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      Fiat Linea 125S first drive review

      Desirazu Venkat

      Desirazu Venkat

      Opening

       2016 will be the 7th year of the Linea’s existence in India. It is a familiar face but has always been known as a car that has done business on the fringes of the C-segment, a fate it suffered mostly due to the struggle of the brand. It has thus developed a niche fan following and realising this Fiat has directed the story of the car in this manner. Its latest chapter is the 125S, a performance version aimed at Fiat enthusiasts and those who want some different but powerful.  It was unveiled at the 2016 Auto Expo. 

      Cover Image

      Appearance Exterior

       When Fiat unveiled the 125S it displayed the car in a shade of electric blue with powder black alloys and a blacked out grille. Our car however, had none of the pizzazz of the launch model and had instead been trimmed out in a shade of chocolate brown with white alloy wheels. The only indication of something exciting is a 125S badge at the rear.

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      To look at, the Linea is a car I would call interesting as it manages to stand out in a crowd. The current car is a facelift that was launched in 2014. The face is dominated by a two slat chrome grille while the bumper gets a chrome insert that dips in the middle. On the side we can see the forward leaning stance as well heavily flared wheel arches. There is excessive chrome and minimal badging at the rear but this is balanced out by the grey coloured plastic cladding jutting out from the underbody.  

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      Appearance Interior

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      This car is a top-of-the-line Emotion variant which means it gets all the bells and whistles. The list include climate control, cruise control, rain sensing wipers, comprehensive digital display for the instrument cluster and automatic headlamps.
      What is new is a touchscreen infotainment system which is a bit small and positioned oddly but quite comprehensive. The display is HD and responds well. You get your basics like navigation (via a micro SD card), USB port and rear camera connectivity.  An extra touch is the virtual dashboard which has a nice design and great usability as it lets you keep track of things like speed, direction and elevation.

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      The dashboard is a grey and white combination and there are soft curves and soft touch plastics for all places that the occupants come into contact with regularly. The touchscreen, AC vents, knobs and clocks all get chrome outlines.       
      What Fiat may have added in features it has still not addressed in terms of ergonomics. The pedals are oddly placed while steering is too far ahead prompting you to sit in an odd driving position. I also found the seats too firm and lacking under thigh support. The only saving grace is that they offer decent side bolstering. The rear while sufficient for three people offers poor under thigh support and lacks head room. While Fiat has provided sufficient storage spaces both in the front and back, they lack capacity. Finally, the 500-litre boot is massive but has a high loading lip which makes it a bit of task to put in heavy baggage.    

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      Performance Drive

       This Linea 125S is powered by is a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 123bhp and 208Nm of torque with power going to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. This is a 9bhp/1Nm increase over the older T-Jet variants. This output makes it the most powerful car in the segment.  

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      First the engine and gearbox- At city speeds the engine performs just fine and there is sufficient torque to let you potter around in third gear at 40kmph without too much effort thanks to the long gearing. In the older car there was considerable turbo lag which Fiat has managed to address with this update. 

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      Head to an open stretch, bury the throttle and you are greeted by this surge post the 2000rpm mark that pulls the car forward in a rush of mild torque steer and grin inducing acceleration. While the gearing is stretched out to achieve efficiency and actually does manage to spread out the torque well, the throws feel rubbery and imprecise. It does not complement the rev happy nature of the engine and will take time to get used to.

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      If there is one thing that Fiat has always managed to achieve is a decent balance between ride and handling. Despite being jacked up to an SUV like 190mm ground clearance, the Linea is fun to drive. The hydraulic power steering despite feeling heavy at low speeds gives good feedback and this working in tow with a suspension setup that is slightly on the stiffer side allows you to have good fun with the car in the corners. The low-speed ride too is quite sorted as the setup absorbs most road imperfections and transmits just enough back for you to know what you are going through.

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      Stopping power for this kind of setup comes from disc brakes all around which have instant bite rather than a progressive feel but are more than up to the task of bringing the car to a stop from triple digit speeds quickly.     

      Tech Specs

      Make Fiat
      Model Linea
      Fuel Petrol
      Variant 125S
      Engine Capacity 1.4-litre
      Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 123 @ 5000rpm
      Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 208 @ 2000rpm
      Gears  Five
      Length mm 4596
      Width mm 1730
      Height mm 1494
      Wheelbase mm 2603
      Fuel Capacity (in litres) 45
      Tyre size 205/ 55 R16

      Features

      Features  
      Touchscreen infotainment system Yes
      190mm ground clearence  Yes
      Rain sensing wipers Yes
      Automatic headlamps  Yes
      Cruise control Yes

      Competition All Specs

      Specifications Hyundai
      Verna
      Maruti Suzuki
      Ciaz
      Variant SX Zxi+ RS
      Fuel Petrol petrol
      Engine Capacity 1.6-litre 1.4-litre
      Max. Power (bhp@rpm) 21 @ 6300 91 @ 6000
      Max. torque (Nm@rpm) 158 @ 4200 130 @ 4000
      Gears  Five Five
      Length mm 4375 4490
      Width mm 1700 1730
      Height mm 1475 1485
      Wheelbase mm 2570 2650
      Fuel Capacity (in litres) 43 43
      Tyre size 195/55 R16 195/55 R16

      Conclusion

       After spending time with the Linea 125S, I can say that it’s a car I would buy only for the fun factor as it offers a breath of fresh air among the staid and plaid that are currently available. However, there is not much else going for it has the same feature list as the competition. There is also the question of Fiat’s sales and service network which is lacking in many places including Mumbai which at the time of writing this review has been without a showroom for close to a year now.  

      Final picture

      The Fiat Linea 125S is priced at Rs 10.46 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) making it the most expensive car when compared to the equivalently priced variants of its rivals like the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz (ZXi+ RS), Honda City (V MT), Volkswagen Vento (Highline petrol MT) and the Hyundai Verna (1.6 SX VTVT). 

      Photo Courtesy By : Kapil Angane  

       

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