So, the plot thickens.
Today I got hold of a 1750 TBi and had a test drive. Interesting. You can really tell that the nose is lighter - turn in was definitely sharper, there was much less understeer, and generally it felt livelier. The manual gearbox was lovely - very precise and almost impossible to stall in first (which will help the wife).
So handling-wise I marginally prefer the petrol/manual combo over the still great diesel/auto that I tried last week. However......my test drive gave me no chance to see how well the TBi copes with mid-range overtaking acceleration. This is something I know the 2.4 diesel is particularly good at. There was one point where I floored the TBi in a high gear and not a lot happened, which concerns me. Can any TBi-ers tell me what its like if you pull out for a cheeky overtake and find you're not on the boost?