We'll arrive to the point straight- The Fiat Linea's engine isn't a blast to drive.
Fiat's tried a thing or two by introducing the Palio 1.6 Sport and the Adventure station wagon, which reached the point of single digit sales figures. We sensed Fiat's step-back strategy with the Palio 1.1 Stile, which is widely accepted as an under-powered but fuel efficient motor.
With such a car, Fiat wants to back in the reckoning with fuel-efficient, A-B motors instead of the spine-chilling or bone-crushing torque monsters.
The Fiat Linea's engine has therefore been suited for everyday driving. It isn't a slow coach either, look at its specifications, and you'll know the addition of a VGT to the 1.3 block that you find under the bonnet of almost all the small cars of today, making lesser power.
The Linea's Multi-jet engine cooks up roughly 87bhp of power and 203Nm torque which we figured is placed between 1.8k-4.0k rpm. We do not have any of that fancy VBOX gadgetry, but we observed the engine took a little over 15 seconds to reach three figures; the 1185kg weight comes into the equation, not as a catalyst but the retardant.
The vehicle is brisk in first gear. As you release the clutch, you are instantly in motion when the signal turns green.
The longish throw gearbox slows the Linea's pace; it takes time to draw together speed. It does not feel quick like the Ikon we were driving through last week, but we sensed it is far more stable and relaxed. The short ratio box needs regular working, but the shifting is smooth.
The 195/15 inch tires offer the best possible traction. The combined effect of it and the hydraulic power steering, keeps you on the road and not on air. At any speed, you feel you are driving on something hard and rough. The steering feels lively; there is a pail of feedback offering a confident drive wherever you're piloting the Linea.
The brakes on the Linea work flawlessly. Aided by the ABS that acts as the icing on the cake, the Linea offers 257mm discs at the front and 228mm drums at the rear, backed by ABS and EBD. From a high speed, the car stopped in a streamlined manner with no skidding, swerving or locking of the wheels which is a sign of good design.
The diesel engine is noisy on a cold morning and until it heats up, it is irritating. Once it reaches operational temperature, all that goes away.
We managed to push the Linea to 150kph, and we were surprised by the straight line stability of this car. There are no scary vibrations intruding the cabin at that speed, the Linea feels planted and equipped to handle that pasting.
Through the corners, there is so much grip that you start playing games, testing its ability, and every time, you're going faster and the Linea's only enjoying it. What the Linea lacks is power, and the predictable handling more than makes up for it. The Linea never loses its temper.
The Linea has a indigenised suspension package that works beautifully on the pot holed roads which is another strength of this car. The front wheel drive layout with the transverse mounted engine is supported by MacPherson struts up front, non-independent torsion axle at the rear with anti-roll bars all around. Suspension is on the harder side to suit Indian roads, the padding provided by the seats and the thick floor mats absorb these completely.
Tomorrow we'll give you the final verdict of the Fiat Linea. So stay tuned.