For most of us, the answer is clear already – the all new Honda City wins hands down. Hell, sometimes I think it looks even better than the Honda Civic! Fiat will launch its Fiat Linea in India, in mid-December 2008. The C-segment sedan was expected to be launched in September 2008.
But it is not all that simple. I would have laughed if someone asked me a month back to compare the Honda City with the upcoming Fiat Linea – but there is more info available now, and the answer is not so easy. Let us tackle the important points.
Driving and handling
This is a battle the new Honda City will win hands down. It has 118 bhp to the top end Fiat Linea diesel’s 91 bhp figure. That means a much higher top speed, and faster acceleration, better 0-100 kmph figures for the City. If power is your thing, the Honda City wins easily. We already know that City has precise steering feedback and sporty suspension that aids in fantastic handling characteristics. The Linea, on the other hand, also possess a brilliant chassis that can tackle fast cornering with ease. However, the brilliant chassis of the Linea cannot be fully utilized because of the lack of outright performance of the petrol and diesel engines.
Space and comfort
The Fiat Linea trumps the Honda City in every aspect, given the sheer amount of equipment on offer. Plastics feel soft to touch and of a considerably higher grade. Chrome inserts on the two-tone dashboard and wide leather seats are business-class stuff. Fiat’s proprietary Blue & Me technology allows you to sync phones for taking calls, listening to music or even read out new messages via Bluetooth. It’s fantastically intuitive and is surprisingly good at recognizing Indian accents.
The instrument panel’s retro-themed dials look good. The car comes equipped with climate control and a comprehensive multi-information display. Compared to the Honda City, the Linea has slightly more legroom than the Honda, and the rear seats can also fold down to gain access to the boot.
The Honda’s dash on the other hand is too simple, and the instrument panel looks quite basic though the orange-backed lighting looks nice. The audio system is a simple affair, without a CD player, but with an iPod dock and USB connector.
Just for the amount of equipment and overall aesthetics, the interiors battle is swept away by the Fiat Linea, though Fiat could improve on fit and finish.
I have seen the City, and it looks gorgeous. But more and more photos of the Fiat Linea are appearing, and I am having my doubts. What do I like – the sharp futuristic lines of the Honda City, or the Italian elegance of the Fiat Linea? Yes, the Linea IS elegant. The same way that the Fiat Palio still has those evergreen good looks, the Linea works the design too. You will have to call this a tie. The City may be your kind of look, but it is just as likely it will be the classic lines of the Linea.
The Fiat Linea scores over the City as comprehensively as the City beats the Linea in horsepower stakes. Yes, the Fiat Linea has the better interior, classier feel, more goodies, more gadgetry, CD player, SMS text message readout… it doesn’t end! Experts speculate that the extra goodies in the Linea are worth close to a lakh.
Price, Mileage and overall VFM
The top-end Fiat Linea will be priced some Rs 1 lakh less than the top-end Honda City.
Now you know what we mean. It looks like this is a great car that might just not sell well enough due to Fiat’s reputation in India. That would be a shame if it happens.
Here’s one advice to Fiat India – pretty much no one seems confident about your after-sales, service and spares availability. If you have really improved things, make a big hoo-ha about it so the world knows about it. No one seems to know. Please.
Pros and Cons
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What’s our Verdict?
Considering the goodies that the Linea offers and its overall drivability, it is actually the better car among the two. Still, Honda enjoys a great brand reputation, and that’s enough to keep the sales charts on fire. If you think brand, think Honda City. If you think practicality, think Fiat Linea. Our choice would be the Fiat Linea, but only just.