At this point, looking at the pictures, you're betting there's nothing new about the Linea or the Punto. But the truth is, there's a lot that's been changed and fortunately, it isn't a lip-gloss and mascara job! The Linea and Punto have always been two of the nicer cars to drive in their segment owing to excellent ride quality and some healthy engine options. However, with the competition from Germany, Japan and Korea spicing things up no end, the Italian car maker has given their two-car stable (not including the incredible 500, that is) some thoughtful touches.
To begin, the Linea now boasts of 185mm of ground clearance, up by 20mm over the previous car. While this isn't immediately visible, those who know their Lineas (...and ground clearances) will be able to spot it in a flash. Regardless of whether you spot it, the difference is worth mention. Even with a full load of passengers and a bit of luggage in the boot, the Linea won't graze its underbelly even on the most vividly conjured up speed breakers in Mumbai. With its already fantastic ride quality now coupled with better ground clearance, the Linea takes to bad roads exceptionally well.
The increase in ground clearance of course does make a difference to the handling of the Linea, which now feels less sharp but still not significantly so. It's passenger comfort versus enthusiast's delight. You know who wins, right? However, it's no dull car to drive. It always came with an entertaining set of motors – the two petrols (1368cc, 88.7 bhp/1368cc, 112 bhp T-Jet) and the much popular Multijet diesel (1248cc, 91.7 bhp) – and those have remain untouched.
On the cosmetic front, the Emotion trim now gets 16” alloys while the Active and Dynamic get 15'' rims in alloy and steel, respectively. Smart looking alloys, but we think the Punto's look better. The interiors are now two-tone across all variants while beige leather seats are standard on the mid and top-spec Lineas. The beige seats and the two-tone dashboard definitely liven things up on the inside and add a touch of class to the quite generous interior. Lastly, for the Linea, the media player is now standard across all variants and though it isn't the audiophile's delight, it's pretty alright for generic usage.
Coming to the Punto, it now gets 195/60 R15 alloys on the Emotion variant, which look really stylish to say the least. Ground clearance has gone up to 185 mm for the 1.4 petrol/1.3 diesel and the 1.2 petrol has gone up to 195 mm (previously 173 mm) – that's better than some of the SUVs on sale in the country! Other than that, it now has 'bright grey' interiors (including the seat upholstery) which certainly make the interiors feel 'lighter'. We would have, of course, liked to see some beige trim at least on the top-end trim.
Lastly, the 1.2 petrol now makes 68.2 (previously 67)bhp@6000 rpm, and the 1.4 petrol makes 89.5 (previously 88.7)bhp@6000 rpm. While the difference in power and torque isn't all that noticeable, by itself, the Punto is an energetic car to drive. Overall, the changes may not be as striking, but are thoughtful additions anyway. Now to hope this'll reflect on Fiat's cash registers!