Italian car maker Fiat has been struggling in the Indian market for years now. Fiat’s first outing in the Indian car market proved disastrous for the company. While the company’s range was impressive, expensive spare parts, poor after sales services and lack of service centers quickly proved to be the Italian manufacturer’s downfall. This time around, Fiat is back with a refreshed range and an all new dealer and service center network to keep fans of the brand happy as well as to attract new ones. To keep pace in the heavily contended C2 segment, Fiat has recently updated its Fiat Linea sedan. We take a look at what the new car has to offer against the impressive albeit often overlooked Skoda alternative, the Skoda Rapid.
The 2014 Linea doesn’t see too many changes save for a few chrome embellishments and slightly reworked bumpers. While the changes do not drastically change the sedan’s looks, they do add a bit of upmarket feel to the car. Sadly however, the Linea’s design is quite dated and fails to stand out from the crowd of zesty Fords, futuristic Hyundai’s and timeless Skoda’s. However, a Fiat’s true selling point isn’t its exterior, it’s driving dynamic. Sadly, this does not excuse the Italian manufacturer’s lack of inspiring design for what is currently one of three models on sale here in India.
Skoda, as always, has done an impressive job on the Rapid. Although the car may not turn heads wherever it goes, the understated elegance coupled with the classic Skoda touch is a match made in heaven. While the car may be more than three years old now, the Skoda Rapid is still as fresh as it was when it first made its debut here in India.
Round 1 Winner: Skoda Rapid !
The interiors of the new Linea are quite impressive. A combination of beige and black gives the cabin a premium and sporty feel lacking in most cars in its range. The updated dashboard features a black center console with a secondary unit for climate control. The impressive ambient lighting bathes the Linea’s cabin in a beautiful amber. Steering mounted controls give the driver access to the infotainment system. Rear legroom is sufficient, headroom on the other hand is quite less and tall passengers may feel a bit cramped at the back.
The Skoda Rapid is almost four years old now and its age is now beginning to show, predominantly with its interiors. The dull grey and beige interiors are quite lackluster. Although the Rapid comes with automatic climate control and a fully loaded infotainment system, the lack of steering mounted controls and dated green backlight of the instrument cluster and the infotainment system gives the Rapid a rather unattractive cabin.
Round 2 Winner: Fiat Linea !
The Linea is offered with two engine options. The first being the 1.4 L T-Jet petrol engine that produces 112 HP at 5000 RPM and 207 Nm of torque at 2200 RPM. Fiat’s diesel Linea is powered by a 1.3 L MultiJet unit that produces 92 HP @ 4000 RPM and 209 Nm of torque @ 2000 RPM.
Unlike the Skoda Rapid, the Linea is offered only with a 5 speed manual gearbox.
Skoda offers both petrol and diesel options for the Rapid. The petrol powered variant houses a 1.6 L unit that produces 104 HP and 153 Nm of torque. It comes equipped with both a 5 speed manual as well as a 6 speed automatic gearbox that gives a respectable but not class leading mileage of 15 km/l and 14.3 km/l respectively.
The 1.6 L turbocharged diesel mill powering the Rapid produces 104 HP and 250 Nm of torque. While the power figures may be approximately the same as its petrol counterpart, the diesel offers peak power and torque figures at a lower point of the rev range allowing for better movement is slow traffic conditions. The diesel too is offered with both a 5 speed manual as well as a 5 speed automatic.
Although Skoda Rapid may offer better gearbox options, Fiat’s mechanical engineering prowess is unrivaled. The company’s T-Jet and MultiJet systems are one of the best in the business.
Round 3 Winner: Fiat Linea !
Fiat is renowned for their extreme focus on driving dynamics. While other manufacturers are moving with the times by adopting technologies such as electric steering systems, Fiat has stuck with the classics to create an unadulterated driving experience. A risky move, but a move that works. The Linea is an absolute joy to drive and provides a familiar driving experience.
The Skoda Rapid exhibits extremely similar driving dynamics as well. Despite this however, the Fiat Linea feels like the more well balanced of the two. The Czech car maker stated that the Skoda Rapid will act as the brand’s experimental platform here in India. This means that we may be seeing an array of new variants with all new equipment inside the cabin as well as under the hood.
Round 4 Winner: Draw !
The Fiat Linea is an extremely well balanced car in almost every aspect. Save for the nearly ordinary exteriors, the Linea offers superb engines and beautiful interiors. With an improved service center network and updated lineup, the Italian manufacturer may soon make a sizable dent in the Indian car market.
With the huge success of the Octavia and Superb, Skoda has honestly ignored a car that could have easily become No. 1 in its segment. This time hopefully, we might see a new and improved Rapid to take on cars such as the Linea, Verna and City. With Skoda’s design finesse coupled with VolksWagen’s engineering capability, the Rapid has the potential to become an icon of the masses, similar to what the original Octavia did for the company. Until then however, Fiat Linea is the clear winner.