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As Chevrolet gets in tune with the Beat to charge ahead for the Indian small car arena, Sarmad Kadiri grabs the reins of the gallant beast to get a first hand experience of things to come

For a firm that was almost sucked in by the global meltdown and just about managed to break free from the gruesome clutches of bankruptcy, GM is doing quite well, at least in India. Joining hands with the Chinese major SAIC has given the company a much needed financial boost that it needed for a fast growing country like ours. To be in the game, GM will obviously think twice or maybe thrice before taking the next step. And right now the next step is its ‘spark’ling new small car, the Chevrolet Beat.

Let me spell it out for those who did not get the pun. The Beat is incidentally the Indian version of the international Spark, which is a replacement for the Matiz. However, let me make it clear that the Beat is way different from the Spark available in India. It’s bigger, brighter and definitely meaner. The Chevy will be pitted against the Hyundai i10 and the Maruti Ritz in the country. No easy task, but this new hatch could unsettle the competition with its futuristic design coupled with a price tag of just around Rs 3.80 lakh (ex-showroom).

The Beat has been designed at GM-DAT, South Korea and is the first car to use GM’s brand new small car platform. Designed to meet high safety standards, the car has an interestingly bold design. Of course, the first thing that grabs your attention is its high bonnet line which looks good and also adheres to the international pedestrian impact safety norms. Now that it has a noble purpose, the high waistline somehow looks even better. The chunky front grille flaunting the shimmering new Chevrolet logo coupled with the oversized front bumper gives the car a protruding stance almost resembling a Cheetah that is about to pounce on its prey. The dramatic tear shaped headlights look sharp and run all the way through the side panels, camouflaging the odd box design. Complimenting the rising waistline is the roof that slopes towards the rear making the car look dynamic from the side as well. Though the slanting roof does not interfere with the headroom, it does compromise the windows. To make the design flow, the rear door handles have been integrated on the C-pillar. This offered me ample sadistic pleasure watching the baffled look on the faces of people who tried hard to figure out how to open the back door. It took while for me to get over the large chrome trimmed tail lamps, but when paired with the muscular bumper and the in-built spoiler, the rear design doesn’t fail to impress. To be honest, there is a lot happening in terms of design with some arch or line running on almost every surface of the car. I reckon that this will work well especially with consumers who like to be in the limelight.

Sliding inside the car, I heaved a sigh of relief. The Beat is quite spacious, much to my liking, with enough head and legroom even for taller drivers. It has ample cubbyholes to take care of all your must-haves. Back seat passengers don’t have anything to complain either as the seats are comfortable, roomy and feel like a sedan. GM engineers have carved out amazing legroom even in the rear by eating up a bit of the boot space. The boot is reasonably big to accommodate a couple of decent sized handbags, but don’t even think about your huge suitcase. If you insist, then you have the option of folding the 60/40 split rear seats. The Beat’s dash looks neat with glossy black trims (the Feds will love it because it is a fingerprint magnet!) and there’s not much to nag about the fit and finish. I enjoyed listening to the integrated music system which has AUX and mini USB ports instead of the normal USB (a mystery I have yet to solve). The electronic A/C display and the blue light look cool especially at night. Carrying over the radical theme of the car on the inside is an interesting superbike inspired instrument console affixed to the top of the steering wheel, giving you a clear view of the speedo. Nice touch. The other pleasant surprise came when we hit the road. Powered by the new 1.2-litre S-Tec petrol engine, the Beat delivers a peak power of 80.5bhp at 6200rpm and 108Nm of torque at 4400rpm. It’s smooth and feels more like a Japanese car but lacks on the mid-range. With four people on board, the car managed to reach 120km/h without much struggle and on further probing gasped almost to 160km/h on the digital speedo. The 155/70 14-inch tubeless Apollo Acelere managed to do just about okay, but a wider set of tyres would definitely boost driver confidence. The Beat gets a thumbs-up for its ride quality as it irons out bumpy and broken roads like a fully grown sedan – a must considering the poor condition of Indian roads.

The Beat will be offered in three variants the 1.2, the 1.2LS and the top end 1.2LT with ABS, alloys and airbags, though we would have loved to see a sunroof on it. The base version has smart alloy type stamped wheel rims. Why couldn’t someone think of this before? Overall, the Beat is a good package and will surely put GM back in the driver’s seat in the booming Indian small car market. If the US major offers the three-year no maintenance cost scheme with the Beat, then god help the competition!

MR. KARL SLYM,

President & Managing Director, GM India says:

  • Beat diesel by 2010 end

  • Cruze automatic in the pipeline and CNG under consideration

  • A facelifted Tavera on the cards this year

  • Spark Electric coming soon

  • GM to launch commercial vehicles in collaboration with SAIC in India

  • SAIC car models may be launched under GM brand name

 

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