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Old 9th March 2011, 17:20   #1
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Default Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Warning - long post


So on moving to Delhi I quickly realised that I needed a car. Working late hours and enjoying the weekend would not be possible without one, and even the closest residential neighborhood was 3-4 kilometers away from work, meaning walking to work was not possible like it was for me at my last appointment in Mumbai. Briefly considered a bicycle, but it would not really work in summers. Rather, I would not.

The situation boiled down to basically 2 choices - buy a new car here or carry over my MH-registered, 7 year old Opel Corsa Sail and put it to work. The Corsa drinks quite a bit of fuel (best I ever got out of it was 12 km/l on highways) given my right foot and Mumbai/Calcutta traffic, and is not among the easiest or cheapest cars to maintain and run. And a new car meant I would be grounded in Delhi for at least three to four years till I paid off the debt.

There was the other problem of coming off a long sabbatical which meant finance would be difficult to get (previous employment history was missing for two years). I was now paying ~14K/month for a car to ferry me between work and home, not a very pleasing expense. I would rather spend 2x the amount on finance and fuel, but get 24x7 access to a vehicle. So that meant I wanted a car cheap enough to buy off the shelf, and good enough so I could use it for two years or less in case I needed to move on.

I started hunting for a used vehicle, and was attracted to Gen 2 City models, all around the 3.5L bracket. I don't really know why I abandoned the search. Maybe something about the Top Gear episode in S16, where the three fellas get to buy and investigate used cars. So it was pretty clear I actually wanted a new car.

The search:

My initial budget was 6-7L, and I wanted a fully-loaded premium, powerful hatch or a basic sedan. I firmly believe that incremental upgrades are a waste of money, and that the next milestone would be in the 11-12L range with a larger amount of finance. I also was pretty clear that I wanted a European/American car and not anything from further East of Calcutta.

With that in mind, I drew up the list and I ended up with:

1. Ford Fiesta
2. Vento Petrol Trendline
3. Polo 1.6 Highline
4. Punto 90
5. Linea (wasn't sure of the variant)
6. Cedia Sportz (I consider Mitsu an honorable exception to the East of Calcutta rule)
7. Optra Magnum 2.0

Out of interest I did test drive the SX4 (which I liked quite a bit, incidentally, except for terrible visibility) and the City (which I didn't). The Fiesta I set aside because it was to go on the chopping block in 2011 and given my history with cars I would rather not risk it - even though I loved the drive. My first car was a Matiz, the manufacturer wen bust after a year of me buying the car, and then there was Opel which followed a similar path.

The Volkswagens were simply too long to wait for. I was given a 4-month estimate on the Vento (any form of it) and no specific timeline on the PowerPolo. Which could mean anything between 4 months and never. Which meant that if I booked my car in February, I would get my car in June. Or never. And then there is the EPS, which to me was like Maggi noodles to a gourmet chef. Thanks, but no thanks. The Mitsu was a bit pricey and old, and the Chevy was, well, just old.

So that left the two Fiats - not as spankingly current as the VWs, but also not as long in the tooth as some of the others. Given that I had already driven a Punto in Calcutta (a 1.2 active though) a fair bit, and that the owner was quite complimentary about the service, I decided a Fiat it was. I had some familiarity and comfort with the Punto, so I was pretty fixated on it, the only Linea option I wanted to even consider was the T-Jet Plus. And so I started looking at other sedans in the 10L range. VW was already out as was the City, and the top-end SX4 was also aborted early. The only other options I had were in the 11-12L range - the Cruz was on the shortlist but at nearly 13L was well north of what I wanted to spend. And the Altis was too Jap for me.

The tests:

I then tried out the Punto90 which I almost booked, but just 25% more could get me the much more powerful, larger and better equipped T-Jet Plus. I didn't have any obvious preference between petrol and diesel, I just needed a quick car with a good engine, stable and predictable at all speeds (European traits), and reasonably space- and fuel-efficient, in that order.

During the test drives of both the vehicles I found the MJD 90 engine to be a fair bit louder than I liked specially at low speeds, and the T-Jet to have a very slightly firm ride (which I actually like) without being bone-shaking. The acceleration of both vehicles was very good, probably not the levels I like (the City felt quicker, I like to give my cars a fair bit of gas) and the braking in the T-jet was phenomenal. If there are two things in the T-jet that swayed me towards it, it would be the handling and the brakes, in that order.

Biting the bullet:

I placed my order on 19th February and the car got to the showroom on the 1st - it was a 'BMZ' Azure T-Jet Plus (a lot of colours got eliminated due to family superstitions), manufactured on Feb 16th. I conducted the PDI on the 1st of March. During that time I checked for scratches and panel gaps, loose fittings inside, colour consistency on the outside and signs of any obvious discrepancies. I opened the hood briefly and it all seemed in order so I shut it and left, running late for another meeting.

Due to my tight weekday schedules and the inability to take delivery on Saturdays (superstition again!!!) I finally walked into the showroom on the 6th, Sunday, and took the keys and the car. I spent a few minutes filling the RTO forms, and got out of there as fast as I could. I like to learn about the car on my own. That was a mistake, as the second part of my experience revealed.

Getting to know each other:

And so in the initial few hours, the car did about 40 kms. The distances between places here is phenomenally large. In those few kilometers, I discovered that:

1. Left parking light does not work. I traced this later to a missing bulb, which should have been picked up during the internal PDI.

2. There is a slight rattle from the glovebox area. This has to go to a workshop for diagnosis - obviously this has to wait till I am free to go, and provided I know where to go (which I do not, given that I'm new to the city). This also may be due to the very high tire pressue - I am running the full 36/33 pressure with just me in the car. I weigh under 60kgs, though the fuel tank is full.
Additionally, I did not realise that the car only has a total payload of 390 kgs. With 50 kilos of fuel and lubes that's under 350 kilos of people and luggage. On a typical weekend trip, this would make things unbelievably tight. Not a lot of leeway - those with large families or large family members, please make note...

3. The car is *very* front-heavy. This is picked up as severe understeer when backing off in the middle of a corner (which I shouldn't do) or going through it with minimal power (which most people do, but is not advisable either). Ideally one should run with a full tank of gas, this helps somewhat. Obviously I shouldn't give it the stick (which doesn't mean I haven't already) so early in its life, so this is an area I will come to terms with in time. Expect more feedback later.

4. Mechanics with greasy pants spend long hours in the driver seats. I'll leave it to you to imagine how one can diagnose this. They even penetrate the plastic sheets on the seats (which I removed immediately, along with those tacky ribbons).

5. The gearing is pretty good, I estimate 5th to be good to indicated 190. Which is not too shabby for just north of 9.5L, IMO. It's also short enough to trundle along at 1500 rpm/60km/h. Not that it's a good idea to do so...

6. It's annoying to have to wait for turbo spin-down - though to be fair, my last 0.5-1km drives are well below turbo speeds anyway, I'm usually crawling into my basement parking slot or down a narrow lane inside a housing complex. I keep it on for as long as it takes for the fan to spin down.

7. The clutch is weird, I'm used to long clutches but due to the very soft action I have trouble figuring out the dead range. Maybe it'll sort itself out. I don't remember ever stalling the Opel (or many other cars), but I stalled the TD car quite a bit and even the one I have will give me problems once in a while. I do remember stalling my friend's Punto as well. I think it will take some getting used to. I don't like gassing the engine too much when de-clutching. Sounds amateurish, unless going for burnouts.

8. The floor mat is pure suicide. Along with the dead pedal, it makes clutch use a complete nightmare. My heel usually gets impeded by the stitching on the floormat, and the toe gets stuck on the dead pedal. Both will have to go if I can't get used to it.

9. The Media player does not always work with USB drives, and it may be be necessary to re-plug the device. I also haven't figured out an easy way to activate it using controls, though I have managed to get the voice commands to work (totally by accident). Blue and Me is a little complicated, it took me quite some time to set up my phone, and I'm not using it as much as I like either.

10. The car already gives me a fuel average of ~9km/l. I'm using Premium fuel, and the same fuel in similar conditions in my Opel gave me 8-8.5, so this is not bad. Of course the MID may not be very accurate, but a for a brand new car that has about 25HP over it and weighs a good 200 kg more, it's not that bad at all.

11. Lot has been said about the steering (favourable) and gears (unfavourable). I actually find the reverse to be true. I quite like the gears and the gearing, the shift action is not notchy (I like) so the shift is much quicker for me. I found the SX4 and Vento gated gearing to be much more difficult to slot when going through ultra-quick gear changes - specially when doing 2nd to 3rd or the other way around. Must be just me though.
I also prefer a heavy steering - small input leading to small motion. The Fiat steering is very light (not as light as the City, though) and I find the feedback a little less than I like. I am of the opinion that power steering should come into play only when parking, and there should be minimal assist at low speeds. As the vehicle crosses a certain speed (ideally 40km/h) there should be no assist at all. Obviously this is not practical design of a power steering system, the dream remains unrealised.
My Opel had some of this ability and as a result was not easy for a lot of my friends to drive. This new car feels a lot closer to point and shoot, which I'm still working through in my head. For the records, my favorite steering is that of the non-assisted Jellybean Zen, which I rate as the funnest car to drive, ever.

I'm already at 75 kilometeres or thereabouts, of which 19 was done by persons other than me (warehouse to showroom). In the short three days I've had it, the brakes have already been tested once or twice, Gurgaon traffic gives us many opportunities to discover the braking limits of our vehicles. The car is very silent, and does not make a fuss when it goes over the typical roads in this part of the country.

Will update with more feedback as it happens.

See you on the forums!
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Old 9th March 2011, 17:41   #2
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Default Re: Linea T-Jet - initial review

Originally Posted by cranky View Post
I placed my order on 19th February and the car got to the showroom on the 1st - it was a 'BMZ' Azure T-Jet Plus
Congratulations and best wishes, cranky. What's BMZ Azure? There is only Fox Trote Azure, AFAIK.
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Old 9th March 2011, 19:22   #3
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Default Re: Linea T-Jet - initial review

Hey Congrats On the TJET Cranky! Wishing you many safe and happy miles with the classy saloon. Pictures please!!!!!

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Old 9th March 2011, 20:14   #4
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Congrats on the T-Jet. It is a really great car and an excellent performer which will never disappoint you. i recently test drive the T-Jet and hands down i was impressed with the sheer power packed in the hood.
I drove pretty rashly and did a lot of cornering but it was as stable as a rock.
Great choice.

Do post some pictures ASAP!

PS- Welcome to Tbhp.

Last edited by DMehta : 9th March 2011 at 20:15.
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Old 9th March 2011, 20:57   #5
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

plastic sheets on the seats (which I removed immediately, along with those tacky ribbons).
I liked it the way you put it. I took a picture and then removed the ribbons and covers.

The review is far more technical than we usually see from users. Please do post some pictures of the car.

This is picked up as severe understeer when backing off in the middle of a corner
What exactly do you mean by understeer? Could this be attributed to the tyres rather than the car dynamics?
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Old 9th March 2011, 21:04   #6
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Cranky.. Perfect observations.. may be my opinions are different only in a few areas.. Reg. your feedback on Steering, you will love the Linea MJD since it closely matches your wish!

And enjoy many more miles with her. Am SURE she will serve you well.

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Old 9th March 2011, 22:06   #7
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Congrats Clutch is a matter of getting adjusted to I guess, it took me a while to get adjusted when I first started using a Palio
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Old 9th March 2011, 22:25   #8
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

I feel, in your first warning, you should also have stated NO PICTURES

Congrats on buying this awesome machine.
Wish you many miles with her.
Good observations I must say for just around 75kms.

Waiting for the pictures...
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Old 10th March 2011, 10:23   #9
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Hi and thanks for the comments. I apologise for lack of pictures - there shall be some I promise, but it's a while away as my DSLR remains packed in Calcutta and the photo session is planned for next weekend (not the one on 12/13th, but the one after that). Hopefully the car doesn't get dinged before then.

@J.Ravi: 'BMZ' denotes the last three letters of the VIN which indicates it's a Feb 2011 car. It is FTA colour, I freely used a lot of short codes. Sorry for the confusion.

@VW2010: Understeer is the inability of the car to turn in to the apex of a corner, or drift to the outside when accelerating out of it. This is usually caused by (among other things) poor front-end grip, suboptimal weight distribution, lack of power, a flexing chassis, or incorrect driving. Generally understeer is preferable to oversteer as it is less prone to putting you into a ditch. Some of the more experienced members may be able to expand on this.
In city traffic none of this matters and in highway driving it is extremely dangerous to experiment with this facet of your car's behaviour. However I do like to know what response I can expect from the car under specific circumstances (emergency manouvers such as braking close to road medians, for example) so I like to check these things out at an early stage.

@sathya_sc: thanks for that. I would love to know your observations as well - this is why it's known as 'driving style'. You may have been able to get more out of her than I am as of today. I thought long and hard about the MJD, but given that my daily run is ~15kms or less with the occasional long drive (~10-15K/year) I preferred petrol. Obviously the MJD was cheaper but I guess the level of kit and the engine and braking swayed me quickly towards this one.

@bottle/hemanth: thanks

Further observations:

1. Cold starts cause the engine to spin high - 12-1300rpm. Once warmed any subsequent starts seem to be at the correct ~800rpm level. Not sure if this is normal.

2. The media player application is extremely funny, it just refuses to recognise the drive if plugged in. And this is random behaviour, sometimes it will start right up. This inconsistency confuses me.

3. I was afraid that going from a low-slung hatch to a tallish sedan would cause blind spots and require a lot of adjustment. However the few extra inches of width is easily compensated for.

I shall update as and when the car runs in a bit, and hopefully will have some pictures too :O)
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Old 10th March 2011, 10:51   #10
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

I am yet to see a t-jet in FTA, congrats! If its in Delhi, how about a shoot here? And the car will run fine on normal BS4 fuel, no need to put on premium. It will do more harm than good.

Last edited by sidindica : 10th March 2011 at 10:54.
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Old 10th March 2011, 11:11   #11
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Hi cranky,
Nice to see you here, and congratulations. Somehow based on our conversation a month ago, I knew you would end up buying the Linea t-jet. Very nicely written initial review too.
Higher initial rpms with cold engine is normal, I think.

I cannot believe you left your DSLR in Kolkata. Or is it a lame/lazy excuse?

BTW, which tyres the Linea came with? Ignore, if you have answered this already.
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Old 10th March 2011, 11:17   #12
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

@sidindica: Thanks for that, next tankful I'll switch to regular. I am in Gurgaon - however I'm travelling this weekend (I travel a lot on weekends for work nowadays) and am usually extremely busy during the week. However do shoot me a PM and we'll see if we can set up something.

@asitda: Thanks so much, and great to see you here . I was supposed to ship the camera with my last lot when I was home and met you, but all of us forgot about it. Eventually we will shoot with your camera (or what *was* your camera) Saturday after next. The car came with Goodyears - not the rumored Apollos. Thankfully.

Last edited by mobike008 : 10th March 2011 at 14:36.
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Old 11th March 2011, 09:47   #13
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Hi Cranky, congratulations and welcome to the Tjet club.
Excellent write up.

Wishing of many miles with her. Happy motoring and drive safe.
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Old 11th March 2011, 10:14   #14
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Hi cranky, congrats the Tjet is a beautiful piece of machinery.Hope it serves you well.
Did you not consider any of the SUV's safari or scorpio.
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Old 11th March 2011, 10:28   #15
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Default Re: Fiat Linea T-Jet - initial review

Congrats Cranky for the wonderful machine The T-Jet
Awaiting DSLR Photos especially interiors
Enjoy and Drive Safe.
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