Hi Folks, I am cross-posting this review on TeamFiat. I had already posted this on another forum. But I think it is here on Team Fiat where I think I really found what I was looking for. Guys who love Fiat cars and understand them. So a much-awaited review here. Sneak preview Pros 1) Handling, Handling, and Handling. 2) Turbo whine. You can hear it even at 1100 rpm. I will often switch off the car radio just to listen the music of the turbo whine!! 3) Excellent pickup in the turbo band. 4) Brakes are super. They are so good that you risk the chance of being rear-ended! 5) Safety (probably should be point #1). Apart from ABS with EBD, dual airbags for front, all 4 disc brakes, it comes with Fire cut-off switch. In case of a crash, the fuel gets cut off, the engine shuts off. Once the fuel shuts off, the doors unlock automatically and the cabin light will light up to facilitate safe exit. Now that is some reassuring safety feature. 6) Magic ride quality. Unsurpassed in any car I have driven so far. Cons 1) What car am I going to replace it with next?? :confused 2) Huge turning radius. You need to plan it well. An Alto will often squeeze me on my right because I have to leave a huge amount of space to my right when making those U-turns. 3) Service might be a problem. So far the Tata service center has helped me out well. I just took the car for the 6-month free check-up (not service, service is every 15,000 kms) and they did a good job. I am hoping they come up with camps or a workshop for Siliguri soon. There are quite a number of Lineas and Puntos in this area of the country. In fact on some days I see more <st1:stockticker>FIA</st1:stockticker>T cars than Hondas! 4) Ground clearance is a bit too little for the roads that I sometimes drive in (semi-urban, neglected-by-the-government roads). So far, no damage, only soft soil scraped. 5) Fit and finish, especially of the interiors is not top notch. I see a lot of room for improvement here. Prologue: "I love cars. I mean no offence to owners of other cars in this review. I am no expert in narration or photography. This review if of the 2011 Fiat Linea T-Jet Plus. Or I will just call it the T-Jet Plus (Plus is the variant with Italian leather seats and 16 incher alloys). Fiat is scheduled to launch the 2013 T-Jet in two variants, Dynamic and Emotion. The Emotion should replace the T-Jet Plus. Bouquets and brick-bats may please follow." For those of who love westerns, I think one of the best duels captured on film would be the one between Johny Ringo and Doc Holiday. I wonder how many of you have seen the movie Tombstone (1993). Well Johnny Ringo was supposed to be a fast one, quick on the drawn and shoot - until his duel with Doc Holiday. Johnny has barely pulled out his gun - by which time Doc has shot him and put his back his gun in the hostler - absolutely classic. For the uninitiated, a small preview http://Doc Holliday vs. Johnny Ringo - YouTube And in that corny way, I must say best describes the T-Jet. On the highway. There is that slow truck coming from the opposite direction. And the menacing Scorpio behind it, he wants to overtake. Lines up. But before he has flashed his headlights, I am already there in the slot. It is too late. Ringo, you are not just fast enough. Or when I am on an open stretch. There is one of those "fast" blue bikes with fat rubber just next to me. Again, a slow-moving truck to overtake. I downshift and hit the gas. The revs pull the T-Jet effortless and she grips the road as if she always belonged there. The world around seems to pause for a blissful moment. Overtaking maneuver over, I let go off the foot off the pedal. Revs drops. You can hear Glen Campbell over the stereo once again. It was as if nothing happened. She is driving like an old dignified lady. The bike catches up after a while. This guy is furious. He shows me the finger; he thinks I am "racing" him (all I was doing was overtaking a slow truck). Oh! egos! The dignified lady and I am smiling. We don't retort - we are dignified. Circa August 2012. I decided to sell of my Baleno. No specific reason. Just that she was aging a bit fast than I would have liked. I had bought her pre-owned. In fact, she was lying in the yard with the financers, dust having enveloped her silver body. The previous owner had failed to pay his bit. I found the right guy to sort out the paperwork. And brought her home. And brought her back to life. New batteries. New rubber. And an occasional heavy foot. She would reward me well. Driver and car would be one driving down to Sevoke at 7 p.m. It was the fun car. The weekend car. Then parts became difficult to come by. On one occasion a Bolero reversed into my front grill and I was never able to find a replacement. So I got it fixed and painted the grill black. I also felt I needed a safer car. Airbags and ABS she had none. And so the decision was made to let her go. I put up an advert in Carwale and and another forum. Soon queries started coming in. Everyone would love the car, but no one would buy it - it was frustrating. Meanwhile I decided to look up the next prospective cars. My requirements 1) Replace the Baleno. You know it is a difficult thing to do the moment you decide to let this one go. 2) My running is not more than 600 kms per month plus/minus 10%. A petrol would do the job fine. But everybody told me this is the age of diesels and that there were no good petrol cars any more. They were to be proved wrong. Most of my running in the new car would be urban/semi-urban, open stretches. I have the Wagon R for city duty. 3) The car would be used for stress-busting drives as I like to call them. Take her for a spin at the end of a long day. The Usual Suspects Renault Duster. This was one of the first cars I got to check out. I went to the showroom one rainy morning to discover that they had just got the car the day before. You could feel the excitement among the staff there while they reversed the car to the parking lot so that I could take a closer look. I was not able to take a test drive then, but only after a month or so. Meanwhile, I made sure I took a good look all over. This car was different. Felt different. Spacious. But in some way it felt very familiar. I spent time sitting at the wheel and then at the back. Looked around and then I realized it looked so very Spartan. Just like my Wagon R and so the familiarity! In fact, my driver asked me why on earth I would pay so much for a car that looked so uninteresting, so much like the Wagon R (he swore the Wagon R looked better!). I was able to test drive the vehicle a few weeks later on an extremely rainy day over a bad patch of road. The car behaved well. Bumps were swallowed, not too much body roll. The high(er) seating position helped visibility. It is probably a sensible car to buy for a person who lives in these parts - where the roads are bad, especially if you are driving up the hills where the road can really be bad in some places. But for one thing. It was boring. No offence again to any owners of the Duster. It is a fine machine for what it is built to be. But coming from a Baleno, this was a dud. No testosterone. No estrogen either. It was a damp squib. The experience only made damper by the incessant North Bengal rain. Despite all that, I still kept the car shortlisted. Spartan for what you were paying for it. But still shortlisted. Skoda Rapid: On the Indian automobile forums, you will come across Skoda horror stories. And fan boys. But I love cars and so when I was willing to spend up to a million and possibly a bit more, I wanted to see the cars my money would buy. The Skoda and VW showrooms are just side by side at City Centre, Siliguri (or at least they were when I went to for a look-see; Skoda has since moved shop). So when you went to one shop, all the sales people from the other showroom would be staring at you from the next window. And vice versa. It is quite a feeling. You are a bit embarrassed, but I think they are more so than you are. You feel important, but then you are not sure if it is correct to feel that way. But the car is still to be looked at. And test driven. From what I gathered on the forums, for both the Rapid and the Vento, you should be looking at diesels. So diesel it was. I have never liked diesel clatter. Say what you will, but these are noisy automobiles. Outside as well as inside. The first test drive was short like the usually are. You are quite not sure what to make of it. It felt okay ...then it felt good for a moment. Then it felt mediocre again. Something was quite not right. I wondered if it was the talkative sales lady. Or the diesel clatter. Not quite sure. VW Vento Petrol Auto. Meanwhile a week or so elapsed and I had a look at the Vento as well. At first, as I wanted a petrol, they offered me an auto tranny for test drive. This belonged to the owner of the showroom. The car was well maintained and spotless. As soon as I hit the road, I stopped. And put it to Sports mode. Or whatever the mode is called - the one which makes the car seem to go faster. This was a solid car. Looked mature. Drove mature. Even the sales lady looked like a proper lady with her stiff-collared shirt et al. I could visualize myself driving this after 20 years. Yes , that would be me! VW Vento Diesel Now that the formalities of driving the petrol was over, I got hold of the diesel. Everyone says if you want to drive a Vento, it should be the diesel. So a Diesel it would be. This one picked up pace a bit quicker, albeit with a lot of din and clatter. Diesel Clatter. I would probably get used to it. Otherwise, it felt just the same like its petrol brother. These were mature dudes. The German kind. I was not sure I would fit into one of these. For a while, it even felt like a car from a 70s German movie. Oh and it was a brand new showroom-ready deep blue Vento Diesel I got to drive. I know showrooms should not be giving away brand new cars for test drives. But that is what they did. As I drove back to the VW showroom, the Skoda salesmen people were staring from the adjacent window. I had deceived them. I had broken the trust and was driving away in a brand new Vento. They were disappointed - but later relieved to see me walk away empty handed. Anecdote at the VW showroom: I remember the day at the showroom with that stiff-collared sales lady at VW. You will admit VWs are expensive - for what they have on offer. So for my budget, she was pushing something they called the IPL edition. "Sir, you get leatherette seats; it is just like leather. And a music system as well." "Madam, I don't need a music system. I would rather have a fancy system from aftermarket. And it is not 'like' leather. I like leather - one that is made from skin and hide. I like the real thing." (I was actually pinching at my skin to tell her what skin was! LOL!) "No, sir this is Kenwood (I think she said Kenwood). Far better than after-market products. Leatherette is better than leather sir." I take a look. This is the average Joe (referring to the radio) sitting on the dash. "I look towards the Highline. Can't I get that fancy radio?" (It has most of what I need, automatic climate control - you can't possibly sell a knob-filled dash to someone who has just stepped out of a Baleno with ACC, can you? It also has a fancy looking radio.) "Of course, sir. But you have to buy the highline for it. It is costly, so you may please go for the IPL Edition." I could not get what the Vento could have to do with IPL. I looked at some stickers on the car. "Can I get it removed?" "Why will you want to remove this sir, this is IPL Edition." "I am sure it is, madam." I walk away. Damn. Why would I want a car with anything to do with cricket; I failed to understand. Of course, in the end, after test driving the T-Jet, I realized that the German car was just plain boring! :evilsmile Skoda Rapid Redux. Relieved to learn that I had not bought the Vento, the Skoda sales lady approached me. I said I was not quite decided about the Rapid. I wanted a more extensive drive. So they promised to bring the car for a long 16 x 2 = 32 km drive. Wide open road. That is plenty of road for torque. So another dull day at the office. It is the time between afternoon and before evening is setting in. The clouds are beginning to gather. Just then I get a call from the Skoda sales lady that they have come with the Rapid to my doorstep. I am thrilled. I need to get behind that wheel for this long test drive. In my mind, I am almost certain I will buy the car - once I am satisfied with this longer test drive. I take the car towards Sevoke - there is a very nice stretch of straight open road before you hit the hills. Once we are past the army camp, I let the car open up. It starts raining almost simultaneously. Heavy Rain. It is raining cats and dogs in a while. The seating position feels a bit weird. It almost feels I am sitting in a smallish SUV, a big high up. Not sure what is wrong, I pull over at the side of the road, adjust the seating, and restart. The seating still feels a tad weird. We are making good speed; this car can go fast. Then all of a sudden, the sales lady asked me to pull over which I do. Then she rolls down the window. Puts her head out. And pukes! That was the end of the Rapid Story! I can smell all the diesel fumes once the windows are open. I don't feel like going for the Rapid now. All I think of is puke! Honda City: It is customary to check out the Honda City, isn't it? It checks almost all the check boxes for a petrol car, free-revving engine, tried and tested, better still with sun roof and leather seats. That is what I get to see at the dealer's. And I am impressed enough to sign at the dotted line. Puny wheels are are no-no, but that can be sorted out later. The test drive is good. I floor it, till almost the redline. Good. Nice small steering. A big light, but that is going to be boon in traffic. I short list this car. Even though it is some dated, I kind of like it. Fiat Linea T-Jet: I will be frank with you guys. I had never considered it. I had read GTO's extensive review. Felt good to read, but never thought about it. Then I just thought, I should go and take a look. After all, the Tata-Fiat showroom is just next to where I live. There is a humongous Aria parked there besides a bright-yellow Nano. We are asked to sit on a sofa just behind the Nano. And once you sit there, nobody can see you. There is no fan, no AC. No one brings water either. For a moment you wonder if you are in a Tata Showroom or a sarkari office. So I sit there and all I can see is the Nano doors. I get impatient after a while. I want to see the T-Jet. The lady at the desk is not sure what I am talking about. She asks "Petrol Linea, sir? Sir, the Fire engine one, bery good?'" She points to the brochure. I say "No, No. I want to see the Linea T-Jet. She says there is no such model. "Wait, why don't you speak to the territorial manager." So she makes a call to him (he is apparently in Kolkata) and I get to speak to him. He understands what I want. And he then speaks to the lady. Apparently, they have a T-Jet somewhere, a test drive vehicle. I am asked to wait for a while. 10 minutes. It is 30 minutes in the end of it all. Then a guy who looks like a driver comes in and says he has got the car. "Sir, tel khatam ho gaya tha.". Good. There is light blue car he has brought. Nothing like what I would like to buy. Leather seats, yes, but dirty. They look almost grey. It is a test drive vehicle, so I think this must be abused and stuff. The car feels big. And feels like a vault. Yes, exactly what GTO wrote about. And in the narrow road, I am suddenly aware of this car being long. I am even a bit afraid I might bang it up. I have driven long cars, the Sonata, and this one for some reason feels very very long. It is a short drive. Then after a while I hit 1500 rpm or so and she transforms, pulls away with ease. Then I get go off the foot, and she eases again. The heavy steering feels good. And solid. The big tires are gripping the road well. Handling is oddly precise. Of all the cars I had test driven, this makes you feel the car, the surface, you can feel you are driving. I suddenly realize this car is in a different league. These guys have made the car with a lot of thought. I don't like the way the front of the car looks. To me, looks like an old lady. My better half says the car looks beautiful. After a few days I visit the showroom again. The same one where they make you sit behind a Nano. They have now put the T-Jet on display there. I still don't like how it looks (from the front). I am perhaps conservative. The lady still says it looks beautiful. And looks better on the roads (in retrospect, I think she was correct; this car does look better on the roads). I start looking for Lineas on the road. That evening on the stress-busting drive in the Baleno, I see a white one speeding ahead. It is a Multijet. Suddenly the cars look stylish to me; what have I been missing? Not the Linea commercials on TV. They looked good. And sounded even better! I start convincing myself I could go for this car instead. Yes, there could be service problems. And is not a new model. A 2011 model, but cash discount of 1.15 lac, exchange bonus of 1 lac, free insurance. And a turbo-charged petrol! My driving is limited so a petrol makes sense (I will be frank; you don't buy the T-jet for the mileage). And none of the cars I have driven drives like this one. Hey even the step-ney is an alloy one! (compared to those German breeds where they are giving you 4 alloys; ' sorry saar, VW only gives steel as step-ney; you don't need alloy in step-ney." I also read about the race-ready spark plugs (no big deal, I think) and race ready pistons (this sounds good). I also quite like Blue-and-Me. True, the novelty would wear away fast. But every now and then, some friend asks me to show them my car. I am telling them about the engine and the turbo, and the grip and handling. And they are not getting me. So I press the "windows" button and say "settings." She replies "settings" They are impressed! The non-petrol head friends!"