My experience with Fiats started almost a decade back, when I took my first drive in a friend’s Fiat Siena. Being used to Maruti’s before that, the space, the handling, the comfort, just blew me away. And the affair with Fiats had begun.
My first own modern Fiat was the Palio 1.2. It’s a handsome car, and it grows on you. The handling, stability, ride quality and the comfort, is out of its league.
So, when it was time to move on, I test drove a lot of vehicles in the ~8-10L bracket, including the i20, Verna, Safari, Punto, Dzire and finally the Linea. Out of all the above options, the Linea seemed like a total Value for Money choice. The back-seaters also seconded the decision, based on comfort and space. Family loved the spacious seats, good under thigh support, and the shoulder space offered. The A/C also is quite effective in cooling the cabin space.
From my point of view, I especially liked the weighted steering, the handling, the driver information system, the enormous boot, and lastly the presence of the car. It is a beauty to look at from any angle.
This is my first Diesel, and I was a little apprehensive about the clatter. However, if you ignore cold starts, the diesel noise is very negligible. Infact, the tyre and wind roars are more audible when on the move. The VGT reduces the turbo lag, and makes driving a pleasure. The 90 horses are just about adequate, but 30-40 more horses would have been even better.
One of the reasons for short listing a sedan instead over a hatch was due to the huge 500 litre boot. It’s large enough to swallow the luggage of 4 adults and one child for a 7 day long trip. (I also had stashed around 15 litres of amber liquid as well
With all this luggage and full load of passengers, this car still handles quite well on the twisties of NH 17, and has enough grunt for quick overtaking moves. It does not need a 5 year plan to pull off a quick move. All the car asks you to press the throttle a little harder. The 1.3L engine feels adequate.
There is a simple hack. Get hold of Pete’s Box or the Race Dynamics box. I had the chance to test drive a 1.3 multijet with a VJT provided by Race Dynamics, and man, that car is an entirely different beast. In the sport setting, the car just takes off. The torque is available throughout the range, on demand. You end up doing your usual speeds + 30 on your commutes. No gap is small while overtaking. This is how the stock car should have been. And all this, while returning an average of ~14 in city traffic. Totally worth it, if you need more power.
The only modification done in my car is to add an arm rest, like the one available in the Emotion variant. This makes it very comfortable and cosy. This is a direct fit, and cost Rs 4K. The noise, vibration and hardness levels also are very bearable, and the diesel clatter is inaudible, from a warm engine. The AC fan is very loud for any position over 3. So very hot afternoons are noisy, but comfortably cool. On a trip to Hyderabad, over ~700 kms, the car returned an average of 20.30 kmpl. At the same time, on wide open roads, with the pedal to metal driving style, the car still returns @16 kmpl. The double barrel headlights are adequate for night cruising on single lane highways. I am considering upgrading to HID’s though.
Over the last two years, I have got an average of 23 to 15, depending on the road conditions, the traffic and the driving style. On regular Mumbai to Pune runs, with the speeds being on the (very) wrong side of the limit, I have not got less than 17 kmpl, any time. The highest speed I have achieved in this car is a very stable 180Kmph, with scope to go a little faster.
The car is surprisingly easy to maintain. The service interval is 15000 kms, or once every year. The interval is more than most of the other cars of the same segment. This directly translates into lesser visits to the service station.
Each service cost costs @4-5K, which includes all the consumables and labour costs. I never had any issues with the A.S.S., or the spares availability. There have been no rattles or squeaks from any part of the car yet, in spite of it being used on not so good roads also.
I have had incidences of a rat cutting the ABS wire (700/- harness replacement), got rear ended by a i10 and had to replace the rear bumper, boot lid, both brake lights (~7.5K + insurance)
The much talked about and criticized plastics are hard to wear, and show no signs of age, even at the hands of a feisty 6 year old.
The ride quality is very firm but pliant. Most of the bumps are soaked up, and not transmitted to the passenger cabin. You do not even need to slow down on slight undulations (paver blocks) where other cars have to hit the brakes. Just fly right over them, and feel nothing.
The Senior Citizen view
The rear seats are plush, and provide excellent under thigh support. The seats are also not too low. This makes entry/exit relatively easier for senior citizens. The ride quality also makes it easier on the spine. Decent leg space makes it easy to stretch your legs, resulting in lesser stops. Low NVH levels translate into less fatigue, even on long journeys.
The 6 year old view
With four adults sitting in the car, there is not enough space for frisky kids to move around. There are very few cubby holes for kids to store their entertainment stuff. The lack of an AV system also makes passing time difficult. Plus there is no remote for the music system.
TouringTip* An iPad is a great investment to keep kids occupied on long trips.
This car is an absolute driver’s delight. The weighted chunky steering is leather coated, and the small indentations – to rest your thumbs – are the car’s love handles. The steering provides excellent feedback about the road surface. You know exactly what kind of tarmac is beneath those wheels. The hydraulic steering is a wee bit heavy, when compared to electronic steering (ugh!) but, that just means, you need to use two fingers instead of one while parking.
This car is an exceptional handler, when compared across its class. It simply loves twisties, and feels planted all the time. I have not come across any under steer unlike what I had faced in a jazz. At turns where every other car is braking and scrubbing speed, you can just carry on with confidence.
• There is no place to store water bottles. The cup holders that are provided at the bottom of the dash, and do not hold standard sized cups or cans. Only the small sized cans can be accommodated. Compare this to the Verna/SX4, and both have space for holding a 1 litre bottle in each door.
• The AC fan is very loud for speeds over 3. And I mean Very Loud.
• The stock tyres generate too much road noise, especially over concrete roads. They are much quieter on tarmac.
• The ground clearance – of the old model – is a big pain. The bottom scrapes over slight off road, and you really have to come to a standstill on speed breakers. There is no choice but to go sideways, over big speed breakers.
• The music system does not have an AUX in cable, even though the Head Unit supports one. The cable costs 400 bucks, in retail. It should have come as default.
• The stock speakers are useless over a volume of 7-8.
• The stock rims are quite soft. They tend to get bent out of shape with medium knocks. However, a few blows of the hammer get them back in shape.
• Large turning radius is a *pain*, in malls with the multi level parking’s. (Actually is a very good opportunity to do handbrake turns :D)
• The clutch pedal has a very long throw. (You do get used to it, and I am nit-picking.)
The Fiat Linea is an excellent Value For Money car. It’s a fabulous look-er, with classic Italian lines. The ride quality is comparable to the higher class cars. It has got spacious interiors, and good comfortable seats. The engine power is adequate, for average runs.
The car is happiest cruising at 90-100, which it can do day long, while also returning an average of ~20 kmpl. It swallows enormous amount of luggage, so you do not have to compromise.