfort in the rear seat.  The driving seat may not be comfortable for some drivers and some may even find the steering wheel position a little awkward. This is something we are not going to judge – if you are considering a Linea, you should make up your own mind about whether the driving position and lumbar support is adequate for you or not. While we did not have a problem, there have been many complaints about the rake of the steering wheel, and the way the driver’s seat height is adjusted. There is a rear AC vent to keep the passengers happy – something that the Linea offers and many more expensive cars do not.

Performance

The car that we did this test drive on is a Fiat Linea diesel with Emotion pack. The 1.3 l Multijet diesel engine is the same that we have already become used to as the most popular diesel engine in India.  It already does duty in the Suzuki Swift and the Tata Indica.  But in its Fiat Linea avatar, it gets a variable geometry turbo and the engine produces 86 bhp. The variable geometry turbo means that even at relatively low engine revolutions, turbo boost is available.  As soon as you pass 2200 rpm, you can feel the turbo kicking in.  This ensures that not too many gear changes are needed.  In the fifth year, will Linea crawl along at 30 kilometers per hour.  Engine refinement, though, is lower than expected and you can easily feel engine noise intruding into the cabin.  Gear shifts are not as accurate as we would have liked it, but it is all right. It is no Honda City in gearshifts or outright horsepower, but the Linea holds its own well.

What you are not going to like is the underpowered engine.  86 bhp is just not enough to attempt those highway overtaking maneuvers with confidence. Even the Ford Fiesta or the Chevrolet Aveo offers more power. Acceleration is a slow affair, with 100 kmph coming up in some 16 seconds!  If sheer performance in everyday driving is your thing, the Fiat Linea diesel will disappoint you. On the highway, though, once you approach speeds of 80-100, things are a lot better and livelier. What we hear is that at the upcoming 2010 Auto Expo in New Delhi, Fiat will introduce either a 1.6 l or a 1.9 liter version of the Linea and that should take care of this issue. If more power is important to you, it is better to wait till the new higher-powered variant of the Linea is launched.

Ride and handling

The overall are dynamic balance of the car is very good indeed as typical of Fiat cars.  Steering wheel also conveys adequate feedback.  The car holds its line without any bother at all through potholes and undulations. It turns well on sweeping corners and feel well-planted, a typical Fiat trait.

Resale value

Fiat brand is seeing some resurgance post-Linea and Grande Punto. However, things are still new and you cannot expect Honda-like resale value from a Fiat vehicle. Things may change in a few years as Fiat establishes itself as a reliable, reputed brand again, but that has not happened yet.

You should also check out:

Ford Fiesta
Suzuki SX4
Chevrolet Aveo
Honda City

Pluses:
Elegance and style
Handling
Attention to detail

Minuses:
Underpowered