At a time when the petrol price is the biggest foe of the car-buying middle class General Motors is sure to make everyone sit up and take notice as they prepare to launch the smallest diesel offering in the country by way of the Beat Diesel. Powering GM’s first oil-burning hatch in the country is a three cylinder version of the famous Multijet diesel unit that was co-developed by GM and Fiat. The engine has been in the works for over 2 years, being constantly refined to deliver the right amount of fuel efficiency, driveability and smoothness. Does the Beat deliver?
For the most part the Beat Diesel is a pleasant surprise, right from the first time you crank it. The engine settles down to a smooth idle and you can barely feel the vibe from the 3-cylinder motor. Noise is also well suppressed in the small hatch. As soon as we were out onto the narrow Goan roads it was apparent that the Beat was happy to amble along. 57 bhp of power and 15.29 kgm of torque from the 936cc motor isn’t particularly impressive. However, GM has chosen shorter gear ratios so that driveability at city speeds is satisfying. The engine too really feels like in its sweet spot from the 1600rpm mark up to the 3000rpm mark, giving the Beat Diesel a useful mid-range. Ambling around in third gear at 40kmh you just need to step on the throttle to get past the rickshaw without making a fuss. It’s just that there’s no zest or punch in the proceedings. NVH levels are also impressive with the Beat feeling particularly smooth around the 2000rpm mark. You can barely hear the motor and there are no vibes at hand.
However, things change once you hit the highway. The three-cylinder diesel thrum becomes apparent once you get past the 2500rpm mark and is hard to shake off when cruising along on the highway. The shortfall in grunt also becomes more obvious as quick overtaking maneuvers require a shift or two down on the gearbox. Rev the engine to its 5000rpm red-line is pointless as in the last 1500rpm the engine gets noisy without adding any pace.
What is apparent is that the new gas-charged shock absorbers and the wider 165/65 R14 tyres have made the ride a lot more pliant. The Beat now rides over bumps and potholes without the sporty firmness that was felt on the petrol Beat. There’s a softer, more accommodating feel to the way it handles bad roads. The new electric power steering also offers a more tactile experience. It has lost that distant, inert feel replacing it with a more direct communicative link to the front wheels.
Overall the Beat Diesel is a very interesting and exciting package. Its engine offers the kind of drivability that makes short work of city traffic and rounds it off with good NVH levels. What will pique interest levels further is the company claimed fuel efficiency figure of 24kmpl. Now all that remains to be seen is the pricing. GM could price the Beat Diesel around the Maruti Swift, Ritz and Figo. However, we expect the price to be below these established players, and that will put the Beat Diesel in a very enviable position.