Chevrolet Motors have been going on a great note here in India. Not only have they posted comfortable sales figures for the fiscal year 2010-2011, but they have also got the best performance by an American company here in India. Well, that takes us back to the crux of the story. That is getting the reviews of the Chevrolet cars which we usually carry out in this sections. Though we have reviewed the Chevy Beat earlier on, the new updated Smartech engine means that the car has to go through the review scalpel again. Now, the Beat has quite a history going for it based on the fact that it was first broke cover as a concept car in some show but then shockingly General Motors put into production soon after and the shocking part is that the Beat came in the same format as it was showcased. Well, not many companies can think of doing this and come to think of it, the Beat is the dangling on the budget end of the spectrum. It sheer sales numbers are testimony to the fact that the car buying public have lapped up this car. However there was a complaint from the buyers and that was that this car is a kinda sluggish in its nature and didn’t have the go to match the show. In comes the 2011 Chevrolet Beat Smartech in India and it is but natural that we should review this car.
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As for the looks of this car, they are, to say the least, the best of any small car that is there in the Indian market now, the Maruti Swift included. Its front end is kind of pointy and has got the “I will puke on you” look. In that lime green color, the Chevy Beat looks absolutely stunning and this is the same color that was used in the “Transporters” movie. The head lamps are swooped up daggers and also they have that smart Chevy bowtie for company plus those dinner plate sized fog lamps. The air dam is similar to the one that can be found in the Fiat Punto however that can rarely be called as plagiarism. The 155/70 R14 are alloys on the top end variant whereas steel ones are present for the lower specced trims. The sporty roof rails further enhance the look of this car and the swooping towards the back roofline with its roof rails mean that the car maintains its chic look all around. As for the rear, the half moon faced tail lamps look perfect on this car. We would have however preferred a sportier and chunkier exhaust rather than the one sitting there. On the looks front, it is a thumbs up for the Beat in this segment, however, looks alone wouldn’t please our appetites and hence the interiors are the next area of foray.
GM has done well to quip the 2011 Chevrolet Beat Smartech in India with class defining interiors. The instrument panel looks like it has been lifted straight out of the Suzuki motorcycles. The all digital instrument panel can now be seen on the much pricier Renault Fluence however the cool backlighting of the switches is a revelation in itself. The front seats are adjustable, as is the norm. The steering wheel can be adjusted for both rake and reach. Steering mounted controls however are absent and seemingly so, we didn’t miss them either. The stalks and controls fall perfectly to hand and unlike other GM cars, the Beat has got the right combination of indicator stalks to the right and wiper washer controls to the left. The gear lever is a stubby unit and falls easily to the hand. The dashboard is also well sculpted and the quality of materials used all around is also very good. Infact, they are the best that can be seen on a small car. The Beat features a factory fitted music system as also an automatic airconditioner. The glove box is also big and there are two cup holders just aft of the gear lever. There are door map pockets, though not on the deep side. For the music system, there is a USB socket provided, however, the sound quality could have been a tad better. For the new Beat, GM should have also paid heed to the fact that they upgrade the music system or rather the speakers to something more premium. The speedometer isn’t visible at a glance and some instant details like the amount of fuel left in the car and stuff also take more than a blink of the eye. Unfortunately for the driver, there is no dead pedal provided. There is no height adjust as well. Out at the rear, due to its tall boy design, the head room is good. However the Beat has a high central tunnel intrusion which impedes the space for the third passenger or rather the middle one. In other markets, the Beat is a 4 seater whereas in the Indian market, it is a 5 seater. Boot space hasn’t changed and the minimum suspension intrusions mean that loading two to three suitcases isn’t a problem. However the small windows at the rear and high beltline means that passengers would end up feeling claustrophobic. Rear visibility is also a bit compromised due to the small windscreen space.
Handling and ride quality
The 2011 Chevrolet Beat Smartech in India may look like a car which has got its priorities more towards the handling front, given its sporty pretensions, however, GM India knows that customers prefer ride quality more than handling and hence the car has been honed more in its ride quality. So much so that the Chevy Beat can be described as one car which tramples all the roads into submission, much like the way SUVs do. Its ride quality is a bit firm but never too intrusive and this makes it ride like a dream. Even at the highway speeds, sudden ruts wouldn’t catch it off guard and the Chevy would just dispatch them with a thump and the ripples wouldn’t be transferred onto the passengers. Moreover the road noise is nicely damped and with the windows rolled up, we were surprised to note that the car was traveling at triple digit speeds and still there wasn’t a murmur from its engine or the wheels. But then just after crossing the triple digit speed, the engine became kind of thrashy, not the sporty kinds but of the intrusive types. In an instant, the Beat became noisy. However the noisy nature from the earlier engine has been improved upon a bit and this means that cruising at speeds of 100 is quite possible and that too peacefully. As for the handling, the not so wide tyres of the Beat don’t encourage sporty pretensions, but yes, they do give you a sense of being in control. The steering wheel is direct in nature and has some life left in it. As for the other things, they haven’t been changed from the outgoing model. Grip from the stock tyres is also good. Inspite of its tall construction, the Beat manages to fend off winds very well at highway speeds.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The major change has happened in the heart of the 2011 Chevrolet Beat Smartech in India. First of all, the engine has been renamed to Smartech from the S-Tech 2 that it was earlier. GM have also reduced the weight of the engine and the piston skirts now feature coatings of graphite. The timing belt also gets a chain drive. The DOHC layout of the engine now gets a camshaft which is rocker-less. While the older engine was slightly vibey at idle, the new one is vibe free. The intake manifold has also been converted into a plastic one now. While the earlier motor took more than 15 seconds to reach the speed of 100 from standstill, the new one improves the timings by a minute and half. Top speed recorded is a decent 161 kmph. The new 1.2 liter engine now puts out 82 Bhp of peak power at 6400 rpm and 110 Nm of torque. Transmission is a 5 speed manual which slots into its gate neatly but then the slightly rubbery feeling with all the GM gearboxes can also be felt here. We assumed that Smartech would mean that the Beat would come with start-stop technology as well however that is still a distant dream. In everyday driving, the car felt reasonably agile and the engine seemed a bit more eager to rev than the older one. The best part was that the in-gear acceleration makes it feel like a diesel, with minimal knocking or struggle to build up pace. However the Kappa motor in the new i10 as also the K series engines in the Maruti cars have better characteristics and response.
The ABS equipped version that we drove had decent stopping power. Decent and not good because more of the pedal effort was needed at speeds higher than 80 kmph. At low speeds, a light touch was enough to slow down the car or bring it to a halt. The brakes are the industry norm of discs in front and drums at the rear. Safety is catered to by dual airbags in the front and the usual side intrusion beams and seatbelts for all the occupants.
For the fuel efficiency, GM quotes an ARAI figure of 18.6 kmpl however the actual figures that we got during the test were 13.4 kmpl in city with the AC on and 19.6 kmpl on the highway. Good figures considering that the Beat is heavier than the others in its class.
The 2011 Chevrolet Beat Smartech in India replaces the older Beat model, which barely had completed one year in India. Its good to see GM updating its models every now and then. This fends off the competition to some extent and helps manage it to have a fresh portfolio, which wouldn’t age so soon. The new engine was a result of the customer feedback that the earlier engine seemed a bit too reluctant to dial up speeds. GM’s intentions of pulling customers away from the Hyundai and Maruti show rooms seems to have worked since, the launch of the new engine, there has a been a steady stream of customers and enquiries. The mileage has also improved slightly. This BS4 engine makes the best of both the worlds. The other Beat features remain like the ultra cool looks, nicely appointed interiors and a good mix of ride and handling. The features are also at par with the others in its segment. What are not so good is the under thigh support and the claustrophobic feeling that the Beat gives. However at this price point, it is a very attractive proposition for the youth. The 2011 Chevrolet Beat Smartech price in India starts from Rs 4.20 lakhs. This is roughly Rs 5k more than the outgoing engine. Couple that with the 3 years maintenance package that GM offers and this car presents itself as an unmatched value for proposition thing. That is until the Beat diesel is offered in a few months time. Its pricing would determine whether it would be a success or not in the Indian market. GM have also offered the Beat with an alternate fuel option.