Chevrolet attempts a revival of the slow-selling Beat hatchback. Has it got the equation right? We find out.
GM has taken a crack at reviving fading customer interest in the Chevrolet Beat by giving it a facelift. In essence, the facelift features new bumpers, new mirrors, a new rear spoiler with LED inserts and re-profiled head- and tail-lights. The updated Chevrolet Beat now starts at Rs 3.92 lakh for the petrol variant and Rs 4.72 lakh if you opt for diesel power, making it one of the most affordable diesel cars on sale. Our test car is the top-spec LT(O) variant. Priced at Rs 5.89 lakh, it features two airbags, ABS, CD player with USB, steering-mounted audio controls, alloy wheels and power windows.
Stepping in, the cabin looks familiar with the uniquely styled instrument cluster that’s made up of an analog speedometer and a digital pod for the tachometer that resembles a mid-’90s electronic Casio organiser and may not appeal to everyone. The front seats lack a bit of thigh support, but leg room is adequate. From the driver’s seat, the slightly high cowl and smallish rear windscreen hamper visibility, especially for new drivers. The equipment list is adequate, but isn’t extensive for the price.
At the rear, the soft seats are reasonably comfortable and legroom is acceptable, but folks here won’t appreciate the front seats being pushed all the way back. The 170-litre boot is disappointingly small and best for just a couple of squishy bags. Also, the narrow opening of the tailgate makes loading luggage a little cumbersome.
Power comes from the same 1.0XSDE Smartechdiesel, three-cylinder motor as in the outgoing car and it doesn’t see any changes. Crank the motor and you’ll notice that the typical vibrations associated with a three-pot diesel engine at idle are fairly well damped. On paper, 57bhp of power and 15.3kgm of torque from the 936cc motor may seem feeble but the Beat’s short gear ratios help the hatch easily cope with city traffic. As long as you keep the engine between 1500-3000rpm, getting past slow-moving motorists won’t be a bother.
However, there isn’t any punch – something that’s very obvious on the highways. Keeping up with the flow here requires you to squeeze the motor of everything it has, and rather often at that. A slightly annoying effect of doing this is that the diesel thrum easily intrudes into the cabin, especially after 3000rpm. And the short gearing means that’s pretty much the region where the motor constantly spins on the motorway. Shifting down a cog or two doesn’t help as much as you’d like since the last 1500 revs just pile on more decibels without any speed to speak of.
On the other hand, the ride is quite impressive over pretty much all surfaces. The small Chevy tackles broken tarmac in a rounded, well-damped manner and holds its composure better than a few of the more expensive hatchbacks. It’s only when you hit a deep pothole at speed that it crashes into the cabin. The confidence-inspiring steering is pretty accurate and not overly light, something new drivers will appreciate.
All said, the Beat Diesel still is an interesting package. Yes, it lacks effortless highway performance, but the engine offers the kind of drivability that makes short work of city traffic and it rides well too. Additionally, the small diesel engine sips fuel judiciously, averaging an impressive 16kpl in the city and 19kpl on the highways. We would have liked a bit more equipment and a bit more power as part of the facelift – this would have armed the Beat better to take on its competition. However, as purely a city runabout, the Chevrolet Beat facelift’s package does most of what’s expected of it.
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