Oh, finally the much awaited Chevrolet Beat diesel in India was launched last night. Karl Slym wouldn’t have looked more happier even when the Chevrolet Cruze was launched or even for that matter when the Beat in its petrol trim was shown. The smile on his face says in all that finally GM has got something to show for all its technical prowess. Why did it feel that I saw the sly look which said it all that GM can beat its Detroit based rival very easily now in the Indian small diesel car market? Was it just me or did anyone else notice it? Well, the point of discussion is not this and it has got more to do with the introduction of an affordable diesel car in the entry level and by this, I don’t mean the exact entry level segment but just the one after it. Did General Motors India Limited really crack the code this time around? Well, only time would tell that, but as of now, here is a review of the Chevrolet Beat diesel.
Check on Road Price
Well, I wouldn’t delve too much into the design language coz it has been spoken of extensively in my previous interactions with the Beat petrol (2011 Chevrolet Beat Smartech in India Review) (Chevrolet Beat in India, beat the clock). Moreover, I am sure that everyone knows that the Beat is a real funky piece of machine out there in the market. It looks the perfect alien landed spaceship part. Probably heeding to customer complaints or rather feedbacks, GM India have decided to give the Beat diesel better rubber boots. The tyre size and its dimensions are 165/65- R14 tubeless types from Goodyear. Out at the rear, GM have added a TCDI badge and this means that there is a fixed geometry turbo and not a variable geometry one (VCDI) as on the Cruze. I am sure that geeks like me would definitely want to have a dekkho at each and every Beat that passes by us, to see if it actually is a diesel or petrol. So, full marks to the entire design philosophy by GM on the Beat. But then, isn’t it likely to age a lot earlier than other conventional designs? Only time would be able to answer that. From what I gather, even the Spark outsold the Beat (petrol) last month and hence the necessity to bring in a diesel engined variant arose.
If you were expecting something more here, then you are to be disappointed. Still no beige option, the Indian favorite, only black has been offered. So, its got to be only the entire black trim that would be available for all the Beat diesel customers. Thankfully enough, the General didn’t follow the Japanese and by this I meant that both Nissan and Maruti have a problem offering all the goodies for their diesel models (read the Micra and Swift), so more often than not, the buyer feels cheated. GM have specced the diesel engined Beat at the same level as the petrol engined one. This means there is the wonderfully climate control system, all around power windows, 4 speaker integrated music system, washer and wipe system at the rear as also central locking with parcel tray. Prodding here and there, I found the music system to have an improved sound quality plus there was a proper USB cable attachment provided over the mini one that the petrol Beat comes with or rather came with. The other minor changes also include some adjustments to the audio system. The interior dashboard quality certainly cannot be faulted and this is one of the highest quality dashes in this price bracket. While changing gears, I noticed that my left hand fouled up with that of the front passenger’s right hand. Do I have to blame the Beat’s designers for it? Well, not really so. My 6 foot 4 inch frame usually isn’t welcome in much of the smaller cars and the Beat is sort of cramped up even for the regular sizers. There is no height adjust provided for the driver’s seat and though I didn’t miss it much, my shorter test correspondent found it a tad weird. The lower part of the dashboard is also made of high quality. The instrument dial definitely feels in sync with the Beat’s overall theme of looking very different than whatever is there in the market right now. The old glow plug indicator common in diesel cars is missing though. Not that, I missed it out but atleast if I am blindfolded and am taken inside a Beat diesel car as also made to sit inside it with my eyes now open, then atleast I would know, yes, this is Beat diesel for sure.
At the rear, there is space for just two big sized people. Due to its slightly tall boy inclinations, head room at the rear is definitely a plus point while shoulder room is at premium. I, for sure felt a bit of leg room missing, but then, it would be due to my ultra large proportions and not exactly due to the Beat’s fault. The small windows added to the feeling of being hemmed in or rather being claustrophobic. The boot space stands at 170 liters with a 50:50 split arrangement. Cubby holes are present, though I would have liked GM to make them with a finesse that the dashboard so readily presents.
The distance between the front and the rear seats with the front seat being set for a 6 footer.
Handling and ride quality
The better rubber has definitely made the Beat a better handler and also at the same time have a pliant ride quality. The reason why I mentioned about the glow plug thing earlier on is coz even after firing up the Beat diesel, I never felt any sort of vibrations associated with a 3 cylinder engine and that too a diesel one. It was more like being in the petrol Beat. A balancer shaft as also vibration dampers have been made use of by GM. In Thane, there are many rough roads (by the way, tell me of a place in India where there aren’t any rough roads) and the Beat diesel was put through an extensive off-roading scenario. While the petrol Beat bobs a bit, the diesel one due to its better rubber boots has minimum of this bobs. Infact, its ground clearance stands at a good 10 mm more than the petrol variant. No issues of scraping the front or even the underbelly of this car. GM have got in a new electrically assisted steering wheel to make maneuvering the diesel Beat a bit more easier. Unlike the hydraulic one in the petrol variant, this one has got a good feel and I never any problem shooting the Beat at all the available gaps that I could find in Thane’s maddening traffic signals. At the lower speeds or parking speeds, true to its electric nature, the steering wheel is really light but upping the speeds made the steering more tighter and thus increasing my confidence in chucking it around corners. Moreover, GM going in for a change in the shock absorber department has worked wonders for the Beat. It now gets a set of gas charged dampers and this has improved the ride quality by many notches. Though the entire setup seems to be sporty, the handling of this car is not particularly in the same line and I could feel that the car wasn’t much confidence inspiring in taking corners at high speeds. Kept it sedate and the Beat seemed a reassuring prospect. This is the way that GM wants to portray the Beat diesel. Guess, Ranbir Kapoor saying “Keep it simple silly” would have sounded wonderful as a tag line for the Beat diesel. On closer inspection and on opening the hood of the car, I was in for a shock because when the accelerator pedal was prodded, the engine started rocking on its mounts. This may create problems in the future, however, the GM engineer was quick to add that this was just case of a 3 cylinder engine rocking on its mounts. From the interior, with the windows rolled up, there was no audible sound. For demonstrating this very thing, I have put in videos of both the interior as also the exterior sound levels when the accelerator is kept depressed.
The difference between the tyre size of the Beat diesel and the Beat petrol.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
In India, as of now, everyone is talking about the multijet engine from Fiat. GM also have used the same engine (not again). However, not many know that GM had a stake in Fiat and hence have access to the 1.3 liter multijet which was co-developed by both Fiat and GM engineers. This way, GM has full rights over this engine and doesn’t have to pay a royalty for using it, unlike Maruti, which has to pay an amount to Fiat everytime a multijet engined car is sold from Maruti stables. GM have taken the 1.3 liter 4 cylinder engine and have converted it into a 1 liter 3 cylinder engine. The Beat already had a tight engine bay and accommodating a diesel engine along with a turbocharger was sure going to test the patience of the GM engineers from Talegaon. Yes, this is the place from where the engine would be manufactured and hence heavy localization and the subsequent nice pricing that GM could afford. This turbocharger in the engine is a fixed geometry one and sits right on top of the engine. For improving low end pulling power, GM have put in a plastic intake manifold which has been heavily tuned. This reduces the weight aspect and allows the Beat a bit more grunt in the initial stages. To further save weight, the cast iron cylinder has got a 4 valve aluminium alloy component in it. Low tension pistons as also graphite coated piston skirts have been used up. Needless to say, the entire Indiandrives team was supremely surprised with the refinement of the Beat’s diesel engine. The gearbox has been also tuned and some of its earlier sloppiness to be found in the petrol model has disappeared. However, the throws remain long but precise. Moreover, the lack of vibrations can also be attributed to the engine being mounted on a cradle atop the chassis and not directly onto the chassis. Even with the auto climate control working in full swing (I didn’t need it since I was running a high fever at that time), the Beat pulled impressively. Driving in traffic resulted in more of 2nd and sometimes 3rd gear use with the rpm counter ticking over at less than 1k revs. Moreover, the Electronic Control Module of this car has been so designed that even if one doesn’t shift to a lower gear in traffic, it automatically raises the torque level to a bit more to bring in some lugging power and if the driver still doesn’t shift gears, then it stalls. This I found out during the course of the test and confirming the details with some GM engineers present with us just underscored this fact.
For a 3 cylinder and one producing 58.5 Bhp power and torque of 150 Nm, the Beat diesel races through its 5 speed gearbox from 0-100 kmph in 18.4 seconds. The top speed and mind you, the Beat’s engine is not particularly smart in achieving it, was a measly 138 kmph. The engine loses its calm demeanor and sounded real gruff at the redline. Though the tacho needle is ready to sweep eagerly to its 5k limit, there is no significant increment in terms of speed. Its more like driving a car which has got a busted clutch plate. Cruising is another problem with most diesel cars comfortable at around the 125 kmph mark and the Beat making do with only 100 kmph speed limits. Brakes are exactly like the ones in the petrol variant and hence no difference was observed. ABS is a welcome addition and the Beat diesel also has got twin airbags for company.
Now, the top honors in this entire test goes to the fuel efficiency. This time around, since I had the car with us for a really good time, I could do the tankful method and got 16.2 kmpl in city and a not so good 19.1 kmpl on the highway. However, out of all the diesel cars that we have tested here, this was one of the best cars which got a real world fantastic mileage figure. Kudos to GM for that.
GM India have achieved what they wanted to do and that is provide the Indian car buying public with an entry level diesel car at a very good price. Unlike the Indica eV2 which provides far better seating proposition, the Beat is funky to drive and also with GM’s warranty of 1 lakh kms or 3 years whichever is earlier is also good. However, GM’s special service package, at this time, isn’t offered on this car. No news of the booking numbers as of now. The one thing that I particularly liked about this car is that it has got none of the cost cutting things that can be very obviously seen in the recently launched Toyota Liva. The interiors are first rate, save for the space quotient and dark claustrophobic feel. Though the Beat diesel had been delayed by a good 6 months for its launch, the hunch that something good was coming was always there. GM’s refinement of the powertrain for everyday use is obvious here and I am sure that others from the automobile fraternity would definitely support me in saying that this is one of the affordable hatches that can be found in India today and that too with a diesel motor under the hood. Steering mounted controls, height adjustable driver’s seat and also a more spacious boot would have been the icing on the frosted cake. The pricing, however, is the best in this segment. For the entry level variant, GM India have priced it at Rs 4.29 lakhs. The Chevrolet Beat diesel price in India is Rs 5.45 for the top end variant with ABS and airbags. This is fantastic value for money considering that the only the Indica eV2 and the Ritz are a bit behind this price but then both lack airbags. The ARAI claimed fuel efficiency of 24 kmpl is just below that of the Indica eV2’s 25 kmpl. All the prices claimed above are ex-show room, Mumbai and the car would be available for bookings and test drive starting from 27th July 2011 onwards.
For a complete comparison with the others in its class, click here (Chevrolet Beat diesel compared to its competition)