When the Chevrolet Beat, General Motor’s (GM) latest small car, was first launched in India in January 2010, GM was in a combative mood. The dark days of the slowdown in the domestic car industry were behind it and so were the bankruptcy proceedings in the US.
In India the company was now partly owned by China’s SAIC, and GM was looking to write a new chapter. One that began with the launch of the Beat.
As the year rolled on however, the market changed ever so slightly. And GM’s competitors, especially Detroit rival Ford, appeared better placed to take advantage of the situation. Spiralling fuel prices and the rising differential between petrol and diesel costs accentuated GM’s problem in not having a small diesel car. It took longer than expected, but at last the Beat diesel is here.
Exterior & interior
There are hardly any changes on both counts. The car created a flutter with its muscular looks when it was first launched, and that appeal remains.
The macho factor is carried to the interiors as well with a futuristic dashboard and instrument panel. Space is at a premium though.
The Beat diesel is powered by the smallest diesel engine in India — a 936cc XSDE 3-cylinder motor that has a peak power of 58.5 bhp and a torque of 150 Nm. On paper (and to some extent on the road) this compares unfavourably with competition.
The Beat was never a peppy drive, and though a diesel engine, which is naturally torquier, might have been expected to be better, it is still not sprightly. While at it, the engine is not exactly silent either.
Conceived as a frugal city vehicle, the car’s performance on the highway is nothing to write home about.
What is good about it, though, is its handling — which is among the best in India’s small cars. The steering is light, and the turning radius is small, making city-maneouvring hassle-free. The gearshift is not the best though, but its surefootedness more than makes up for this.
What works for the Chevrolet Beat diesel are its looks (at least from the front), unconventional interiors and handling. Its high fuel economy makes it a very city-friendly. At Rs 4.29 lakh, it is the cheapest diesel car in its segment. But given that Figo and Swift perform better, the price gap could have been wider.
But if saving money is your prime concern, and performance is not high on priority, look no further.