Having survived and emerged out of the global recession, General Motors in India is a changed entity.
Gone are the days when it merely wanted to be present, dishing out products that would never capture the market.
The first evidence of this change was the Cruze, which with its irresistible value for money proposition (never GM’s strength) is now challenging the likes of Civic, Corolla and Laura.
Following up GM’s third attempt at cracking the small car segment with the Beat. Can it beat the living daylights out of the Marutis and the Hyundais? We find out.
In terms of styling, the Beat takes up where the Cruze left off. After the Swift, this is one of the most radical looking cars to have entered the Indian market.
The raised bonnet, pronounced grille and large headlamps make the car seem larger than it is. In fact, at the front, there is so much meat on the car that it does not even look like a hatckback.
Another distinguishing feature of the car is the unusual, almost indecipherable, positioning of the rear door handles. Placed right next to the rear windows and not below, as in a traditional car, these would take some getting used to. You can decide for yourself but we actually liked this innovation.
The Beat’s interiors are as stylish as its exteriors, with quite a few surprises thrown in. The first to grab your attention is the unusual mobike-like instrument panel.
A large speedometer is flanked by an LCD that displays a variety of information — from trip readings to fuel levels. All of it in a neat package that is directly attached to the adjustable steering (provided only in the top-end model).
The lack of a hood for the cluster makes the car look neat and spacious. The dashboard itself is neatly packaged with free flowing lines embossing the integrated sound system.
Leg space both at the front and the rear is more than adequate but boot space leaves a lot to be desired, and you may have problems fitting in even a large size strolley into the boot.
The seats, however, are fully foldable and the floor is flat, allowing loads of space if the rear seats are folded down. These were the first signs to us that the Beat, like Maruti’s A star, is essentially designed as a city car. More proof of it was to follow.
Engine & powertrain
The Beat is powered by a 1.2-litre gasoline engine that pumps out a decent 80 bhp. On paper, the car is less powerful than the Ritz and the Swift but comparable to the i10.
Behind the wheel and on the road, the car is quick to get off the blocks thanks to adequate low-end torque. But one needs to keep working through the gears to maintain the momentum. Beyond 100 kmph, the car seems to get a little out of breath. We managed to hit a top speed of 147 kmph but it involved a lot of patience and oodles of luck.
Clearly, the Beat is not so much fun on the highway but is a perfect beast in the city.
Value for Money
With prices ranging from Rs 3.34 lakh to Rs 3.94 lakh, the Beat offers unbeatable value. As a Maruti official said, they now have to sit up and take notice of a carmaker that was thought doomed six months ago.
The Beat impressed us with its looks, styling and handling, but disappointed us on the highway. Over all, though, its pricing makes it a must-consider car for anybody wishing to buy a small car.