A Line Foreshortened

A rare encounter prematurely cut short. Sorry about that.

(c) Driven to Write

I’m aiming to keep this brief, given that it’s Sunday and I’m nominally on holiday. A two week sojourn on Spain’s Mediterranean coastline is hardly anyone’s concept of a mortifying act and let’s face it, there are plenty of other, more pleasant diversions to be found around these parts.

Consequently, it’s probably just as well that I am driven to write, because otherwise you, dear readers would stand a better than even chance of facing an empty page today. But my duty to DTW, as I trust you appreciate, is absolute.

But to the subject at hand. One of the more diverting aspects of places such as this are the areas of diversity and digression – and the automotive end of the spectrum is no different. The Southern European markets have long diverged from their Northern neighbours, although needless to say, a growing and regrettable conformity is starting to creep in.

Today’s point of focus however is one of those divergences. The Fiat Linea was a model offered in developing markets and in some Southern mainland European markets – such as this one. The Punto-based compact saloon was a joint development between Fiat Auto, Tofaş in Turkey and Fiat do Brasil. Production of the Linea ran from 2007 until last year, with assembly taking place as far afield as Betim, Bursa, Pune, and in CKD form, at Naberezhnye Chelny.

Designed by centro stile Fiat and based upon the 2005 Punto, the Linea; a Latin term denoting ‘line or stripe’, frequently applied in medical appellations, employed a stretched version of the already Grande Punto’s platform, drivetrain and chassis, with an extra 93mm in wheelbase and an additional 530mm in overall length – sadly not in the crucial ‘dash to axle’ ratio.

Owing to a catastrophic loss of nerve on behalf of the original photographer, a somewhat overdramatic stock image has in this instance been used. (c) automobilesreview

Intended to replace the Bravo/ Brava-based Marea in Southern European markets, the Linea was offered with normally aspirated and turbocharged 1.4 litre FIRE units and Multijet diesels in 1.4 and 1.6 litre capacities. Brazilian market Lineas were also offered with 1.9 and 1.8 litre ethanol-compatible engines.

The Linea is a car I had hitherto only viewed in photographs and as such had considered to be one of the better executed hatchback to saloon revisions. However, in three dimensions, I found it to be somewhat less convincing. The overall impressions are not bad, although the nose treatment doesn’t really harmonise satisfactorily with the rear three quarters, but specific aspects such as the aforementioned ‘prestige gap’, A-pillar/ front quarter light arrangement and rear bumper shutline appear particularly slapdash.

My efforts at photographing the car in question ran into something of a glitch when I realised I was being observed, who for all I knew may have been the car’s owner. Not a fluent speaker of Spanish (to my shame), I concluded it was perhaps more valorous to adopt the Monty Python ‘Brave Sir Robin’ approach and bugger off with the paltry photographic evidence I had, rather than having to somehow explain myself.

(c) Driven to Write

In the hope of obtaining a second bite at the cherry, I passed that way again, but the car had gone. And with slightly over 5000 Lineas sold in Spain from 2007 to 2011, the chances of sighting another is probably slim to non-existent.

So there you have it. Not perhaps to normal DTW standards, but I refer you to the opening paragraph. Anyway, it comes in at over 600 words – so if you really feel the urge to complain, Mr Editor Kearne is… oh, hold on, he’s on extended sabbatical as well, and I certainly won’t call it rehab if you agree not to.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “A Line Foreshortened”

  1. It came and went without me ever seeing one.
    Now, that’s rare in my Norman town, where those who have made it in the Big Smoke (Paris) love to return in posh metal to show off.
    But then a biggish anonymous saloon with little more than a motorbike engine in petrol versions really doesn’t cut the mustard.

    A car that size should have been a Lancia, with a minimum of 2 litres, and the lux spec to match. The proper Kappa replacement that never came.

  2. Greetings, Eóin, from another visitor to the Costa del Sol, Torrequebrada in my case. Perhaps we should meet up and go car spotting?*

    I hadn’t paid the Linea much attention before your well observed piece, other than to think that, overall, it was a quite well resolved shape. However, your comments are spot-on: the front axle’s positioning is most unfortunate and is exacerbated by the way the wheel arch actually cuts into the front door skin. Couple that with the cab-forward stance and that additional quarter light in the A-pillars, and the overall effect is very unbalanced.

    The rear bumper to wing panel gap is rather interesting: rationally, a simple diagonal that smoothly continues the line of the upper edge of the light cluster down to the wheel arch should be a good solution. In practice, it doesn’t work and, as you say, looks clumsy and amateurish.

    Porsche did the same thing with the 987 generation Boxster and Cayman, but got away with it, I think, because the line was so short:

    The Linea is an unusual example where the simple and obvious solution is not the best. I think the problem is not the line itself, but that its positioning makes the mass of the rear wing small and weak, and the bumper overly large in comparison.

    * Not a chance, if my partner has any say on it!

    1. The C4 sedan always reminded me of the Linea. Notice the odd rear wing/bumper shutline on the C4 too, a disease obviously afflicting hatch to sedans species then…..

    2. DTW’s penchant for unloved waifs, strays and mongrels is just remarkable. Until seeing this, I didn’t know the C-Triomphe existed. Is it wrong that I’m strangely attracted to its sheer weirdness?

  3. I spotted a Linea whilst on holiday in Sicily recently. The car that always takes me by surprise when I see them on holiday is the Peugeot 206+. The one where they grafted a 207 front end onto the 206.

  4. First, thanks for taking time out of your hard-earned holiday to bring us fresh content and of something so rarely seen. From your photos, I would still count this as a decent job by the various FIAT outposts. I like the way the side feature-line flows up over the boot-line. It’s nice and sharp and pulls the body panels taut.

    Enjoy your vacation.

    1. Thanks SV. It has been a very enjoyable sojourn and the sunshine has been a tonic. The Linea isn’t bad at first glance, but it doesn’t really hold together upon deeper consideration. Amazingly, I spotted another one today in crosstown Marbella traffic as I was waiting for a bus. I didn’t have a chance to capture it however. Given their rarity here, I expect I have seen a decent percentage of Lineas extant in Southern Spain.

      Daniel, what a coincidence. I’m down the coast from you. It’s been lovely hasn’t it? Mind you the rain last night was pretty torrential. Needless to say I have already been up to no good on the carspotting stakes (I just can’t seem to help myself), some of which I may share with the wider DTW readership over the coming days. I hope you enjoy the remainder of your Andalusian stay.

      John: I have seen quite a few of those 208s about. Ghastly, just ghastly.

    2. Eóin, thank you for your kind wishes, which are heartily reciprocated. Alas, ours is just a flying visit to catch up with my brother-in-law and his wife, who are permanent residents here, and we’re flying home tomorrow morning.

      Enjoy the rest of your holiday and look forward to reading more about your automotive adventures. (Mine has been limited to a ride in a Dacia Lodgy taxi today!)

  5. The Linea is too narrow. Whilst length and wheelbase were considerably extended, overall width was increased by about an inch, IIRC. As a result, rear legroom is convincing but broad figures will find the rear seat rather uncomfortable.

    As the replacement for the Marea in Brazil, it did not sell a lot. Down here, Fiat tried to market it as a real contender to the Corolla and the Civic, but it never managed to harass the Japanese. The delightful oddity was the T-Jet version and its turbocharged 1.4-litre producing 152 PS, with a nice beige cloth interior.


  6. The Brazilian Linea was the last resting place of the 128 engine, by then renamed ‘Torque’, and given a new twin-cam 16 valve cylinder head. European market use of the Torque engine ended in 2005, but it made a brief return from 2008-2010 in the Brazilian-market Linea sedan.

    This final edition engine was distinguished by having the largest capacity of any 128 derivative at 1839cc, achieved by using the 86.4mm bore block and the 78.4mm stroke crankshaft used in the post-2002 Torque 1.6 engines.

    It was replaced by the 1747cc E.torQ engine, following Fiat’s pre-FCA takeover of the Chrysler Campo Largo plant near Curitiba. The E.torQ is a derivative of the Tritec engine, built at Campo Largo for use in the R50 MINI.

    Most roads lead to Cowley…

  7. The Torque engine cyl.head was, in hindsight, a really interesting item:

    -the chamber outline, on the intake valves’ side, was carefully outlined as on very exotic race engines, to enable the least possible shrouding of the valves at low valve openings.

    -intake valves were carefully sized for a broad powerband, at the same time being sufficiently separated as guide-centre distance, to enable less flow interference from each other (an often criminally overlooked aspect on 4-valve heads…)

    -overall chamber shape was rather square, clearly fighting for every sq.mm of squish area available.

    Тhey were obviously very focused on maximising the lifespan of the venerable SOHC engine.

    The 16v ‘Torque’ engine’s potential for high-performance applications, though, is somewhat limited, mostly
    due to the clearly emissions-mandated too narrow valve angle, which favours optimum burn in lieu of absolute
    flow potential.

    From packaging point of view, the head is really thoughtfully laid out, and is actually not a big deal heavier or physically more imposing than many 2-valve SOHC heads of the ’90s. It is engineered in a typically italian mechanically elegant fashion.

    In everyday use, though, the engine did not leave a particularly brilliant impression, as it was obviously ‘suffocated’ by emissions requirements. It was still a relatively easy-revving, friendly mill, but far from the endlessly entertaining ultra-short stroke FIAT SOHC 8v engines.

    With ITBs and a decent increase in C.R., the 16v becomes a really good unit, especially where absolute performance (specific output) is not the priority, but reliability and a nice, meaty powerband are preferred.

  8. Al,

    Thanks for the intriguing detail on the ‘Torque’ engine’s design. It’s one of these engines which arrived, did its tasks, departed and is unfairly forgotten because it always existed on the sidelines. I guess it existed for production capacity or cost reasons, or possibly because it fitted somewhere where nothing else would go.

    Fiat were rather brilliant at stealthy adaptations of existing engines, like the 124-based FIASA unit, or downright oddities, like the 12V sOHC, very oversquare Pratola Serra 1.4.

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