Thursday, 3 September 2009


India’s reigning Car of the Year has now been launched to a highly depressed South African market. At its peak in 2006 car sales were around 700 000 but this year we’ll be lucky to see 350 000 units. It’s within that spirit of value offering that Fiat SA has introduced the India-built spacious Linea.

Measuring 4.6 metres in length, 1.5m high and 1.73m wide the Linea is no small child. It has a wheelbase of 2.6m, which makes it quite a large family car. At the motoring media launch Fiat was at pains to compare the car with the Toyota Corolla, even going as far as showing the price differences between comparable models. Having driven it for over 150km I began wondering if it really was a Corolla rival and not something else. In my little head I kept seeing pictures of a Tata Indigo and a Renault Logan.

As a simple exercise in curiosity I took dimension figures for all three. It turns out the Frenchman is the longest of all and has a longer wheelbase while the Indigo is the highest. Our Linea only has its length to boast about within this particular trio. This puts the family Fiat in a slightly different area than what was initially said.

Our drive took place in the beautiful coastal city of Durban where the air is thick and so are some of the young men. One of them almost knocked us over with his loud music and even louder Japanese turbocharged car. Had our 1.4-litre also been turboed we’d have had him for breakfast. Alas, we could only muster 66kW at 6000rpm and maximum torque 115Nm at 4500rpm. To access it we’d be using a 5-speed manual ‘box which was quite adequate for the task at hand. That missing turbo could have come in handy over those steep uphills where changing down to even third would be common practice. Although it’s a front-wheel-drive there would not be any danger whatsoever of torque steer felt by the 15-inch wheels on takeoff.

I was lucky to be seated in the model with the leather option. It’s soft and comfortable, provides good back support and made the journey seamless. We also had Blue&Me. As a fan of the Microsoft/Fiat developed system I looked forward to integrating it with my Nokia cell phone. Normally cars in this segment don’t offer Bluetooth systems so it will be quite exciting for those who buy it. Better even is that it comes as standard equipment.

That’s one of the car’s main attractions; its standard equipment list. Besides the Blue&Me Bluetooth connection there’s also the radio/ CD/ MP3 player with 6 speakers, electric windows all around, adjustable headlamps, a trip computer, automatic climate control, two airbags, ABS brakes, fog lights and an immobiliser among others.

Herein lies the Linea’s strengths; a good value package with features usually associated with bigger, much more expensive cars. These days every motor manufacturer is desperately trying to attract buyers into its dealers’ showroom floors. By cramming the Linea with all these goodies plus more Fiat is counting on those looking for a good return on their hard-earned buck. Performance will not be high on these good folks’ list but they may well find the rest of the package, like the beautiful exterior lines, sculptured front grille and nicely put rear, quite irresistible.

Fiat Linea Pricing

Linea 1.4 Emotion (R175 000)