General Motors (GM) India doesn’t appear to have let the bankruptcy of its parent in North America affect its domestic operations. GM India is pressing on with its plans to launch an all –new small car in January 2010 at the Auto Expo. Based on the M300 platform this new small car is essentially the next-generation Spark which will sell alongside the current Spark (M200) in the Indian market. It’s not clear if the M300 will bear the Spark moniker or a different name altogether to avoid confusion with the existing Spark.
Thinly disguised prototypes have been spotted all over the country and our computer-generated images reveal that it’s almost identical to the five-door Chevrolet Beat concept shown at this year’s Geneva Show. The production version is naturally less aggressive looking and you can see that the bumpers and lights have been toned down a bit. However, that’s not to say the new Spark has lost its looks. In fact, the M300 , like all new Chevys makes a strong style statement and the stunning looks is part of GM’s conscious effort to make the Chevy brand more upmarket. The M300 promises to shake up the budget hatchback market with its head-turning design. In fact, some conservative buyers might find the M300 a bit ‘over-styled’ but we just love it. The huge grille split by a thick band wearing the bow-tie is the new family face, just like on the Cruze. You can see that the styling department has been given a free hand. The large swept back lights look fantastic and so does the round tail light cluster.
The sheet metal with all its creases and kinks gives the M300 a muscular and taut look. The talking point of the design is how the beltline sharply sweeps upwards into the rear door handles that are integrated behind the rear window. This gives the M300 a sporty, coupe-like look. However, design may have taken precedence over functionality as the rear windows are quite small which isn’t good for markets in India where the back seat is pretty important. However, according to sources in GM India, passengers in the rear will have little cause to complain and claim that the rear seats are very spacious for a small car with it best-in-class legroom. The generous 2375mm wheelbase points to the space potential inside the car but it remains to be seen how it stacks up against the Hyundai i10 which is until now, the most spacious A-segment car thanks to its unusually long (for this class) 2380mm wheelbase.
The interiors are expected to set new standards in styling and GM DAT (formerly Daewoo) has worked hard to improve the quality of materials and fabrics. Expect the top end versions of the M300 to be properly loaded with airbags and ABS available as options.
The M300 will initially come with only a 1.2 litre petrol engine for the Indian market. It’s essentially the same 1206cc motor currently used in the face-lifted Aveo in international markets. However, for India the engine capacity will be reduced to 1199cc by slightly reducing the bore (the stroke remains unchanged). This is to meet the norms for small cars (and avail of a XXX benefit in excise duty) with an engine below 1200cc. This 1.2 litre is from GM’s ‘Family B’ which is the company’s latest engine family. The all-aluminium twin cam, 16-valve motor produces an estimated 82bhp, an impressive power output for a 1.2 motor.
However, the M300’s trump card is the yet-to-be-launched 936cc three-cylinder engine which will first do duty in the M300. Autocar India first broke the cover of this brand new motor in our XXXXX issue when it was still in its development stage. This three-cylinder diesel is essentially the 1.3 litre multi-jet with one cylinder chopped off. It’s not that simple though and an engineering source informed us that the entire block needed to be stiffened and counter balancer shafts added to the crank to iron out the inherent imbalance of a three-cylinder motor. The same source confirmed that the power and torque figures can safely be estimated to be 75 percent of the Fiat engine. Hence, expect this sub 1-litre diesel to produce XXXbhp and XXXkgm of torque which should be sufficient for a car weighing under a ton. The talking point of this compact engine is its fuel efficiency and GM engineers are confident it will surpass every other diesel currently in the market. Unfortunately, the diesel M300 is not expected until end 2010 as the diesel engine plant won’t be ready until then. The big news is that India will be the global production base for the three-cylinder (see box)
It’s obvious that pricing is going to be the key to the M300’s success in India and this time round GM India is not going to make the mistake of over pricing its product only to discount it some months later. A high level of localisation will ensure that the M300 is very competitively priced to take on rivals like the i10 and A-star. The worry is that the M300 with aggressive pricing could undercut the existing Spark. However, GM has something up its sleeve for that model too!