2017 Honda City: First Drive Review
- Feb 16, 2017
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Ah, the Linea! A nice concoction of solid build, clean design and a potent motor. I'm glad that Fiat hasn't messed about with the first two ingredients of the recipe, and, slightly kicked that there's more poke from the already powerful motor. It's called the 125 S because the 1.4-litre turbocharged T-JET motor develops 125PS of power. Yes, it’s the same engine you'd find under the hood of a Punto Abarth, with a lower map and a different turbo. However, unlike the bonkers Abarth, this one is meant for a family man who appreciates bits like boot space and legroom.
The Linea's design has always been inoffensive. When it first debuted in 2009, it was greeted with a lot of oohs and aahs. But now, a full seven years later, the age is beginning to show. It did get a facelift in 2014 that included a new set of bumpers, a redesigned boot lid and dollops of chrome here and there. The 125 S carries the exact same design, save for a 125 S badge slapped onto the boot. Notably, Fiat displayed a gorgeous blue Linea 125 S with black wheels at the 2016 Auto Expo. Sadly, the production-spec version sticks to (rather boring) conventional shades instead. How we wish the Linea wore a bright red shade or even the loud yellow a la Palio S10. You see, if you tag a car as the "performance version" it better look the part. Of course, some do prefer sleepers, but that's a different story for a different day.
The interiors have a similar tale to tell. Instead of featuring a sporty all-black layout, you get the same (read: safe) beige and black combo with a few silver and piano black accents thrown in for good measure. The updated dashboard design from the 2014 version manages to look chic even now. The fit, finish and quality levels are above average in most places and will give you very little reason to complain. We like the orange ambient lighting that lends a nice, warm and not to mention welcoming feel to the cabin. With the 125 S, the interiors have been left untouched. That means you still get the leather upholstery, super supportive front seats and slightly awkward ergonomics. And, in spite of being the longest car in its class, legroom or headroom at the rear bench isn't the best there is. Seating two six-footers back to back can be a bit of a squeeze and three people will struggle to settle alongside each other in the rear bench.
The only addition to the cabin is the 5-inch touchscreen infotainment unit. The system supports a variety of inputs including Bluetooth, AUX and USB. However, the screen size is a tad too small and the interface feels dated — especially when you compare it to its rivals that offer Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. Also, Fiat says the screen is reverse camera compatible; however, the camera itself isn't a part of the standard kit. That said, audio quality is really crisp and we can imagine calm long drives with some soothing music on the radio.
On the practicality front, the Linea continues to sport a rather awkwardly placed sunglass holder, slim door pockets and a few more cubby holes in the floor console between the front seats. Boot space is rated at a gigantic 500 litres that is more than adequate to swallow most of the airport-run luggage.
I particularly like how the doors close with a reassuring thud and cut you off from the ruckus outside. Turn the key, and the 1.4-litre motor is barely audible. The turbo-petrol motor now develops 125PS of power and 208Nm of torque. That's 11PS and 1Nm over the older T-Jet. Is the extra oomph noticeable? Not entirely. The engine feels just as sprightly as before, and you'd have to really wring the living daylights out of it to make the extra horses sweep into action. Get going, and it picks up pace cleanly till the rev needle hits the 2,000rpm mark. Once past this, you get the 208Nm in one concentrated shot that can easily get addictive.
Bury the accelerator pedal into the mats, and the 125 S will torque steer like nobody's business. Much like the Punto Abarth, the engine has a nice raspy note and the exhaust behaves like its sitting in a church. The engine has plenty of power for you to behave like a hooligan with. Keep the motor on the boil and it'll reward you by plastering a grin on your face. Sadly, though, the wallet won't be too happy. The claimed mileage figures have dipped from a respectable 15.7kmpl to a decent 14.2kmpl, but, out in the real world — expect somewhere around 10kmpl for mixed driving conditions.
Is the gearbox still rubbery? Ah, yes. How I wish I could say it was otherwise. Good news is that it doesn't completely ruin the experience. It takes you a little time to get used to the rubbery action, post which you can stretch the Fiat's legs. Speaking of legs, the clutch on the Linea can be an absolute pain for the left one. The travel is simply too long and can get plain annoying when you're stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.
Low-speed ride is a strong point with the Fiat. The well-tuned suspension does just enough to not upset the cabin when bad roads raise their ugly heads. Moreover, the healthy 190mm of ground clearance gives you that extra bit of confidence whilst tackling broken terrain. The flipside is that the soft suspension tends to make the ride slightly 'floaty' once you move into triple-digit speeds. We're sure a set of stiffer springs will make the Linea a lot more fun, especially around a set of twisties.
The steering is heavier than you'd expect and will make parking a chore. That said, it knows what the 205 section tyres are up to, and it tells you exactly that. Grip from the stock tyres is just about acceptable, but, we don't see them lasting too long if you keep slamming the throttle in first. The tyres, along with the disc brakes do a swell job of getting the 125 S to a dead halt. The brakes bite in sharply (a bit too sharply if I may add) for very little pedal travel. This, too, gets a bit of getting used to.
The 125 S seems like a last-ditch effort to revive sales. The added power, and the standard touchscreen infotainment system are welcome additions, but they do not make the Linea drastically different than what – it was. Is it too little too late? Possibly. Time for an all-new Linea, then!Recommended Variant : Linea POWER UP 1.3 EMOTION
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