The Beat’s funky looks has been its USP, with many choosing it simply for the hatchback’s in-your-face styling and interiors. However for the all-round buyer, a chink in the Beat’s armour was the sluggish engine. Chevrolet seems to be listening and has launched the improved version of the existing engine to address this deficiency.
Titled Smartech, the engine now uses graphite coating for the piston skirts for lower friction and a chain drive for the timing belt. Chevrolet has even reduced the engine’s weight by using a lighter crankshaft, rocker-less DOHC camshaft and a plastic intake manifold. The results are evident as soon as you crank the engine. Idle is much more silent and vibration-free compared to the older engine. The low-end responses have improved too and there is no hesitation while taking standstill starts. The Beat has a perky throttle response, which is useful in stop- and-go traffic. But even though the midrange has improved, you can still notice the lack of outright punch. It’s not particularly an effortless motor. You can extract respectable performance from it but you need to work it hard.
The Smartech motor has a decent top end and pulls strongly to its rev limit but its thrashy and raucous nature at high revs doesn’t encourage visits to the redline.
Other than this, there are no changes on the Beat. The attractive interiors, combined with its impressive quality, makes the Beat quite a special place to be in. The instruments and switches operate with a meaty feel and the nicely textured plastics are among the best we have seen in a small car. The front seats too are quite comfy with good lower back support but the sloping squab means underthigh support is not that generous. Space at the rear is decent but the dark interiors with the small windows give a claustrophobic feeling.
The Beat’s suspension is tuned towards ride rather than handing. Consequently, the ride quality is outstanding for such a small car which soaks up bumps with remarkable ease. Unlike many cars in its segment, the Beat feels at home on the highway too and shows good composure at high speeds. Handling though not sporty is safe and predictable.
At Rs 4.20 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the Beat Smartech is reasonably priced and costs only Rs 5,000 more than the old car. Thanks to the tweaked engine, the Beat is better to drive but does fall short of the benchmark set by the Maruti K-series and Hyundai Kappa motors.