Chevrolet Beat : Test Drive & Review
What you'll like:
• Funky styling inside & out. Unique superbike-inspired speedometer too
• Nippy city hatch character. Light, easy to drive and chuckable
• Compliant ride quality. No bumpiness
• Well packaged interiors (for 4)
• ARAI fuel efficiency topper
• Chevy's 3 year service guarantees
What you won't:
• Unconventional styling isn't to everyone's taste
• Compact 170 liter boot. 50 - 60 liters smaller than competition
• Very dull dark-grey interior shade. No beige option either
• Horribly undertyred (155 mm width). An upgrade is a must
• Some goodies missing (keyless entry, driver seat height adjust, steering mounted controls)
• Small rear window creates a claustrophobic ambience at the back
The Diesel Beat:
• Team-BHP's review of the Diesel Beat is available at this link
Reported Fuel Efficiency:
• 11.8 (City) / 16.0 (Highway)
NOTE: Click any picture to open a larger higher-resolution version in a new window.
Allow me to start my review by asking a pertinent question : What is the differentiator amongst the many modern hatchbacks on sale today? Every modern hatch, be it the i10, the Ritz or the Swift, is already running on (or soon will be) a 1.2L petrol engine, sufficiently reliable, fuel efficient, offers reasonable room and about the same power (no truly large variance). The hatchback options between the 4.0 – 5.5 lakh rupee growing segment are becoming innumerable. Good news is, the Indian customer is spoilt for choice, but again, what is the USP or key buying point? One of the most substantial differentiators in the market today is the styling. Then, if a diesel engine is available. Next, quality and lastly, the level of kit. The Beat has three differentiators : A trendy design, compliant ride and ARAI topping fuel efficiency.
The Spark has taught GM a thing or two about the Indian hatchback market. In November, it sold 4,200 units! At the same time, the UVA's inability to click in the market offered a share of lessons as well. Fact is, the UVA was an entirely lackluster car, while the Beat is anything but. The Spark looks cute and is fuel-efficient. Ditto with the Beat. GM has bragging rights with the ARAI numbers (18.6 kpl) that “beat” that of the Ritz (17.7 kpl).
The Beat has been designed by GM Daewoo (South Korea) and is based on the M300 platform (the Matiz was based on the M100 platform, the Spark M200). A competitive advantage that the Beat doesn’t have yet is a diesel engine. The market has made its ever increasing preference toward oil burner hatchbacks glaringly obvious; Chevy’s engine plant will be ready only by end 2010 which is when a diesel Beat is slated for launch. The Beat will be launched on the 4th of January, 2010 at the Auto Expo. I’m willing to bet that it will be priced a notch lower than the i10. Why do I think so? The absence of driver seat height adjustment, keyless entry and steering mounted controls on the top end hint toward a price war.
EDIT on 13th January 2010 : Chevrolet launched the Beat on the 4th of January with a VFM price tag (competition effect?). The base variant starts at Rs. 3.34 lakhs (Hyundai i10 1.1 liter engine territory) while the top-end variant with airbags + ABS is priced at 4.34 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi). Full discussion on the Beat's pricing at this link.
The Beat wears a BOLD face. Yup, it has the large Chevy split grille and the front personality is clearly "love me or loathe me". The styling is distinctly front heavy and isn't to everyone's taste. Like the Cruze, it has character and, I must add, the front & side profiles are quite radical for the segment. What you can’t deny is that this Chevy has excellent frontal presence, with large rakish headlamps that extend nearly to the A pillar. The lack of a conventionally placed door handle is a style statement, as are the swoopy rear roof and steep window lines. Don’t miss the flared wheel arches either. One chap at our lunch stop actually asked us if the car is a two door! The rear has a “Santro-like” slant and looks trendy, thanks to the chromed circular light arrangement.
Overall build quality is more “Hyundai” than Maruti (a good thing). The paint job quality is excellent and panel gaps consistent throughout.
Clean rear design. Tyres look puny:
The bold face:
Notice the unique positioning of the rear door handle & the tapering roof. Almost passes off as a two door:
Sharp striking headlamp design:
Chrome effect is sweet. Fogs are powerful:
Nice 7 spoke alloy wheels. Lousy 155/70 R14 tyre size:
Split grille with a large Chevy bowtie:
Roof rails are standard on the top variant:
Well integrated spoiler:
Step inside the Beat, and what immediately stands out is the swoopy dashboard along with the superbike-style meter arrangement. Carrying on the unusual exterior theme, the interior design is distinctive for the segment. Did I mention that the superbike meters are uber cool :)? To the right of the speedometer is a squarish digital display that houses the rpm meter and fuel gauge. Though the display looks cluttered on first impression, I was fine after spending 30 minutes with the car. The dash area is huge and there’s a swooping cut right ahead of the front passenger. Remember the shiny black piano wood finish of the E-Class? Well, Chevy has adopted a similar (obviously plastic) effect in the Beat with a subtle black panel running from the front door panels to the dashboard. Unfortunately, the interiors are only available in a rather boring dark grey colour. Nope, there isn’t a beige option either. C'mon GM, even the Spark has beige interiors now!
The low set driving position is spot on and feels sporty. Front seats are supportive and literally hug you from the sides. Excellent lateral support. The tilt-adjustable steering wheel is a three spoke design with contours to park your thumbs. It’s slightly larger than you’d expect in a small hatchback, but good to hold. I found the bright silver finish (of the steering spokes) very tacky. Even in harsh daylight, the square display (rpm, fuel tank, trip meter and time) is crystal clear to read. No glare or reflection at all. The foot well is wide and can easily accommodate XL size footwear. A dead pedal will be sorely missed on long drives. Unlike the Spark, the control stalks are correctly configured for right hand drive, with the wiper controls on the left for instance. The dashboard itself is set on the higher side. With the driver’s seat positioned low, and no seat height adjustment available, shorter drivers will definitely face issues. I personally liked the relatively low slung driver seat. Ergonomics are just right with all crucial controls falling easily to hand. The gearknob has a strange cut; a traditional design would have been better from the utility POV. The wing mirrors (ORVMs) are user friendly, with even the left hand side one offering a clean view of two expressway lanes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t electric adjustment for the mirrors on the top-end variant that we drove. No MID showing real-time fuel efficiency or keyless entry either. Thanks to the backseat headrests and the compact rear windscreen, rearward view for the driver is limited. Irrespective of whether you are using the rear view mirror, or turning around while reversing. And just like in the Cruze, taller drivers can expect to brush their left knee against the center console. A "Chevy thing" perhaps?
Interior fit & finish are good, the door beading (a dead giveaway) superior to that seen in the Ritz. Cost cutting isn’t glaringly obvious, albeit the plastics are super hard everywhere. You really don’t feel that corners have been cut when driving the Beat. Translated, it does not feel like a cheap built-to-a-cost car (Logan anyone?).
Chevy’s design engineers have prioritized rear legroom over boot space. With a 5’10” tv journalist sitting in front, I could sit on the backseat with adequate legroom (no need to bend the knees). Again, the key word here is “adequate”. It is by no means a spacious backseat, but there is sufficient room for 4. In terms of legroom, the Beat is a match to the i10 and the Ritz. Foot room is par for the course too. Shoulder space is strictly and only for 2 on the back seat though. The Beat’s interiors are narrow and, make no mistakes, this is a 4 seater car (not 5). Whats surprising is that, even with the swoopy roof, headroom for another 6 footer journalist was just about enough (there was an inch of gap). On the flip side, the design is so clearly form over function. A high door sill, small rear windows and a strangely positioned plastic partition (to accommodate the door handles, where the quarter glass would otherwise have been) make the rear claustrophobic. Daylight hardly makes its way to the back; this along with the dark grey interior colours create a staid ambience.
There’s storage place and cubby holes everywhere. A spot below the drivers side air-vent (plus a coin holder too), you can slide your hand into the door pockets, 1 liter bottle holder on each of the front doors, two cup holders below the center console, a spot for your cell phone below the climate control knobs, and a single bottle holder for rear passengers. On the flip side, only one seat back pocket available and its rather short.
The small boot is only 170 liters in size. Of course, things aren't as bad as the A-Star (129 liters), but the Ritz (236 liters), Swift (232 liters) and the i10 (225 liters) clearly offer more useable space. For the record, the Santro (218 liters) and the WagonR (228 liters) have larger boots.
The top-end variant that we drove had 2 front airbags, ABS, climate control, tilt-adjust steering, power windows, central locking, alloy wheels, integrated stereo with 4 speakers, roof rails, rear spoiler, rear wash & wipe and a parcel tray.
Three spoke steering wheel is good to hold. Size larger than you'd expect:
Superbike meters look even cooler at night, thanks to their blue lighting effect:
Front seats high on support:
Awkward gear knob design:
4 speaker audio system. Sound quality below average. CD, MP3, Aux and USB. Consider the Mini USB, I cannot understand why a regular sized (and more popular) USB port isn’t provided?
Lots of storage spots in the Beat. Large control knobs for the climate control & stereo are easy to use:
Wasted space above the air-con vents. International variants may get a multi-info display (real time fuel efficiency and more), we don’t!! Neither can you store anything in the recess (it will slide off at the first opportunity):
Wide foot well. No dead pedal:
I intentionally took this picture sans the camera flash only to show how claustrophobic things can get on the back seat:
Rear legroom is decent (relative to tall boy competition). Under-thigh support poor:
Subtle contour on the B-Pillar to rest your left knee on. Works well too:
The Cruze-like twin cockpit design is evident:
Black finish is tasteful. Don’t miss the circular air-vents that shut entirely:
Another storage spot for the driver (coins and oddities):
Medium sized glovebox:
Display is easy to read. RPM indicator does NOT turn red (over 6,000 rpm):
That's all the storage space for rear passengers. A short seatback pocket and a single bottle holder:
High quality rubber:
Small 170 liter boot. Light is a thoughtful touch:
With 1.2 liter petrols gaining popularity (thanks to Government stipulated excise benefits), engine bays are getting really compact:
The Chevrolet Beat is powered by a now ubiquitous 1.2L 4 cylinder petrol engine for excise benefits. This 1199cc 16v DOHC powerplant is capable of 79 BHP (@ 6,200 rpm) and 108 NM of torque (@ 4,400 rpm). Switch the Beat on and refinement at idle is unreal. I lost count of the number of times the engine was mistakenly cranked while it was still running! Low end response is just average from 0 kph. Get the car moving, and driveability improves within bumper to bumper traffic. 2nd is weak, and you'll frequently be downshifting at low speeds, but the 3rd gear is a useful tool for city puttering. Mid-range is okay by 1.2 liter standards, though tall higher ratios necessitate a downshift when overtaking that truck on the highway. While the low-end and mid-range power delivery are par for the course, this engine is not really revv-happy. The Beat feels labored when nearing the redline and its best to upshift early. While refinement at lower rpms is good, things are quite the opposite at high rpms. The 1.2 will go on to a 6,300 rpm limit, though the engine takes a prominently buzzy note over 4,500 rpms. At high rpms, the Chevy 1.2 cannot hold a candle to the Ritz' jewel of an engine. Work through the gears at speed and the engine sound gets boomy. Again, it’s best to shift up earlier, else passengers travelling with you will surely get annoyed with all the noise. This is not the car to drive spiritedly on an expressway. “Cruze” (pun intended) in 5th gear at 100 - 120 kph instead. The Beat is evidently tuned for fuel efficiency, right down to the thinner tyres (more on that later). Get this, the ARAI fuel efficiency number is 18.6 (0.9 more than the Ritz). Gear shift quality is rubbery (typical Korean box). While the gates are well defined, and we didn’t mistakenly choose the wrong gear even once in a 500 km drive, this is not a slick short-shifting Japanese box. The Beat is a good city hatch and nippy to drive in urban confines. The clutch is light and has a short pedal range (excellent for city use). The power steering is effortless to use at 0 kph parking speed and stays light within the city. At speed, the unit weighs in sufficiently well for a hatchback. No one will complain of a light steering at 100 kph. Do not expect any feedback from the vague-at-speed unit though.
The suspension is well-tuned for comfort and ride quality is supple over most road conditions. We floored the throttle on a 3 km broken patch of road; I was on the back seat, and even then the ride was liveable. It is certainly not bouncy like say an i10 or the Ritz at the back. Of course, large potholes will see the Beat crashing; its after all a compact hatchback but, I must add, the ride quality is sufficiently compliant over 95% of our road conditions. By hatchback standards, comfort levels are good with the suspension absolutely lacking in stiffness. Most of us on the test-drive event were pleasantly surprised with the ride quality. In the interest of fuel efficiency, the stock tyres are a puny 155 patch (155/70 R14) size. And I’m talking about the top-end variant here. Clearly, GM undertyred the Beat for maximum FE. Heck, even the base variant Spark is equipped with 155 patch tyres.
The Chevy is nippy within the city, yet the handling is at best sedate at speed. Straight line stability is fine and safe enough, but sudden lane change manouveurs will see the tyres squealing easily. Body roll, too, is noticeable in fast corners. This car is not a handler (a la Swift) nor will it please the enthusiast in you. Drive it as a city hatch, know her limits and you should be safe. The tyres do give up way before the chassis does. I cannot comment on any improvements with upgraded rubber as we obviously did not have a chance to check. But I can tell you this, there will most certainly be a substantial improvement. NVH levels are well controlled this side of 80 kph, above a 100 interior noise is on the higher side. The brake pedal has good feel and makes it easy to modulate exactly the deceleration pace you desire. Under a 100 kph, the ABS-assisted braking is effective. At high speed emergency braking manouveurs, the tyres give up. Push harder and the rear will slide sideways. Again, a tyre upgrade is imperative if you buy this car.
• Twin airbag top variant has received a 4 / 5 star safety rating in the NCAP.
• No automatic? A missed opportunity. GM is the king of automatics, atleast in North America. Bring a 4 speed slush box here for the convenience seekers.
• What this car is, is a competent city hatch.
• 3 variants : The 1.2, 1.2 LS and 1.2 LT. Airbags + ABS are part of an option pack.
• GM first ran a poll on a Chevrolet website, to decide whether to build the Beat, Trax or Groove (latter two were the other concepts) in 2007. The Beat won 50% of the total votes. European sales are slated to start anytime now, while the North American market will receive the Beat in 2011. I have a feeling that Yankies are going to be shocked to see the Chevy bowtie on a car this small. The Beat is the next generation Spark in some international markets; of course, India will see both cars selling side by side (at different price points of course). The UK even has a 1.0 liter engine that we’ll never see, in order to avoid overlap with the Spark.
• International Beats get a turbo-charger on the 1.2 L petrol. How about a forced induction Beat “Sport” for India, GM?
• Thanks to Normally_Crazy for this post “The Beat is manufactured at the Chakan plant alongwith the Spark. The Halol plant caters to the Tavera, Cruze, Optra and Aveo versions.”
• MID display does look cluttered when you view it first. After a couple of kms, you will get used to finding what you are looking for. Not a bother at all.
• It’s probably due to the funky front end design, but the dash is set very high. I have my doubts on how comfortable shorter drivers will be.
• 5th passenger is simply impossible. The rear seat is too narrow.
• GM will offer its popular “3 year service promise” on the Beat as well.
• OEM sound quality is flat. You cannot upgrade the headunit because it’s integrated into the dash. Only option is to upgrade the speakers. And add an amplifier.
• The Spark sold over 4,000 units last month. Translated, there are a good number of customers walking into GM showrooms for the li'l hatch. I'm pretty sure some will upgrade to the Beat. After all, whats the difference in EMI?
• Front doors need a strong shove to close. A casual closing effort will leave them open.
• In direct sunlight, and thanks to the shiny dark glass effect, it’s not easy to read the climate control display. I had to check 3 times (while driving) if the recirculation is activated or not.
• Asian-engineered cars generally have good air-conditioners. The Beat is no different. The climate control is a chiller and with the blower above setting “2”, the draft of air hits the rear benchers too.
• Engine refinement at high rpms is not in the league of other modern 1.2s. For example, the Ritz engine is in a different league by itself. I’d compare the Ritz 1.2 liter petrol to even that of the twice as expensive Jazz.
• Front seats have superb range. Long travel.
• If you buy this car, please (we insist) upgrade the tyres immediately upon taking delivery. That is a MUST-HAVE.
• Superbike speedometer is part of the steering assembly and moves with the steering tilt adjustment. Cool.
• No temperature gauge. And we miss it (related thread).
• Guys like us who shift by the rpm meter will miss a conventional rpm gauge. Not only is a large needle easier to read, but also the Beat’s digital rpm does NOT turn red (at the redline).
• You can count on Chevy for a funky range of colours. Example : Metallic Orange and Green confirmed for the Beat. Other colours on offer are white, blue (pictured at the bottom), black, silver and red (main car pictured here).
• The positioning of the rear power window switches is awkward. Ergonomically poor.
• Sitting at the back, my size 10 Doc Martens just about brushed against the seat adjustment mechanism (of the front seat). Alternatively I could rest my boots on them.
• Once you touch the revv limiter (6,300 rpms), the engine gets violently jerky. Real violent.
• Front seats also have good lower back support. After a 250 km drive one way, none of us experienced any discomfort.
• Rear Seat : Under-thigh support is poor.
• Top-end variant does not have keyless entry. What makes it worse is that you cannot lock the front doors without the key in hand (unlike, say a Maruti). A workaround is to open the rear door, lock the front door and then lock the rear door shut.
• Lousy JK Vectras on some test cars. Designed for durability and low rolling resistance (fuel efficiency). Not the grip we look for. Some other test cars were shod with Apollo Aceleres.
• The lackluster UVA gets lost in the crowd. Chevy’s Beat is the diametric opposite.
• Spare tyre : Full size spare mounted on a pressed steel wheel (not an alloy).
• A huge advantage over the Santro / i10 is that the rear end does not bounce around like a pogo stick. The Beat’s ride quality is far better than the bumpy tall boys.
• Rear seats split in a 60:40 format for storage flexibility.
• Thanks to BHPian Sushantr for this post "Chevrolet Beat is part of Transformers 2(Revenge of the fallen) film. This car was seen alongside Bumblebee as The Twins (Mudflap and Skids)".
• Disclaimer : GM invited Team-BHP for the Beat test drive. They covered all the expenses for this driving event.
The smaller but significant things:
Base version’s non-alloy steel pressed wheels. Could pass off as alloy wheels to the casual observer. Just one of those things that make you go “Why didn’t anyone think of this earlier”? These kind of wheels are so much better than wheelcaps:
Recommended 32 PSI. Why 2 - 4 PSI higher than normal? Yup, you guessed it. Fuel efficiency!
Daytime shot of the speedo:
Useful handle to pull the hatch down:
Unique blue backlit effect at night:
Nifty spot to park those toll tickets:
Left ORVM has good range. Enough to cover two expressway lanes on the left. Sadly, no electric adjustment. A pain to extend to the other end of the car to adjust mirrors:
A dummy sensor in the Indian variant:
ORVM's fold the other way. A requirement for Indian driving conditions (what with cyclists out to break them)!
Notice the shiny black panel:
3 laptop bags + a paperbag enough to fill the boot up:
Storage net on the front passenger seat:
Rear speakers throw out awful sound. Upgrade imperative:
Low fuel tank lid positioning:
Thick bonnet insulation:
Sunglass holder positioned right above the driver:
One of the longest OEM radio antennas we've seen:
For those of you who want to see a shade other than red:
yet another great report by our very own GTO.kudos!
I was under the impression that this is a 2 door hatchback till i saw the cleverly integrated read door handles.Love the speedo look as well.:thumbs up
nice review. just as expected from you GTO.
looks nice from both outside and inside. the SBK type meters should be fun.
but bikers will tend to hit their heads on the window while turning. stupid:
Amazing first drive! Thanks for the same.
-styling is such a breath of fresh air!
-the black trim around the fogs looks a bit odd.
-the front bumper would cost a packet i guess as the same now incorporates the grill and the logo also.
-rear seat space and the poor surrounding greenhouse might 'suffocate' rear seat passengers.
-access to the chubby hole in the front of the gear console would be difficult if the two bottle holders are indeed holding bottles.
-mini USB port
-is there a means to decrease the brightness on the info display?
-shiny trim might not be 'children friendly'!
Fantastic Review GTO. This is what we wait for. A sweet review with all points covered (with pics). Thank You.
Thanks for the review GTO.
Coincidently I had just read the BEAT review on Car Wale 5 minutes before I opened your review.
How do you think this will be priced. OTR in Mumbai for the top model at 5 - 5.5l?
The rear door handles, I think are segment pioneers? ... And man, it is claustrophobic in the back.
Great Review GTO, crisp, to the point and highlighting essentials and observations. Great.
OT : Where in Rajasthan were the photos taken ?
Once again a wonderful report, thank you GTO. Great writeup and pics.
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