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Chevrolet Beat LT

The Beat is a stunning-looking hatchback inside and out and many will buy it purely on the basis of its in-your-face styling

autos Updated: Jan 07, 2013 17:06 IST

The Beat is a stunning-looking hatchback inside and out and many will buy it purely on the basis of its in-your-face styling

If there is a compact car that looks like it belongs to the 22nd century, then it’s this one. What’s amazing is that the Beat is so true to the original concept first unveiled in 2007 and retains the same creases, bulges and bold shapes. To faithfully translate the cutting-edge design of a concept car into production was a huge feat in itself but one that had to be achieved because there can be no compromise on looks.

Aggressive design and styling is a part of the DNA of every new Chevy and that’s evident the instant you clap your eyes on the Beat. The front looks disproportionately larger than the rest of the car, thanks to the massive, split Chevy grille, huge headlights, high bonnet and deep chin. From the side, the Beat looks very coupé-like with a sharply rising waistline and rear door handles that are housed where the quarter-glass usually is. The massive, sharply cut wheel arches are balanced out by 14-inch wheels (the largest in class). However, fatter tyres would work wonders for the Beat’s stance. The rear is quite distinctive too with the retro-looking twin circular rear lamp clusters and a split lower bumper. From any angle, the Beat is quite a stunner and its futuristic shape is sure to be a big draw.

Under the skin, the Beat is pretty conventional and uses a MacPherson strut suspension in the front and a twist beam axle at the rear, which is the universal layout for compact front-wheel-drive hatches. While most other new small hatches have moved to electric power steering (EPS), the Beat’s steering uses conventional hydraulic assistance, mainly to keep costs down.

What impressed us greatly is the build quality, which felt better than any other car in its class. The doors shut with a thud to give the feel of a far bigger car. In fact, the Beat, which weighs 965kg, is nearly as heavy as the larger Swift, and a bit heavier than its immediate competition. The excess weight may not be great for performance and economy but it’s given the Beat good torsional rigidity and a big-car feel that no other car of a similar size can quite match.

Interior

The strong design of the exteriors is carried over to the cabin as well and this, along with impressive interior quality, makes the Beat quite a special place to be in. The switches and buttons operate with a meaty feel and the nicely textured plastics are among the best we have seen in a small car.
Slip into the driver’s seat and you are literally hugged by the generous bolstering and soft cushioning. Lower back support is terrific but sadly the short and sloping seat base offers little under-thigh support.

Front passengers are greeted by the terrific-looking twin cockpit (as GM likes to call it), which swoops into a central V. The dashboard is as functional as it is stylish and the Beat’s engineers have cleverly carved out storage space wherever possible. There’s a plethora of cubbyholes and the small niche (for your mobile) just behind the steering wheel is a neat touch. Even the door pockets are large enough to take small bottles. The dashboard’s cool blue lighting looks great but the Beat’s party trick is the instrument pod which sits on the steering column.

There’s a conventional- looking speedo but the silver, oblong LCD display for the rpm, odometer, fuel gauge and clock looks like it’s been plucked off a superbike. Unfortunately, this toy-like display doesn’t work as well as it looks. With rising revs, the rev counter scale goes from big to small. It should have been the other way around for the driver to better judge the rev limit. Also, tall drivers will find the speedo masked by the slightly large three-spoke steering wheel. Adjusting the column (for height) won’t help as the instrument pod moves up and down with it. There are other ergonomic glitches too. The dash is a bit high-set and the lack of seat height adjust could pose a problem for short drivers. Also, the small rear screen and the blanked-out area in the place of the rear three-quarter windows hamper visibility. And the gear ever (which has an oddly shaped knob) is set a bit too far back to accommodate the front cupholders.

Moving to the rear seat, the dark interiors and small windows have no doubt made the ambience a bit gloomy but it’s not as claustrophobic as we expected. Legroom is surprisingly good and despite the sloping roofline, headroom isn’t bad either. Overall, it’s reasonably comfy for two at the rear on the soft and springy seats but, like with the front, under-thigh support is in short supply. The 170-litre boot is disappointingly small and best for just a few small soft bags. What’s more, the narrow opening of the tailgate doesn’t make loading luggage easier. The car is very well equipped though. This top-end version has two airbags, ABS, climate control, CD player with USB, alloy wheels and power windows.

Performance & Economy

The Beat comes with a fresh 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine which is a completely different unit from the UV-A’s 1.2-litre engine. This twin-cam, four-valve-per-head motor is well specced but in the present company of 1.2 petrols doesn’t really break any new ground. It develops 79bhp at a peaky 6200rpm and max torque comes at a high 4400rpm. While the power output is not quite as good as Japanese 1.2-litre motors, it is pretty respectable. But what blunts the Chevy’s ultimate performance is its above-average weight. At low revs the Beat is incredibly refined and near-silent at idle. The baby Chevy has a perky throttle response, which is useful in stop-and-go traffic but depress the throttle more than halfway and you instantly notice the lack of mid-range punch. It’s not a particularly effortless motor but if you work it hard, it will deliver respectable performance. The dash to 100kph is dispatched in a smart 14.8 seconds and in-gear acceleration is more than adequate as well. The top three gears are quite short, which makes highway overtaking quite easy and even with a full load the Beat doesn’t feel sluggish. The short fifth gear means highway cruising isn’t very relaxed but if you stay below 3000rpm (or 95kph) the Beat feels wonderfully refined. The 1.2 motor has a decent top end and pulls strongly to its rev limit but its thrashy and raucous nature at high revs doesn’t encourage visits to the redline. This engine feels best at low revs and on part-throttle and is better suited for ambling along than full-bore acceleration. The gearshift has a long throw and, though light and easy to use, doesn’t have the crispness we would have liked. A small engine in a heavy body has to work hard, more so when the mid-range performance isn’t great. Hence, fuel efficiency is far from class-leading but it’s respectable all the same. In the city, the Beat returned a decent 11.5kpl while on the highway, the relatively short top gear made the engine spin more to record a modest 15.3kpl.

Ride & Handling

The Beat’s suspension is tuned for comfort and the ride quality is outstanding for such a small car; it soaks up bumps with remarkable ease. What adds to the sense of calm is the suspension that works unobtrusively and a stiff, well insulated chassis that filters out any unwanted sounds. It’s only the really big potholes or deep ruts that crash through. The Beat’s wide stance and relatively long wheelbase means greater stability at speed and grown-up driving manners. The big-car feel the Beat offers, especially on the highway, instills a lot of confidence in the driver.

But the Beat is no sporty hatch, the handling is predictable, safe and good, but it’s not brilliant like a Maruti A-star. The hydraulic power steering is pleasantly weighted and fairly quick but it feels dead around the straight-ahead position and doesn’t deliver the ultimate accuracy we would have liked.
The front end is particularly soft and the Beat tends to roll quite a bit. The mushy front end, coupled with those weedy 155/70 R14 tyres, mean that the Beat understeers quite strongly. This isn’t a car that encourages fast driving but instead likes to be punted around town where its compact dimensions and light controls make it an easy car to manoeuvre.

The brakes are good with the right amount of progression and feel. There was no sign of fade throughout our brake tests and the Beat managed to stop dead in a reasonably shot distance. Wider tyres is something this car begs for as they would have reduced the stopping distance even further.

Verdict

The Beat is a stunning-looking hatchback inside and out and many will buy it purely on the basis of its in-your-face styling. But under the skin it’s a highly competent vehicle which feels well-built, rides well and comes with decent comfort and practicality. No doubt it has its flaws like mediocre performance and economy, a small boot and iffy ergonomics but none of them are big enough to detract from the overall package the Beat offers. The true shocker is the price, which starts at an estimated Rs 3.34 lakh for the base version, rising to approximately Rs 3.94 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the top-end model. Throw in Chevy’s excellent warranty package and you get way more than what you pay for. But it’s not just the sweet deal that makes the Beat hard to resist. It’s a breath of fresh air in the small car segment.

Technical Specs

Fact File
What it costs
Ex-showroom (Delhi) 5.25 lakh
Warranty 36 months/1,00,000kms

Engine
Fuel Petrol
Installation Front, transverse
Bore/stroke 69.5/79 mm
Compression ratio 9:8:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves per cyl
Power 79 bhp at 6200 rpm
Torque 10.91 kgm at 4400 rpm
Power to weight 81.86 bhp per tonne

Transmission
Gearbox 5-speed manual

Dimensions
Length 3640 mm
Width 1595 mm
Height 1540 mm
Ground clearance 165 mm

Chassis & Body
Weight 1100kg
Tyres 155/70 R-14

Suspension
Front Independent, MacPherson strut,stabiliser bar
Rear Non-independent, torsion beam,stabiliser bar

Steering
Type Power-assisted rack and pinion
Type of power assist Hydraulic

Brakes
Front Ventilated discs
Rear Drums

Economy
City 10.1 kpl
Highway 16.5 kpl
Tank size 35 litres