We’ve all ooh-ed and aah-ed over the pics but it still doesn’t prepare you for the Beat’s styling. Where Indian hatchbacks are painted signboards, the Beat a big flashing neon sign that prefers primary colours and where possible fluorescence. The lines are bold, chunky and muscular, from the well-defined double creases at the wheel arches, to the strong edge lines on the bonnet, to the relatively restrained sculpting on the body sides. In fact, the only place where the Beat approaches the normal hatchback is the rear, where a giant chrome-trimmed tail lamp cluster breaks up normalcy. There’s more than a few manga-hero cues in the design – the oversize headlamps being the most obvious – and the impact is forceful. GMI is clear that Indian customers have shown their readiness to try a bolder styling on for size and the Beat is most certainly the way to do it. I quite liked the design in the flesh, and the combination of the lines with the tall bonnet line, the oversize split grille with the proud bow tie in the middle was hard not to look at. And when you look closer, the styling is backed up by tight, even shut lines, good panel fit and good finish levels as well.
The good feelings continue as you enter the car. The upholstery on the spacious seats has a nice pattern and the dark plastics look and feel expensive and well put together as well. The centre console is stylish and while I thought some of the translucent white plastics felt a bit odd, they lit up in the night into night-club blue and made the insides look rather funky – so no complaints there. We drove the LS variant. The sporty three-spoke steering wheel has a unique column-mounted instrument cluster that was inspired my motorcycle speedos. The analogue speedo is flanked by a succession of round holes that house the tell-tale lights and surround the blue LCD readout which has the rev counter (on top), a clock, fuel gauge and odo/tripmeter. The international Beat trims have an MID which gives instant economy and miles to empty readouts, but the display sits on top of the centre console and doesn’t get integrated into the LCD. The column mounting is interesting indeed, although it also means that the lowest position, the steering wheel obscures the top of the speedo dial.
But you quickly notice that the funky and stylish interior is also very spacious. Front and rear room is very good and for a car that targets car like the i10 Kappa, the Beat certainly has the packaging black belt. We won’t comment, but we will say that it will be a hard fought battle and all bets are off. Since hatchbacks in India remain primarily self-driven, the Beat shrewdly offers the front passengers cubby holes everywhere. Sweep your fingers across the top of the dash from the left to the right, and you will keep finding storage spaces. Look down the centre console and there’s a deep, secure cubby under the busy-classy aircon console and two bottle holders. The rear seat chaps, in contrast get only the pocket at the back of the front passenger seat, a cup holder between the front seats and the parcel shelf.Yes, the rear door is a pretty interesting design feature on its own. It’s inside trim panel has but a few design creases and textures. No speaker grille and no map pocket/bottle holder. It doesn’t look like an expanse of plastic, thankfully. On the outside, is the funky-cool door handle where the quarter-glass usually is? It cleans up the door lines and has been a buzz word for the Beat right from when it was a concept. On the inside, this means a large plastic panel instead of the quarter glass. Given the upswept window sill line, the small glass area and that plastic panel, the Beat rear seat is a bit dark. However, in use, I quickly got past the visual obstruction and after that I didn’t notice it so much. I distinctly remember that same sort of small window in the rear seat of the Scirocco and I remember it being a lot darker than this, so the Chevy’s pulled this one off as well. That said, there were other journos on the drive couldn’t dismiss the panel as easily as I have.Under the muscled hood is a 1.2-litre 16 valve four-cylinder petrol engine labelled S-TEC II. This is an evolution of the Aveo U-VA’s motor, but you wouldn’t know that unless someone told you. The 80.5PS engine is a revvy little thing that makes 109Nm as well. The gearbox shifts acceptably well and this is an effortless car to drive with confident poise visible all the way up past 140kmph, great for a small car. Overtaking does require downshifts for progress, but you won’t complain. The engine is also very refined and at high revs, its smooth note is very Japanese in nature. ARAI’s fuel economy tests also suggest that this is a proper teetotaller of a motor, scoring 18.6kmpl.
Sticking to this basic marketing strategy, Chevrolet has decided to launch the diesel version of its successful model, the Beat. Yes; you have heard that absolutely correct! Not even a week has passed since Chevrolet unveiled the Chevrolet Beat LPG & auto market’s wants the attention to be with it only as decks are cleared for the Beat’s diesel version to hit the spicy Indian automobile market in June, 2011. GM will manufacture this engine at their powertrain facility at Talegaon.
This is the second 300-series car from Chevrolet and once again, we’re impressed at how good the ride quality is. The Beat beats (it had to happen at least once in the story) the road into submission and over bad roads and good, it feels very composed and comfortable. This does affect that handling a little bit – committed into corners, the Beat displays body roll. Not overt amounts, but its there. Then again, this isn’t a driver’s car, it’s a city car. Which is why the electric power steering is really light and consequently returns little feedback? It’s easy to park and manoeuvre and this is what most of the Beats will do almost all of the time.
The Beat is a stunning-looking hatchback inside and out and a complete head turner and many of you out there will buy it purely for its styling. It also is very well built and has a nice performing engine in there. What’s more irresistible is the pricing which starts at Rs.423,973.00(On-Road Price, Mangalore) for the base and goes up to Rs.502,763.00 for the top end LT while the option pack which we driving has the extra goodies such as 2 airbags, alloys and ABS costs Rs.555,351.00. Not forgetting GMs unmatched warranty package which until now is matched by no other manufacturer.