Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chevrolet Beat (LT Petrol) - Beyond 55,000 km

My Chevrolet Beat LT has touched a running distance of 31,500 Km. and no better time than this to put my thoughts around how enjoyable the overall ownership experience has being over the past  2 years and 8 months.

Choosing Chevrolet Beat petrol over Ford Figo was not an easy decision when I planned to upgrade from Maruti Alto VXI.  I also had Swift and Ritz on this list however multiple instances of bad experience in getting my Alto serviced with Kothari Wheels had steered me away from Maruti already.

At the time when I purchased Beat, Pashankar Auto sales was the only dealer for Chevrolet in Pune, Shreyans Talera motors had closed down their dealership with the company during that period so I was lucky to get the car without much waiting period.

Okay leaving behind these retro thoughts and getting down to how my car is performing!

Ride quality: Ride quality has improved significantly post car running crossed 15,000 Km. after the first oil change was done; I avoid revving car engine beyond 2000 RPM unless I have to overtake on road for a short distance in city on 2nd gear. I had a habit of racing my Alto on 2nd gear which was one of the changes I had to adapt while driving Beat; service center staff had done an ECU remap to the engine for improving 2nd gear handling performance.

Beat’s suspension handles body roll well with minor bumps or bad patches if you are driving at normal speed, slowing down on very bad road increases body roll for the passengers seated in the front section.
I noticed this low power feel on 2nd gear helped in heavy traffic conditions and prevented the car from knocking or stalling when moving slowly, it allows you enough time to decide if it’s right to move into 3rd gear which in turn reduces the frequent gear changing issue. Gear shifting while in traffic is not difficult however it still feels stiff sometimes.

I never had to do wheel balancing with Beat even once in past 2.5 years, compared to 3-4 instances of wheel balancing I had with Alto. Service staff at Pashankar Auto and Singh Motors both advised me never to go for unnecessary wheel balancing unless you find your car shifting in one direction, no hassles with suspension or ground clearance until now.

Highway driving has being the most pleasant experience with Beat; I have taken my car to few long road trips beyond Pune, have observed minimal drag with heavy luggage and full passenger load while driving through ghats with A/C  on else it runs smoothly. One has to be mindful while taking turns on highway as small tyres on Petrol Beat are not very stable at high speed. Good NVH has still being maintained in the cabin and I can comfortably touch a speed of 140-150 Km/h while on highway without feeling the engine being cranked hard or any other kind of car body vibration in the front section.

Interior/Exteriors:  Plastic quality used by GM for Beat’s interior proves its superior quality because I have not seen it getting dull in any area of the car namely around door exits, the main car dashboard, storage areas provided or the doors, I had opted for a 3M package at the time of purchase which gave me car under body coating to prevent rusting with 5 year warranty and 3 free body coating services.

I do not have a covered parking for my car and there were times in last 2 years when car washing was almost halted for few months in our society due to water problems in Pune, otherwise alternate day car wash with cleaning of the interiors every 15-20 days has helped me maintain the car in good condition.  Beat gives you a big car feel and not a typical hatchback look common to i10, Wagon R, Spark etc. even though it falls under the same segment.

Fuel Economy: During the initial 2 years I got fuel economy between 12-14 Km while driving in the city and 17-18 Km on highways, this has now improved to 15 km/l average in the city and 18-19 km/l on highway during past 6 months. I noticed increasing tyre pressure to 34 PSI has helped me to improve fuel economy and also the engine does not feel sore while revving above 3500 RPM after the car crossed 25,000 Km. mark. This is definitely not a racing machine even with its bold looks and a sporty tachometer so never drove Beat that way, it performs very well as a city car and comfortable during long highway drives for my family of 3.

After Sales Service:
Beyond the initial hiccups with Pashankar Auto after buying Beat, I have being impressed by their service a lot and happened to try Singh Motors which is close to the vicinity I stay in Pune, as dealers both of them have met my expectations and exceeded some.  I have being regularly reminded about my car servicing by both dealers, used to get calls asking about the performance of the car, being informed and invited to service camps.

There was an instance when my petrol tank latch had got damaged and I had requested Singh motor’s to order it for me, when I took the car for this latch replacement they informed me replacement was not required as the latch was stuck inside and they fitted it again, this latch costed just Rs 125, they could have replaced it without even informing me.

it’s not just this but even with Pashankar auto a service engineer informed me about front viper wear out problem during one of the servicing visit, I asked him to get it replaced on which he suggested to do it after summer season as the rubber tends to wear out again a little under high temperature in summer , these are instances which instil confidence in you regarding the dealer and this was not the case with Kothari Wheels (Maruti). They just blindly used to do everything I ever asked for during servicing and put it on the bill and sometimes even suggest additional expenses which raised doubt in my mind if it was actually required?

Chevrolet dealers in Pune do not have a clean record though overall, as I have read various threads across forums of Chevrolet car owners not always happy with the way they have experienced after sales service with these vendors, however I have being fortunate enough that my experience with Chevrolet after sales service has grown stronger commanding a respect for the overall brand. I wish Chevrolet soon has one stable winner on hands to strengthen their position in Indian car market, as a brand it would stand to gain better loyalty and good second sale value for their vehicles.

Some Pro’s about the car:
  • Still stands out in terms of design in the hatchback car category, easy to maneuver in the city, only Hyundai EON has brought in fresh design in the small car segment.
  • It easily touches 60 km/h mark while driving in the city under 10 seconds and races to 100 km/h between 14-15 seconds.
  • Rear seat legroom is very good and it’s not exactly “claustrophobic “sitting behind as this word appeared in most Chevy Beat reviews.
  • Have incurred low maintenance and running cost compared to Alto LXI, A plastic front bumper replacement costed me more in Alto as compared to a fiber material bumper replacement in Beat.
  • Under seat storage tray besides the driver seat which was stopped along with rear parcel tray in LT model, comes handy.
Some cons with the car:
  • 170 Ltr boot is enough for small trips, 60:40 rear seat adjustments also helps in stuffing additional luggage in case there are no rear seat passengers accompanying on the drive, sometimes this boot space falls low when you have more than 3 big luggage items to carry, fitting in smaller bags is still possible above the large ones maybe additional 2-3 and that’s it.
  • Small boot section also posed a challenge for me while going for slightly larger speaker replacement in the rear section, I got stock one's replaced with Illusion speakers which costed me around 9K.
  • Hydraulic steering feels little outdated in an era where most hatchback cars have moved to electronic power steering.
  • Lack of good thigh support on the front seat for driver and co-passenger could have made long road trips less stressful.
  • Storage cups below the main dashboard could have being slightly wider.
  • Adjustment to wide ‘A’ pillar does require some time for the driver to adapt and tends to obstruct peripheral view in high traffic conditions/rainy season.

Sharing some bill screenshots of 2nd major servicing done after 30,000 Km running with majority oil changes done, belt replacements, filter changes etc.

***Aug 22 2015 - Update***
I have crossed 55,000 Km on the odometer between last month and now, also decided to bid my Chevrolet Beat a final adieu as it is time for moving up the chain to another upgrade.It has been a positive experience overall, as a product I rate this car as an efficient city hatchback, however I had no plans to retain this car beyond five years.

During my usage between 30,000 km - 55,000 km I observed that the engine had got more refined and it was able to rev freely without grunting out over 3000 RPM band, I feel Chevrolet could not capitalize on the success of this car to strengthen their brand value in the market, even as I took a risk of looking away from then popular Maruti-Hyundai duo in 2010 and ICOTY award winner Ford Figo (2011) I am parting ways with my Beat and Chevrolet Brand on a positive note.

This time I am shifting from a petrol vehicle to a oil burner purely due to increased distance of commute to my work place, changing times and with many feature rich cars launched this year resisting the upgrade temptation was just too difficult.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Check OUT my Check IN

Do you get irritated by ‘check-in ‘update notifications from various social networking services?  Every time your friend visit’s a place of interest like a tourist attraction, hotel, café, airport, some special venue and if not worse you may also get to see a check-in alert while he/she is in their office/college etc. Sometimes people overdo this stuff without realizing that it can get really annoying beyond a point.

If you thought Social Media and technology is to blame for this stuff, think again and go back to times when all this stuff did not exist to really understand why we feel the need to share our whereabouts, you would start acknowledging this behavior as just one part of the human psyche we live with anyways. 

Location based services are emerging as a potential driving force to support commercial prospects of social media tools, e-commerce and sales in general for a small businessman to large firms. People create a pattern of their consumption habits and interests while using such services making it easier for offering customized sales offers, deals and discounts which in turn benefits consumers actively using such services to an extent, however a lot of us view this kind of “Big Data” study by social networking firms as an invasion of our privacy and even as a consumer no one really likes to get tracked as a potential sales prospect on the move.

If you would have happened to visit popular tourist places across any part in India, you may find carvings of people’s names on structures, walls, any other object at tourist attraction premises, memories of smitten lovers that may not interest you but all they can do is spoil the beauty of the overall place. 

if you go back further in time during ancient period when human civilization was busy drawing animal figures in caves, inscription found on clay tablets,  painting stories on pyramid walls in Egypt and many other monuments in the past which symbolize presence of a ruler, civilization and their influence during that period, People had places named after them and so on, however I can assure you that the significance of me checking in a washroom of a 5 star hotel would just vanish in a fart, no one’s going to narrate my poop chronicle any time in the future.

Everyone on planet earth with a population of more than seven billion is busy trying to leave a mark of their footsteps to places they have visited, and social medial platforms are a medium of creating that digital footprint for the world to see, so there’s a set of people who use location based check in services for any damn reason, believe me I had a colleague in office who used his Smartphone to check in at home and office everyday  to track how much time he was spending at both places, I was actually baffled with his logic to do such weird stuff but then these kind of people feel the need to get their presence validated by their friends, family etc as social media has definitely groomed the celebrity complex in all of us, still no one is going to give us a chance to feature our hand or foot print at Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.

Airport and Railway terminal check-ins are also very popular, which also go into the footfall analysis passed on to companies and advertisers, Los Angeles airport was crowned most popular airport in terms of check-ins in 2011. If you happen to land at a airport in some foreign country and try looking for a popular joint at the airport to have food, these location based services come to your rescue by showing you most popular joints at the venue where you can head to directly rather than roaming all across or asking random people, airport staff etc for suggestion. 

There is surely going to be a connection in customer footfall/sales at cafés and the countless coffee mug shots uploaded on image sharing service like Instagram or location based service like Foursquare etc. Word of mouth promotion and herd mentality related to this visual overload of bragging work actively in such scenarios to promote business. If you check in at work daily as an automated update gets posted on either Facebook or Twitter, some of your friends may even like your status but you may get a comment one fine day when you are out of office asking if you are on a holiday. So even if your presence at some place is not getting validated, it is surely getting noticed.

If you go by numbers, having 100 friends on your list even if 10 people check-in to a place, this check-in is viewed by 1000 people, so you can imagine the kind of cascading effect location based services play in building indirect branding for a local business, if check in services were just going to be a fad why do you think services like TripAdvisor, Zomato, FoodPanda etc. continue mushrooming and sometimes we discover less known joints with quality food and leisure outlets due to member recommendation on such applications, reading through blog reviews and more. 

I personally feel this type of services can be used in balanced way, according to one’s preference for privacy which varies for all of us. Be alert of pre-defined settings on your gadgets which probably could be revealing a lot more about you and your habits from what you actually want to reveal and when you sign up on many sites these days which have Facebook or Twitter sign in enables make sure to keep a watch if they are posting on your behalf to your wall, you can edit posting preferences to be visible only to you or your friends if you do not want to make it public, You recommendation is not just a blip on the map today, there’s more to it and next time you think what’s the need for this whole check in game, remember the historical image of Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon from Apollo mission and you may understand.