May 20, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 31 January 2013 13:23
Most of our friends and coworkers had never seen a Chevrolet Spark before, and the reactions were all over the board. “Cute,” said one. Another joked that he had stumbled into the diminutive hatchback in the parking lot and tipped it over. “I don’t see how it’s any better than the Aveo,” said another, referring to a subcompact model Chevrolet dropped last year.
Like the Aveo, the Spark is built in South Korea. The Spark, a new model for 2013, is smaller than the Aveo — qualifying as a “minicar,” a designation that puts it in direct competition with the Fiat 500, Mini, smart fortwo and Scion iQ.
While it’s not as much fun to drive as the Fiat, nor as refined as the Mini (which does cost thousands more), the Spark compares favorably with the smart and Scion. It rides fairly pleasantly and quietly, handles competently, and delivers excellent fuel economy. During some highway stretches, we exceeded the EPA-rated 38 mpg.
Thanks to its four doors and roomy luggage compartment (11.4 cubic feet, and 31.2 cubic feet with the rear seatback lowered), the Spark is surprisingly versatile, given its small size. It’s just 12 feet long and a little more than 5 feet wide.
Of course, tall adults won’t willingly wedge themselves into the back seat, and even the driver’s seat is tight for six-footers. Unlike the Scion, whose driver’s seat can be adjusted all the way back to the rear seat cushion, the Spark’s front seats leave a couple inches that a tall driver or front passenger could put to good use.
The Spark is powered by an Ecotec 1.25-liter Four that generates 84 horsepower. In third and fourth gear, performance borders on peppy, but the engine wound up quickly in the lower gears without picking up much speed. We had no complaints about the Spark’s ability to cruise on the interstate highway in fifth gear, and it was not skittish in traffic at high speeds.
The interior is smart and stylish, with body-colored panels and comfortable ergonomics. The quality of materials is higher than one would expect in a low-priced Korean import.
Our test car was a top-of-the-line 2LT, and it was better equipped than we would have expected at the car’s $15,045 price. Its standard features included power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, Sirius satellite radio, audio controls on the steering wheel, pre-wiring for phone, and cruise control. The only available factory option is a block heater, for $75.
The base LS lacks most of the 2LT’s creature comforts, but it does have an AM-FM radio, power windows and air conditioning. It starts at $12,245. An all-electric version of the Spark is due out for the 2014 model year on the West Coast.
Crash-test and reliability data aren’t available yet on this new model. Right out of the box, the Spark qualifies as a tiny, bargain-priced, fuel-efficient yet versatile car suitable for urban and commuter use alike.
Engine: 1.25-liter inline Four, 84 horsepower, 83 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Weight: 2,269 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, torsion
Wheels: 15-inch painted aluminum
Tires: P185/55R15 all-season
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 11.4 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 31.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 9.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 32 mpg city, 38 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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