General Motors has executed a plan to increase their market share in India. They are targeting the Indian Youth by launching attractive, bold and masculine looking cars from their 300 series platform. First was the Chevrolet Cruze on the J300 platform, then followed by the Chevrolet Beat on the M300 platform. We tested the Chevrolet Cruze and came back highly impressed, so much so that I think it is the pick of the cars amongst its competitors.
The Beat was officially launched at the Auto Expo 2010 in Delhi (though we had spied it a few months before that). It will be the replacement for the Spark in most other countries, but in India, with Chevrolet looking to strengthen its position and increase its overall size, the Beat will co-exist with the Spark and compete together for two different market segments. The Beat is one car that is quite unique in design and few would confuse it with any other car in the Indian market. Uniquely designed with Sharp lines and Priced aggressively with the base version starting from Rs. 3.62/- lac going up to Rs. 4.75/- lac for the top of the line LT + with ABS, Airbags and Alloy Wheels there were little doubts that the car would do well. How well only time would tell. So does the Beat leave the same lasting impressions that the Cruze did? We take the top of the line Beat LT + to find out.
First impression of the Beat is that it has quite a futuristic look. The standard Split Front Grill and striking Elongated Headlights make the front end quite attractive. The Headlight Assembly houses the Turn Indicators, a Single Barrel Headlight and Parking Lights. Front Fog Lamps with Chrome Surrounds look chic and come as standard on the LT variant. The Bonnet, instead of continuing to slope downwards, actually rises upwards from the end of the windscreen and adds some amount of aggression to the front.
The sharply rising waistline and small Rear Glass give it a coupe like appearance. The fact that the rear door handles are well integrated or even disguised into the ‘C’ Pillar adds to this effect. On many instances, my friends actually kept waiting for the door to be opened from the inside as they did not realize that the door could be opened from the outside too. Neat! And as mentioned earlier, when we had initially spied the White Beat in Mahableshwar, even we at first glance didn’t see the rear door handle hidden in the ‘C’ Pillar.
The Circular Twin Tail Lights look cool and the Top-of-the-Line LT variant gets Rear Wash and Wipe along with a Rear Defogger and a well integrated Rear Spoiler. The Silver Roof Rails look sporty and raise the overall look of the car. The Beat logo along with the trim usually appears on the opposite side to the Chevrolet Badge at the rear. However it was absent in our press car.
The Internally Adjustable OVRM’s are large enough to easily cover 2 lanes. The low fuel filler ensures that the nozzle at the petrol pump can easily reach the opening even if you have parked a bit little far away, or if the pump is located on the other side.
The 7 spoke 14” Alloys look very attractive, however the same cannot be said for the puny 155 section tyres, which also offer little grip (more on that in the Ride and Handling section).
The Spare wheel is a 14” Pressed Steel wheel (like the ones we saw earlier on the Sumo Grande MK II) and can easily pass off as an alloy wheel. Looks so much better than the standard ones we see.
The Boot can be opened either via the key or the remote boot release lever. No knob to directly open the boot while standing at the back. The boot is one area where the Beat takes a ‘Beat-ing’ from its competitors. Barring the A-Star, the 170 litre boot is the smallest in its class and can barely accommodate a couple of bags at most, and only if they are small bags. Else you have to remove the rear parcel tray and keep the bags upright. GM has obviously decided to prioritize leg room over boot space. The high loading lip makes it quite difficult to get the bags in and out and the paint will no doubt get scratched in no time.
Step inside and the futuristic experience continues. The twin cockpit design, which according to Chevrolet enhances the feeling of safety, stands out. But before all else, the first thing that catches the eye is that the speedometer is not in the regular place. Instead what you see is a motorcycle type unit placed upon the Steering Column. The left dial is the standard Speedometer. Next to the Speedometer is the Information Box. It does take a bit of getting used to, to find what you are looking for at the first instance. The clock takes the most prominent spot. Below it is the Odometer (which can be swapped for two Trip meters), below which is the digital Fuel meter. On the Left Hand you find the Tachometer, which is a little hard to read at higher RPM’s due to the fact that it is bigger at the bottom and gets quite small towards the upper end of the Rev Counter. The Clock and Trip meters can be adjusted/ swapped via two buttons at the top of the unit. The blue backlighting adds a touch of class. All in all, it’s unique and really Cool.
I absolutely loved the ‘V’ Blue Backlight Centre console. On top is the CD Player with Aux-In and a mini-USB input. Why Chevy would opt for the mini USB instead of the regular USB slot I just cannot comprehend. We walk into the car, Pen Drive in hand, only to find that it wouldn’t fit in directly. No cable was provided with which we could attach the Pen Drive so we just let it be. GM have also unfortunately gone wrong where the system is concerned. The voice is quite flat and un-inspiring across the entire volume range. The Volume knob though feels lovely to use and we used to change the volume regularly just for the fun of it. You just have to feel it to see what I mean.
Below the Stereo is the Climate Control Air Conditioning Unit. The Display shows the Temperature Set, Airflow Circulation, Airflow Direction Mode and Blower Speed adjustment. 8 Blower speeds mean that you can set the intensity of airflow exactly to your liking. Below the Display are the knobs with which you can adjust the settings. The Left knob controls Blower Speed and the Integrated Button Sets the Automatic mode of the AC on/ off. The Centre knob controls Airflow Direction mode and its button operates the Rear Window Defogger. The Right knob adjusts the Temperature and its button enables you to switch the AC On/ Off. Two buttons above the 3 Knobs control the Airflow Circulation and the Front Windscreen Defogger. The Aircon unit chills the cabin in no time with the Centre Vents capable enough of throwing a blast of cool air at the rear passengers. The Circular Side Vents means you can adjust the airflow in any direction that suits you and you can completely close them too.
The Large, 3 Spoke Steering Wheel (with Brushed aluminum finish) feels great to hold and use. Thumb recesses are provided in the 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock position. The Steering Column can also be adjusted for height. The Indicator Stalks are correctly positioned for right hand drive vehicles with the Left Hand stalk operating the Wipers and the Right Hand stalk operating the Lane Change Indicators and the Light Switch. The stalks need to be moved a fair amount to operate, however their Quality is quite good.
The headlight leveler is placed on the Dashboard to the right of the Steering Column. No Multi speed Intermediate is provided even on the High End Variant and the Anti Drip wiping worked a little too quickly, with the extra stroke coming in 2 seconds as opposed to the regular 5 seconds. No Lane Change Indicators on any Variant either. The Seat Belt not worn sign flashes on the Speedometer Unit, however no buzzer is provided. Doors also do not autolock but have to be manually locked/ unlocked every time.
Overall Quality and Fit and Finish is right up there. The Dashboard is slightly hard to the touch, yet does not look cheap by any standard. The rubber lining and materials used are all of high quality. No unusual or inconsistent panel gaps were found any where. In fact nothing looks like it is actually built to reduce costs - a major improvement over the Cruze. The Glossy Black inserts add to the overall rich look.
Doors do require a firm push to shut. Let them go slightly early or softly and they'll remain ajar. Another feature is that the front Door locks cannot be closed while the door is open. While this makes sure you never accidently lock the doors while the keys are inside, it does mean that you also always need the keys to close them. The Beat does have Central Locking but no Keyless Entry on any variant.
Plenty of Storage has been provided. There is an adequately sized Glove Box along with quite a handy Storage below the Centre Console for a lot of CDs. The two cup holders can easily hold 500ml bottles and the Square space in front of them can probably hold a mobile phone of any size. 3 Storage Areas are provided in each of the Front Doors, one being large enough to hold a 1 Litre Bottle. A small area near the headlight leveler for loose change, another one just above the Glovebox and one wasted unit above the Centre Console. I didn't dare put anything there as I was sure it would fly out at the first opportunity. We'd have preferred the MID and outside temperature to be displayed there, just like in the Manza. There is also the Sun Glass Holder which is located above the Drivers Head.
Front Seats are very comfortable though I'd have preferred some more under-thigh support. Long non-stop drives do not fatigue you at all. Initially the sides to tend to brush the shoulders, however you get used to them with time and the seat literally hugs you. Feels like a Rally Car seat, without the 4 point seat belt. Unfortunately the car does not perform like one, which of course it really is not designed to do. Legroom is decent although your knee does hit the Centre console.
One area of concern is the high set dash with the low seats. Short drivers are going to have a lot of problem here. Passengers on the front seat regularly confirmed if I could see clearly upfront, as they were surely having problems themselves. No Driver seat Height Adjust is provided either and there are plenty of blind spots around the car, especially at the front Left Hand Side. This is probably the reason the paint on the car was chipped from all 4 sides when we took the car. Parallel Parking the car is also quite a task, unless you are really good at it. My short friend – an experienced driver - took a short round of our Housing Colony and returned immediately stating he couldn't get proper judgment of the front.
Rear seats, with 60:40 splits, are comfortable and can seat 2 comfortably. A 3 rd person does make it quite tight. Legroom, though not amazing, is quite decent. The tiny rear glass, thanks to the rear door handle being incorporated in the 'C' Pillar, does restrict vision though it’s not all that bad. Headroom is surprisingly good with 2” of clear headroom despite having a 6 footer at the back.Vanity Mirror is provided on the Passenger Side.
NVH levels are surprisingly low. At idle and low revs, you can barely hear the engine. We were at a Drive-IN with the music at a very low level and we could not hear a word the attendant was saying, though he did try screaming too. And he couldn't hear us either till we finally rolled down the windows Superb.
Ridewise, I’d give the Beat 4.5 Stars out of 5. I still cannot forget the ride quality of the Chevrolet Cruze, bad roads, speed breakers were taken as if they didn’t exist at all. The Beat too is nearly there. Though not as plush as the Cruze, bad roads don’t tend to upset the occupants nor throw you off your seats. Yes, the Beat does not like sharp road depressions too much but for a majority of road conditions, the Beat will offer a very comfortable ride to its occupants and I’m sure an upgrade to better rubber will increase this further. This is one area that is a must in any car that I am going to own.
Coming to the handling part, we’re back to the puny tyres. The chassis is well set up, just as in the Cruze, and can take fast corners with ease. The only hindrance here are the tyres, which start to squeak, loose grip and makes the car understeer easily. The tyres just don’t do justice to the excellent chassis set up. Hence a tyre change to a grippier, slightly larger sized tyres is not merely advisable, but a must here. Body roll too is evident and can deter you a bit from keeping your speed up in the corners.
The Power Steering though not as light as the Micra or quick as in the Figo, is nicely weighted at most speeds. However it feels dead and offers no feedback at all. It feels more like playing a car game on a Video Gaming Console.
With a wheelbase of 2375mm the Beat is larger than the Ritz, however slightly smaller than the i10. No issue with the 165mm of ground clearance. In the 2,000 KM of mixed city and highway driving (nearly 50-50%) the car did not bottom out on anything.
The Beat has twin disc brakes up front and drum brakes at the back. The LT also has ABS with EBD, which ensured that the car came to a halt in a straight line from 80-0 KMPH in 2.56 seconds and in 31 Metres. There is a fair bit of Pedal travel on the brakes and this takes some getting used to. Twin Airbags in the LT + variant will enhance occupant safety. The Chevrolet Beat is powered by a 4 cylinder, 16 Valve, 1.2 litre engine which produces 80.5 PS of Power @ 6200 RPM and 108 NM of Torque @ 4400 RPM. Chevrolet has opted for the 4 cylinder engine as opposed to the 3 cylinder unit which most other manufacturers seem to be going in for.
The refinement of the 4 pot engine is remarkable. You can barely hear it at idle, even if you are standing outside the car. There were a couple of times I nearly cranked the ignition, but just stopped in time on seeing that the Tachometer was showing 900 RPM. At low revs the car is silent and smooth. Step on the gas and things start to change. Pass 3500 RPM and the engine noise gets evident. At about 5000 RPM it is loud and starts to vibrate, and that’s when most will either back off or shift to a higher gear. Should you have the courage to continue, it will rev up to a maximum of 6000 RPM, with a lot of screaming and vibration, which makes it evident that the car is not really happy being pushed to its limits. However, keep her within 3000 RPM with frequent gear shifts and the car feels very pleasurable to drive.
On many occasions, we got the feeling that the car was low on torque too. At full load the car seems to get sluggish. On a trip to Lavasa with four on board, a lot of ghat sections had to be taken in 1 st Gear as the car would just not pull in 2 nd.
Gear throws are long and though a bit rubbery they slot into the correct gear properly at the first attempt. The short 2 nd also means you need to constantly shift into 1 st during Bumper-to-Bumper traffic.
Weight is another issue. At 965 Kgs it is 65 kgs lighter than the Ritz but 105 kgs heavier than the i10 and 35 Kgs heavier than the Micra. The Power to Weight Ratio of the Beat is 83 PS/ tonne which is similar to 83 PS/ tonne for the Ritz, 93 PS/ tonne for the i10 and 82 PS/ tonne for the Micra. The lowest in the category is the Figo which produces just 66 PS/ tonne.
The 4 cylinder unit means it falls short where mileage is concerned. During the Lavasa trip (mainly Ghat and winding roads) with the Aircon working full time, we managed to get just over 8 kmpl. The same figure was obtained during our performance testing. On the highways we got close to 16 kmpl. The total average for the entire 2000 km drive (Aircon ON at all times barring the performance tests) was 12.5 kmpl. A main contributing fact to this could be our ‘Foot Heavy’, Pedal to the Metal style of driving. We checked the ARAI results and they showed 18.6 kmpl. So we decided to test the mileage by driving steadily at around 80kmph in 5 th Gear with judicial gear shifting and voila, the 18.2 kmpl that we got in the city was quite close to the official 18.6 kmpl figure.
|Ground Clearance (mm)||165|
|Kerb Weight (kgs)||965|
|Power (PS@ RPM)||80.5|
|Tyres||155 / 70 R 14|
|Average fuel efficiency||18.6|
|Ex-Showroom Price (Pune)||4.14 Lac|
|Features||1.2 PS||1.2 LS||1.2 LT|
|Rear Wipe & Wash + Defogger||No||No||Yes|
|Body Coloured Door Handles / Mirrors||No||No||Yes|
|Internally Adjustable OVRM’s||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated Audio system||No||No||Yes|
|60 : 40 Split Rear Seats||No||Yes||Yes|
|Rear Power Windows||No||No||Yes|
|Sun glass Holder||No||No||Yes|
|Passenger Vanity Mirror||No||Yes||Yes|
|Electric Power Steering||No||Yes||Yes|
|Steering Tilt Adjustment||No||No||Yes|
|Central Door Lock||No||Yes||Yes|
|Remote Keyless Entry||No||No||No|
|Front Passenger Airbags||No||No||Optional|
|ABS + EBD + BA||No||No||Optional|
|Front Fog Lamps||No||No||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||1.2 LT||Fire Active||Mode||Duratech||Era|
|Rear wind shield washer||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Average fuel efficiency||18.6||16||16||11||18|
|Ex showroom Price Mumbai||4.14||4.19||7.7||6.23||3.8|
The Beat is not the swiftest of cars around but performs well within its limits. At low revs it is a very refined unit. Interiors and Fit and Finish as discussed earlier are very good. There are a few drawbacks like the Tyres and the Stereo, but they can all be sorted quite easily. The car looks pretty good and is quite unique too. Chevrolet also provides a 3 year & 100,000 kms Warranty/ Maintenance package which will take care of cost of ownership issues. Yes I’d have liked some more boot space and a bit more economy, but at the end what matters is whether you are happy owning the car and I can say without a doubt that the Beat got a smile to my face every time I was in the Driver’s Seat. That is one area which not many cars will be able to ‘Beat’.