While the idea of an affordable diesel came into existence with the Tata Indica, the Chevrolet Beat was the car that changed the rules of engagement. First launched in 2011, the Beat diesel came at a time when buyers were looking to make the shift from petrol for it was turning brutal on the pocket. And whilst things started off well, the Beat diesel failed to maintain momentum. In an attempt to find that constancy, General Motors has given its hatchback a facelift. Will it succeed in what it has set out to achieve?
Exterior Styling / Design
Thanks to it being showcased as a concept car in the first Transformers movie, the Chevrolet Beat turned a lot of heads even before the launch. Many moons have passed since its launch but even today the Beat continues to be one of the best looking hatchbacks in its class. While its design hasn’t really aged, General Motors has given the 2014 version minor cosmetic updates. The refreshed Beat gets a larger grille, redesigned bumpers with chrome housing for the fog lamps and blackened out headlamps up front. At the back the updated Beat gets reworked tail lights and a new spoiler that includes LED lights. The profile remains unchanged. Despite the fact that changes on the 2014 model aren’t many, not many would say that the Beat fails to impress in terms of styling.
Exterior Styling / Design – 4.0
Interior & Space
On the inside, the 2014 Chevrolet Beat gets silver accents on the dashboard, steering wheel and door panel. The quality of plastic on the inside isn’t great but is acceptable. The instrument cluster on the other hand with its digital tachometer and the analogue speedo is a funky design.
The Beat diesel is spacious on the inside too, especially for a car in its class. Smartly designed, the interiors make space to store a lot of knick-knacks. While there is ample of knee and leg room even at the back, the narrow width of the car means three on the rear bench is a squeeze. Seating position is comfortable but the under thigh support could have been better.
Although the interiors are majorly the same as on the pre-facelift Beat, it is clear that in the attempt of making it as slick as the exterior styling, Chevrolet hasn’t paid enough attention to the overall fit and finish.
Interior & Space – 3.5
Features & Equipment
Despite the fact that the car we drove was the top-of-the-line trim the list of features on the 2014 Beat continues to be short. While just the top two variants LT and the LT(O) get an integrated audio system, only the top-end version gets AUX and USB connectivity and steering mounted audio controls. Rear defogger, rear power windows, and wash wipe at the back too are made available in the top two variants. The base variant gets the just power steering and AC as standard equipment. In fact it doesn’t even get the dual tone dashboard and steering. Safety-wise simply the top-of-the-line diesel variant we drove gets equipped with driver and passenger airbags and Anti-lock braking system. The absence of a remote locking system and electronically adjustable mirrors even in the top most variant does not go unnoticed.
Features & Equipment - 3.5
Engines & performance
The facelifted Beat diesel continues to be powered by the same engine as the outgoing model. In reality it’s the 1.3-litre 4-cylinder Multijet unit that GM has made in collaboration with Fiat, but minus a cylinder and therefore the engine capacity for the Beat diesel is just under 1000cc. Crank the engine and you will immediately feel that the vibrations inherent of a 3 pot diesel have been well controlled. The five-speed manual gearbox sends 57.5PS of power and 150Nm of torque to the front wheels.
On paper these figures might not be very impressive, but the short gear ratios don’t demand too many shifts making the Beat diesel easy to drive in the city. However, the performance isn’t eager and it’s more obvious out on a highway. Rev it and the engine starts to get louder as well. In fact, it even feels quite strained when cruising at around 120kmph. The gearbox meanwhile is pretty slick and slots into the right cog with utmost ease.
Engine & Performance - 3.5
Ride & Ease of driving
The overall ride quality is impressive. The combination of MacPherson struts up front and combination crank type suspension at the back works well on all surfaces. Low speeds or high, smooth tarmac or broken roads, the Beat diesel takes all in its stride without causing discomfort to its passengers. The visibility isn’t bad either and the effort required to work the clutch is hardly bothersome. In fact, it almost feels petrol-like making driving in traffic an effortless affair. Considering its small dimensions, it isn’t a task to park in tight spots either. The small glass on the tailgate does make it marginally difficult to reverse but it’s simply a matter of getting used to.
Ride & Ease of driving – 3.5
Handling & Braking
The Beat isn’t the most sought after car among enthusiasts, but it’s no slouch when it comes to dynamics. The suspension is setup just right to give a good equilibrium of decent handling as well as comfort. The steering wheel is well weighted and fairly accurate. However, the 165/65 section 14-inch tyres don’t quite do justice to the overall driving dynamics of the car. A little more feedback and grip from the tyres won’t go amiss. We would have liked better braking on the Beat diesel as well. The car does come to a stop in a considerably short distance when you slam the brakes, but not without drama. But then again, better tyres will probably take care of this issue as well.
Handling & braking – 3
Price & Fuel efficiency
The Beat diesel has an ARAI fuel economy figure of 25.44kmpl. In our tests it managed an equally impressive 18.9kmpl with the city figure coming to 16.2kmpl. Moreover, at Rs 5.94 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the top-end trim it is one of the most affordable diesel hatchbacks on sale currently and at that price point it does look like a pretty good package.
Price and Fuel efficiency – 4.5
The 2014 Chevrolet Beat diesel has pretty much everything you’d expect in of an affordable diesel hatchback. Although it does lack enough punch for highway driving, it makes driving in the city a piece of cake. The car handles fairly well and is a judicious sipper too. Had General Motors had put in an extra bit of effort with regards to build quality and offered an elaborate feature list, it would surely have worked wonders for the car and even more. But, it’s the poor perception of General Motors itself that’s really the biggest hurdle for the Beat diesel. If you aren’t so bothered with that badge on the nose, the Beat diesel will serve you well.
Overall Score – 3.5
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