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Rating 8 8

Fiat Linea 1.3 Multijet

8th Dec 2009 8:00 am

The Linea looks and feels so much more expensive than it actually is

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  • Make : Fiat
  • Model : Linea

The car you see before you, the Linea, shares its platform with the Grande Punto but it’s difficult to see what’s common between the two. That’s because the Linea isn’t a Grande Punto with a boot. Not one panel is shared and the Linea was completey re-skinned to give it its own distinct identity. Fiat’s design director Frank Stephenson was someone more accustomed to doing Ferraris and Maseratis on one hand or Minis or new Fiat 500 on the other. Some of that genius seems to have seeped into the Linea too. It’s got some genuinely pretty bits, like the sweep of the roof, the brilliant nose with its two-part grille, or the tipped- forward glasshouse. The wheelbase of the Grande Punto has been stretched by more than 90mm. Under the skin this car has the regular front-wheel-drive layout; transversely mounted engine, MacPherson struts up front, non-independent torsion axle at the rear, anti-roll bars all around and a hydraulic steering. But it’s in the detail that this suspension really impresses. The front suspension arms are pressed steel sections, so unsprung mass is reduced, there is an aluminum crossbeam that improves the rigidity of the front section and there is an anti-roll bar at the rear. ABS is standard on this top-end model we tested.

The boot is a large 500 litres but the loading area is disappointingly narrow thanks to the large taillights. The suspension has been beefed up and the ride height raised, which works well with the standard 195/60 R15 tyres.

Until now Fiats sold in India never had really attractive-looking interiors. All this changes with the Linea. There’s a beautifully crafted multi-function steering wheel, those retro chronometer dial instruments, superbly built central console and the two-tone dash with a chrome slash running through it. Fiat’s Blue and Me system, made in collaboration with Microsoft, adds something extra to the interiors and you get a full fledged trip computer as well, which is one of the most accurate ones we’ve ever tested.

The steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach and short drivers will find it too ‘in your face.’ The seat height adjust is very basic too, so you have to work hard to find the right driving position. But once you do, the driving position is quite good and the layout of the centre console and instruments are simply spot on. The seats themselves are large and offer plenty of thigh support and the adjustable arm rest adds to the comfort. Visibility out of the cabin is great and not impeded by the severely raked A-pillar, which gives a sense of space as the windscreen falls far ahead of you.

Storage space around the cabin however isn’t too impressive. The cupholders are small, the door pockets don’t take water bottles and space in the elbow box is shallow too. And though Fiat has managed to keep that solid plastic feel for many of the interior bits, some of the plastics panels feel a bit crudely built. There are some hard plastic bits too that detract from the otherwise luxurious cabin Fiat has created.

The rear seats are incredibly comfy with a high seating position, lots of underthigh support thanks to a long squab and a perfectly angled back rest. However, in terms of space the Linea’s rear seats aren’t as generous as you would have imagined. Though seat width is pretty good, legroom isn’t that impressive with cars like the City and substantially cheaper Logan having more of it. A big disappointment is the lack of headroom and even reasonably short passengers can muss up their hairstyle on the Linea’s well finished roof liner.

The Linea, however, does have a rear air con vent and a rear sun blind on this Emotion version as well, which is great for keeping the sun out.  

Ever single passenger and driver who sat in the Linea commented on the superb ride quality that is totally unfazed by our roads. It’s the perfect balance between low and high speed ride comfort that the Linea has managed to strike that makes it special. As a result, it’s at home at any speed on just about any surface. There is a firm side to the suspension which you can feel and the odd thud, the result of short tyre sidewalls, does filter through but it’s not jarring or disturbing in any way. As a result you tend to carry much more speed over poor roads, the Linea maintaining its composure impressively.
The chassis and especially the front suspension are so well set up that the front end bite from the Linea is unreal. The front wheels have so much grip you are miles away from the limit, the first few times you push through a serries of corners. The Linea holds onto its line effortlessly at speeds you expect the front tyres to give way and scrabble for grip but instead, the grippy Goodyear GT3 195 tyres feel like they are slicks.

The increased ground clearance for India doesn’t seem to have affected the handling adversely with body roll well under control.

The brilliant hydraulic steering is responsive, accurate and bristling with feedback at all speeds and a key element in the Linea’s impeccable handling. It always allows you to be in touch with the road and gives you the confidence to push harder than you would dare in another car.
Straight line stability is ‘hands off the wheel’ good, even as high as 160kph and the ABS-equipped brakes do a very good job, even though the discs aren’t too large

Fiat Linea 1.3 Multijet
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