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Rating 9 9

Chevrolet Beat LT

4th Jan 2010 8:00 am

The Beat is a stunning-looking hatchback inside and out and many will buy it purely on the basis of its in-your-face styling

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  • Make : Chevrolet
  • Model : Beat

If there is a compact car that looks like it belongs to the 22nd century, then it’s this one. What’s amazing is that the Beat is so true to the original concept first unveiled in 2007 and retains the same creases, bulges and bold shapes. To faithfully translate the cutting-edge design of a concept car into production was a huge feat in itself but one that had to be achieved because there can be no compromise on looks.

Aggressive design and styling is a part of the DNA of every new Chevy and that’s evident the instant you clap your eyes on the Beat. The front looks disproportionately larger than the rest of the car, thanks to the massive, split Chevy grille, huge headlights, high bonnet and deep chin. From the side, the Beat looks very coupé-like with a sharply rising waistline and rear door handles that are housed where the quarter-glass usually is. The massive, sharply cut wheel arches are balanced out by 14-inch wheels (the largest in class). However, fatter tyres would work wonders for the Beat’s stance. The rear is quite distinctive too with the retro-looking twin circular rear lamp clusters and a split lower bumper. From any angle, the Beat is quite a stunner and its futuristic shape is sure to be a big draw.

Under the skin, the Beat is pretty conventional and uses a MacPherson strut suspension in the front and a twist beam axle at the rear, which is the universal layout for compact front-wheel-drive hatches. While most other new small hatches have moved to electric power steering (EPS), the Beat’s steering uses conventional hydraulic assistance, mainly to keep costs down.

What impressed us greatly is the build quality, which felt better than any other car in its class. The doors shut with a thud to give the feel of a far bigger car. In fact, the Beat, which weighs 965kg, is nearly as heavy as the larger Swift, and a bit heavier than its immediate competition. The excess weight may not be great for performance and economy but it’s given the Beat good torsional rigidity and a big-car feel that no other car of a similar size can quite match.  
 

The strong design of the exteriors is carried over to the cabin as well and this, along with impressive interior quality, makes the Beat quite a special place to be in. The switches and buttons operate with a meaty feel and the nicely textured plastics are among the best we have seen in a small car.
Slip into the driver’s seat and you are literally hugged by the generous bolstering and soft cushioning. Lower back support  is terrific but sadly the short and sloping seat base offers little under-thigh support.

Front passengers are greeted by the terrific-looking twin cockpit (as GM likes to call it), which swoops into a central V. The dashboard is as functional as it is stylish and the Beat’s engineers have cleverly carved out storage space wherever possible. There’s a plethora of cubbyholes and the small niche (for your mobile) just behind the steering wheel is a neat touch. Even the door pockets are large enough to take small bottles. The dashboard’s cool blue lighting looks great but the Beat’s party trick is the instrument pod which sits on the steering column.

There’s a conventional- looking speedo but the silver, oblong LCD display for the rpm, odometer, fuel gauge and clock looks like it’s been plucked off a superbike. Unfortunately, this toy-like display doesn’t work as well as it looks. With rising revs, the rev counter scale goes from big to small. It should have been the other way around for the driver to better judge the rev limit. Also, tall drivers will find the speedo masked by the slightly large three-spoke steering wheel.  Adjusting the column (for height) won’t help as the instrument pod moves up and down with it. There are other ergonomic glitches too. The dash is a bit high-set and the lack of seat height adjust could pose a problem for short drivers. Also, the small rear screen and the blanked-out area in the place of the rear three-quarter windows hamper visibility. And the gear ever (which has an oddly shaped knob) is set a bit too far back to accommodate the front cupholders.

Moving to the rear seat, the dark interiors and small windows have no doubt made the ambience a bit gloomy but it’s not as claustrophobic as we expected. Legroom is surprisingly good and despite the sloping roofline, headroom isn’t bad either.  Overall, it’s reasonably comfy for two at the rear on the soft and springy seats but, like with the front, under-thigh  support is in short supply. The 170-litre boot is disappointingly small and best for just a few small soft bags. What’s more, the narrow opening of the tailgate doesn’t make loading luggage easier. The car is very well equipped though. This top-end version has two airbags, ABS, climate control, CD player with USB, alloy wheels and power windows.

The Beat’s suspension is tuned for comfort and the ride quality is outstanding for such a small car; it soaks up bumps with remarkable ease. What adds to the sense of calm is the suspension that works unobtrusively and a stiff, well insulated chassis that filters out any unwanted sounds. It’s only the really big potholes or deep ruts that crash through. The Beat’s wide stance and relatively long wheelbase means greater stability at speed and grown-up driving manners. The big-car feel the Beat offers, especially on the highway, instills a lot of confidence in the driver.

But the Beat is no sporty hatch, the handling is predictable, safe and good, but it’s not brilliant like a Maruti A-star. The hydraulic power steering is pleasantly weighted and fairly quick but it feels dead around the straight-ahead position and doesn’t deliver the ultimate accuracy we would have liked.
The front end is particularly soft and the Beat tends to roll quite a bit. The mushy front end, coupled with those weedy 155/70 R14 tyres, mean that the Beat understeers quite strongly. This isn’t a car that encourages fast driving but instead likes to be punted around town where its compact dimensions and light controls make it an easy car to manoeuvre.

The brakes are good with the right amount of progression and feel. There was no sign of fade throughout our brake tests and the Beat managed to stop dead in a reasonably shot distance. Wider tyres is something this car begs for as they would have reduced the stopping distance even further.

Chevrolet Beat LT
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