The Nerd of the Herd: Fiat New Linea T-Jet Drive Review

The Fiat Linea T-Jet has always won applause from enthusiasts, who hail its peppy turbo charged engine and direct handling. But driving dynamics aside, the old Linea started feeling a bit dated when compared to its next-generation competitors. To address the issue, Fiat launched the refreshed New Linea in mid 2014 along with the Punto Evo. Since then, the segment has seen some worthy additions like the new Hyundai Verna and a slew of compact cross overs which also compete at the same price point. So does the Fiat Linea still have what it takes to fight its competitors? We decided to find out over a weekend drive review.

The Linea was always appreciated for its good looks and Italian flair, and in terms of styling, the refreshed version carries on the tradition. The front headlamps have been redesigned along with the grille, which gives the car a distinct look. However, I’m not a fan of the changes that have been brought about in the rear, as it takes away a bit of the flair and makes it look rather abrupt. Also, the high rear deck-lid gives the car an unusually high stance making it look a bit stout. I personally preferred the styling of the original Linea when it was first launched in 2007 and the tweaks over the years have actually taken away a bit of its sophistication; and much of it seems rather forced than necessary.

On the inside, the dashboard has been designed to match the Punto Evo, with clean and sharp lines. The Linea T-Jet has automatic climate control with rear AC vents, a multifunction steering wheel, Blue&Me bluetooth connectivity and auxiliary input. We drove the Emotion variant, which had the cruise control feature – a nice addition for a vehicle in this segment. The interior is good looking with a nice duo tone finish, and the features are easy to use. But the build quality is not exceptional. The plastics feel somewhat cheap, and the central armrest on our relatively new test car was broken, which doesn’t speak very highly of the quality either. There is a serious dearth of usable storage space around the cabin, with a single slot in the front, that can double up as a cup holder. Cabin insulation is also not remarkable and the larger side windows make you feel quite exposed to the outside world. However, a huge plus point for the Linea is the passenger space inside the cabin. While space in the front is just fine, rear seat passengers are treated to huge amounts of legroom; something which is rarely seen in this segment. In terms of safety, the Linea comes with front airbags, ABS and rear parking sensors.

The striking feature of the Linea T-Jet has always been its engine – a 1.4 litre turbocharged 4 cylinder power plant developing 114 PS of power and 207Nm of torque. However, turbocharging brings with it turbo lag, and the Linea displays some of it below 2000 RPM. The power is put to the road through a 5-speed manual transmission, which feels a bit rough. An updated version of the transmission – perhaps a six speed – is what they need to work upon. The engine is always eager to rev, and makes some good noises while doing it. But that aside, the cabin is also prone to high levels of wind and road noise at high speeds. Fuel consumption is decent, and is rated at 15.4 km/l for the petrol T-jet version we drove.

In the handling department, the Linea has softened a bit compared to its predecessor, though it is still one of the better handling vehicles in the segment. On the plus side, the ride has become extremely accommodating and the car soaks in road imperfections brilliantly. The T-Jet strikes a good balance between sharp handling and a comfortable ride quality.

Prices for the Linea T-Jet range from INR 7.99 lacs to INR 9.69 lacs. This is quite competitive and puts the Linea in direct competition with the likes of the Hyundai Verna and VW Vento. But the bigger challenge is perhaps from the fast growing compact cross over and mini SUV segment which targets the same customer with a differentiated product, at the same price point.

The Linea is definitely the most driver oriented car in its segment with its peppy engine and sharp driving dynamics. However, competitors in the segment offer much more equipment, better trims and superior build quality, which could make them more attractive for a value seeking customer upgrading from a hatch.

But if you are looking for the sheer thrill of an engaging driving experience, it might well be worth taking the Linea out for a test drive. It is an enjoyable vehicle which does not disappoint, but doesn’t make you go wow either. In a highly competitive segment like the one in which it is placed in, the Linea cannot afford to remain undifferentiated. It certainly needs to be more sharply positioned to make a lasting impression in the consumer’s mind.

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