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The Dark Knight comes home - Story of my Fiat Linea T-Jet Plus

Discussion in 'Linea 1.4 T-Jet' started by dj.nish, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. dj.nish

    dj.nish Superiore

    Sometime in August 2011, I decided to upgrade to a sedan. I was nearing 70,000 kms in the Getz. It had gracefully aged seven years already and the regular maintainence expenses were going up steadily. While the car was a great drive, I realized some of it's handling and braking inabilities on a long road trip. And Hyundai's famed 'boat suspension' was always a pain point.

    So I started with my requirements:
    • A car that is fun to drive (i.e. responsive but refined engine, with oodles of power on-the-tap) in city as well as on highways.
    • Stable and planted at high speeds, with good steering feedback and braking.
    • Good suspesion, as some of my road trips involve remote locations.
    • Comfortable interiors and seats, especially back and lumbar support. I was not looking for gizmos or gadgetry. I had plans to ICE up the car to the T anyway. And everything else can be done after-market.
    • Budget – upto Rs. 10 lacs
    Honestly for me, it did not start with the usual 'Petrol vs Diesel' debate. I'm a petrol head as far as I can remember and a bit averse to diesel cars . My monthly running (~1200 kms, mostly city driving) also did not compel me to think against a petrol. Yes, my road trip hobby is an expensive one considering the petrol prices and the distances I travel. But then, highways are also more fun in a petrol than a diesel! With this in mind, I started evaluating my options.

    As the folklore goes, a test drive is essential to nail down your choice. So I started making calls to dealerships to schedule drives. I encountered funny responses (e.g. Hyundai asked me “why I wish to TD such a hot selling car when people are booking it based on its looks alone”) and some dead serious ones (VW took down so many details that I felt it was an FBI screening). To ensure a standardised test, I drove all cars on the same stretch of road (~5 kms), at the same time (so that traffic intensity would be same) and had the same load (driver+2 passengers) on board. In order to test the high speed / cruising ability, I took all cars for a round trip on the Bandra Worli Sea Link. Those two weeks of test drive were quite literally a game changer for me. Here's a run down of what I experienced and learnt:

    Volkswagen Vento
    I don't know why but I was smitten by the understated looks of the Vento right from the time it was launched. And I had always heard my father praise VW since his Germany days. So it was on top of my list. Had I not test driven this car, I would have bought it, such was my fascination and the hype that they had generated.

    But Vento actually proved to be the biggest let down of the lot.

    The TD car had around 20,000 kms on the clock and was making more noises than a baby's rattle. Every mechanical component could be individually heard at the slightest behest – braking, going over speed breakers, turning the steering and what have you. To top this, the well attired salesman's ‘I-care-a-damn-attitude' was downright rude (he was perennially on his BBM throughout the TD and had no clear answers to technical questions other than Uhm/Err/Hmm/Yups). Sample this - When questioned about the rattling and poor suspension, his answer was “it’s a 20k kms run car. What else do you expect?” We moved on. Disappointed, but having learnt a crucial lesson in life – always test drive a car thoroughly.

    (On a side note - I was a bit surprised to see that VW had skimped so much in sprucing up the car from inside. Even the top end model was plain jane, save for the chrome trims. The interiors were strictly average and definitely showed signs of severe cost restraint)

    Hyundai Fluidic Verna
    The New Verna had been recently launched and I was tempted to have a look. The photos and specs looked promising. However, this proved to be the second major disappointment. Having owned a Getz before, I was expecting the familiar soft suspension. While this was present, what was shocking was the lack of steering feel and feedback. At 80-100 kmph on the BWSL, the steering literally felt disconnected from the car. It felt very unsafe to be in the driver's seat. I did not have the confidence to overtake and most of my concentration was on keeping the car in a straight line. Braking was also not taut. For the highways, this was a major concern and I felt this is just not right for me. The other negative point was the extremely low-height rear bench. During the TD, I felt nauseated sitting so low. And since my parents would be the ones using the rear bench, I decided against FV.

    Ford Fiesta
    Sadly, the Fiesta did not make it to the long-list. Only because my better half has never liked American cars. In fact she is so averse to American cars that she did not even let me TD this one. I have only heard good stories about it’s handling but sadly, this car was never meant to be for me.

    All New Honda City
    We had a sort of comfort factor in the fact that if nothing works out, there is always a fall back option in the form of India's Populist Choice. Little did we know that this would be only car to be rejected even without a TD! We checked it out at the showroom and felt it wasn’t offering anything great. My parents own an NHC and I'm well aware of the car’s drive and handling. But the biggest deal breaker for me was the low height in the ANHC. I frequently banged and scraped my head getting in and out. I'm all of 5’10’’ and felt claustrophobic inside the car. The whole package did not seem value-for-money as well because several key features were available only on the top-end version. I particularly disliked the look of it's interiors. This was a no-go. In hindsight, it was a wise decision. The bombardment of ANHCs in the last few months (since the price reduction) has made it a mass market sedan and I hate to be one amongst the crowd.

    The Dark Horse - Fiat Linea T-Jet
    As you might have noticed, Linea was not in my original list. Like most other Indians, I had heard horror stories of pathetic after sales service and over-priced spare parts. Add poor fuel efficiency to the mix and you obviously would not consider the car. However, I had also heard my girl praise the safety, handling and drive of her (ex) Palio many times. As luck would have it, we were passing by a Fiat showroom and just for the heck of it, we decided to check out the famed Punto.

    But once we entered and saw a Linea T-Jet we were blown away. It was a Sun Beam Beige color (exclusive to T-Jet) and had a dedicated showroom space to it. We sat in the car and I was mighty impressed by what I saw and more importantly, by what I 'felt'. It was oozing premium-ness from all possible corners. The salesman came over quickly and started explaining the features. Point after point, I was salivating at the prospect of owning this car. I promptly booked a test drive.

    What I loved most was the fact that T-Jet has its basics (engine, suspension, drive, safety features, braking) strongly in place. To my mind, these are it's USPs. All other features (Auto AC/Climate control, all leather interiors, steering remote control, large boot etc) are just bonus, nice-to-haves for this car. On the other hand, such features are exactly what are being pitched as USPs of the other three contenders! See the difference?

    (....to be contd.)
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  2. Carry on Mate..... Waiting for your report to finsh ... and do load it with lots of photos...

    Very well deatiled summarised report.....
  3. dj.nish

    dj.nish Superiore

    First impression – The look and feel

    The Linea has been appreciated for it's head-turning looks and road presence since it was launched. With T-Jet, Fiat has taken this aspect to the next level by introducing exclusive colors (e.g Bronzo Scuro and Sun Beam Biege). So naturally, the beauty and stance of this car is what immediately attracted me. Amongst its contenders, I really found Linea to be the most handsome and masculine. It has a premium overall exterior look and the double barrel headlamp design complements this well. The jet-propeller blade inspired 16-spoke alloy wheels are easily the most stunning factory alloys I have seen till date. And to top it all, T-Jet Plus comes with 205/55/R16 - same size that the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 come equipped with!. Also, all 5 wheels (including the spare wheel) are full sized alloys. So no cost cutting there!

    As I proceeded to sit inside, I realized that I did not have to slouch to get in. Ingress and egress was easy and comfortable and no head-banging at all. Once inside, I felt cocooned in security. I think it's the sheer weight that lends it the Fiat-specific vault-like feeling. The 3-stage (heavy) doors close with a very comforting and reassuring solid thud. Door locks are meaty and chunky and with a premium chrome finish. They also come with an “autoclose” function, which is by default set to activate at a speed of 20 kmph.

    I love the cockpit. It is minimalist in design yet complete in functionality. The instrumentation cluster has a retro look, complete with chrome-ringed dials & presents the perfect amount of information you need on the MID. The cockpit is adorned with a lovely and soothing orange backlighting. Interior lighting is powerful and customizable in various formats. A special note of mention to the well designed steering wheel. The thumb indents complete the experience of a natural grip.

    I have the 'Plus' variant, which means the all-leather interiors (leather wrapped steering wheel, gear knob and premium Italian leather seats) continue the plushness inside. I hate chrome or fake wood trim inside any car. Luckily, T-Jet has chrome accents in just the right measure and at the right places in the car, lending a very upmarket feel. Contrary to the belief, I in fact found this car to be excellent in ergonomics. Yes, it takes some time to find the ideal driving position but once I did, I can only praise the excellent back and lumbar support. I cannot comment on the rear bench as it is still unused by me. But people who have sat on it have no complaints.


    (Pics to follow after completion of the full report!)
  4. shams

    shams Esperto

    very nicely written so far!! waiting for more .. :)
  5. bna

    bna Novizio

    Go on mate. Eagerly waiting for the full report.Description is of top class.
  6. dj.nish

    dj.nish Superiore

    The Drive

    Without a doubt, the torquey engine and powerful drive have to be the USPs of Linea T-Jet. With 114 PS of power @ 5000 rpm and 207 Nm of torque @ 2200 rpm, this is designed to be an enthusiast's car. I wonder what Fiat engineers were smoking when they finalized the specs! This car comes with a turbo charged engine (the only petrol car under 15 lacs with a turbo!) which is highly refined and completely noiseless. With windows rolled up and the AC on, you would actually want to crank it up again – it's that silent!

    Turbo spools in early (at 1700 rpm, though I wish it could have been at 1400 rpm) and is fully spooled at 2200 rpm. I still remember the first drive in the test car. The moment I accelerated to 2200 rpm and zoomed off, the thrust of the turbo actually pushed me back in the seat!

    The engine is finely tuned to provide excellent torque and driveability throughout the rev band. So much so that I am able to cruise city traffic comfortably in 3rd gear. It can go as low as 30 km/h in this gear without stalling. Power is available all the way upto 5500 rpm. However, after that point, the engine struggles and it’s not a nice feeling to strain further. Also, you will notice a slight turbo lag below 1700 rpm.

    Braking is the other forte of T-Jet. With all four disc brakes, ABS and EBD, excellent braking is really an understatement. You can literally stop with a mere tap on the brakes. Good (and proactive) thinking by Fiat in this department. A car so fast and torquey definitely needs good brakes.

    Next comes the handling and control part. As expected of Fiat, T-Jet is rock steady even at the highest speed. This car quickly and effortlessly reaches high speeds (I have taken it to a max of 185 kmph without a sweat) and it’s sheer pleasure to drive this on an open stretch, especially the highways of Gujarat (National Expressway). Cornering (esp. at high speeds) is excellent and the car grips the road with no sign of swaying at all. There is literally zero body roll.

    Steering feedback is the best I have experienced in any Indian car. This car has a Hydraulic power steering unit which is perfectly calibrated. You feel connected with the wheels and engine at ALL times and at ALL speeds. I feel the steering adds a lot to the confidence aspect.

    Suspension is firm and accurately tuned. It’s a breeze driving on the pathetic Mumbai pot-holed roads despite the 16 inch wheels. The segment leading ground clearance of a mighty 170 mm ably complements in this department.

    Last but not the least, the close-to-heart factor of fuel efficiency for most Indians. People have always complained about the bad FE of Fiat cars. But I personally feel that 9.5-10.5 kmpl in Mumbai city traffic with 100% AC is not bad at all. After all, it is very difficult to drive this wonderful car in a sedate manner! On highways I have managed to get between 12-14 kmpl which again I feel is quite decent for a heavy car like this.

    Till date I have completed two highway trips in my T-Jet : Mumbai-Shirdi-Nashik (round trip of around 700 kms) and Mumbai-Ahmadabad-Dasada (Rann) (round trip of around 1500 kms). As expected, T-Jet behaved superb on the highway. NH3 to Nashik is fairly empty with offers some great curves. It was good fun to manuever the car on these turns. With the efficient AC and comfortable seats, even after 300 kms of almost non-stop driving, I arrived as fresh as I had left. But I feel the Ahmadabad trip was more memorable because that's where I got to test the limits of T-Jet's driving dynamics. The effortless snaking between trucks, overtaking, cornering and braking were highlights of that trip!

    (...to be contd.)

    (and pics shall follow in the last episode!)
    1 person likes this.
  7. Ravi

    Ravi Staff Member Janitor

    Grande Punto 1.3
    Excellent start dj.nish.:up

    Nice to read so much details you went to before finalizing a car. Also great that you have so much knowledge to appreciate so many different parameters.

    Keep it coming and one picture per post would look great.

    5-Stars from side.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  8. kr_vasudev

    kr_vasudev Superiore

    Congratulations and an Excellent ownership report.

    Once you complete first service the engine becomes much more smoother.

    Every drive and a TJet+ brings a big :)

    Happy driving and wish you many more miles ahead.
  9. dj.nish

    dj.nish Superiore

    The Likes and Dislikes

    What I love
    Apart from all of the above, there are certain special aspects of the T-Jet that I absolutely love! These have heightened my driving and ownership experience.
    • Air-conditioning and auto AC (including rear AC vents). Climate control, quick chill setting (literally freezes the cabin in 5 seconds!).
    • A hot of intuitively designed features e.g. windscreen wipe feature.
    • Fog lamps (both front and rear) are really powerful and have aided me aptly on highway drives.
    • Rear defogger for a quick cleaning up of mist.
    • Hydraulic and spacious boot – a very smart feature which adds a lot to the boot space by having the boot support hydraulic arms on the outside!
    • A very handy feature for a driver – the sunglass holder.
    • Central locking is rolling code based and the code changes with every lock/unlock. Engine immobiliser is built in too and the car will not start unless the original key is slotted into the ignition.
    • Typical Fiat crank protection is present in T-Jet too. If the engine stalls, you have to switch off the ignition and crank it back again. I guess this is the ‘starter protection’ feature they refer to.
    • Collapsible rear windscreen sun curtain – a very useful feature to protect the rear bench occupants and objects from the harsh sun. Also helps in quick cooling of the cabin.
    • Foldable and height-adjustable Arm rest with a storage space for cell-phone/coin/cards : While this is usually a hinderance during city drives, it is good for highway cruising. However, Fiat needs to improvise the design of the arm rest as it interferes with the gear changing and also it starts creaking/rattling after a few months.
    • There are two small LEDs located in the roof light cluster above the rear view mirror. They throw a soothing orange light on the gear lever at night. It looks very classy!
    • A feature I adore is the 'Complete system shutdown' once ignition key is removed. Although I’m not the forgetful types, but this feature is a welcome addition, just in case you forgot to switch off the fog lamps/interior lights etc.
    • Follow me home lights (which can be timed in steps of 30 sec-120 secs), interior lighting which can be timed and fades out slowly (Fiat calls it ‘theater lighting’), premium fabric lined roof, large ORVMs etc.
    • Desmodronic Foldable key with boot release button (does not require you to unlock the whole car if you just want to open the boot).
    • No separate buttons or levers to lock/unlock the doors. Pushing the driver/co-driver side lever inwards locks doors and pulling it outwards (in a two-stage process) unlocks and opens doors. However, I wish they had restricted this feature ONLY for the driver side door lock.
    • Vanity mirrors behind sun-visors on both sides with auto-on surrounding lights .
    • Steering-mounted audio & phone controls.
    • Height-adjustable driver seat.
    • Boot opener on the dash (vs lever next to the fuel lid opener, which I dislike in other cars).
    • 15,000 kms long service intervals takes care of the dreaded Fiat after sales visits.
    • Fire Prevention System inbuilt. In the event of a crash, fuel supply is cut off thereby preventing accidental fire.
    • Selenia (Petronas) fully synthetic engine oil and Paraflu coolant are factory filled (same as Alfa Romeo!).

    What I dont
    Yes, despite writing paens for the T-Jet, there are definitely some downers to the experience and I wish Fiat could have identifed/rectified these beforehand. But then, perfection is what we all strive for and I'm sure Fiat will take steps to improve.
    • Clutch pedal has a long travel and took me some time to get used to.
    • Rubbery gear shift : as if the plain jane gear knob was not enough, they gave a clunky shift as well! Not suited to a nice drive like this.
    • Interior fit and finish (especially of plastic components) could be better, especially a car of this segment.
    • OEM stereo and speakers are pathetic. However, that’s not much of a concern as I have already upgraded to aftermarket ICE.
    • Flap type and chrome finished door handles. This car definitely deserves ‘pull type’ body colored door handles.
    • Power window switches are quite far set out. It takes quite a lot of time to get accustomed to them (I still have not!).
    • Lack of storage space/cubby holes, not even for a water bottle! This has me pissed off many times. At the moment, my only alternative is to carry smaller sized bottles.
    • I’m used to having a large and comfortably accessible dead pedal (like Hyundai Getz). The T-Jet lacks severely here. Though there is a dead pedal but its location makes it practically useless.
    • Turning radius is huge and I frequently find myself troubled to take short u-turns in Mumbai. But to be fair to T-Jet, it is VERY long (as long as the Innova!).
    • Idling sound on the outside is huge. I sometimes got scared hearing the fan if I roll down the windows!
    • The FE indicator on the MID, especially Distance-to-Empty is very misleading. It has got me panicked many times.
    • There is a major blind spot in the A-pillar and I still have not gotten used to it.

    Mods done
    For a car that is so well kitted out, there is hardly any modification/addition that one needs to do. I have just got some necessities installed such as:
    • Changed tires to Michelin Primacy LC 205/55/16 upon delivery
    • 3M sunfilm (CS 50 for sides and rear and CR70 for the front windscreen)
    • Rear parking sensors (offered free by the dealer. However I was duped here as I was told it will be Fiat authorised accessory, which is Autocop, but actually installed some Chinese brand. I discovered it much later and din't find it worthy to pick up a fight, as it is not an oft-used accesssory).
    • Complete ICE upgrade (detailed out in another thread)
    • I intend to put 3D Kagu Mats and rear spoiler (OE) soon
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  10. abk1980

    abk1980 Amatore

    That's an excellent write-up DJ!

    Something is wrong here. This problem is there with the Vento's armrest; in Linea the armrest is at a perfect height so that you can change gears while resting your arm on it.
    Try this: Just below the lever used to access the space within the armrest, there is another bigger lever. When you lower the armrest, pull this lever - the armrest will go a few inches further and end up completely flat and in-line with the gear knob. I always keep it lowered and I have used my car almost exclusively within the city.

    Regarding the idling sound, I think its audible only when the engine becomes a bit hot and the engine fan starts - that fan is really loud!

    On the A-pillar, even I feel it creates a bit of a blind spot. But maybe that is important as part of the tank-like built.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012

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