Let’s face facts-Chevy has been very awkward about sub-compact cars since the 1980’s, when they started importing Korean cars badged as Chevy’s. There was a total disconnect from the brand with these little cars, and it did not help that the cars themselves were, at best, average. But with a post-bailout GM, the light bulb seems to have been lit. An entry level subcompact needs to be offered in a mainstream brand like Chevy, but it has to, in simple terms, be a Chevy. The Spark comes to us via South Korea, but does it have enough of an American accent to give the Spark an identity the car’s that followed it lacked?
The Spark is tiny, narrow, and quite tall. Practicality is the name of the game here, but that doesn’t mean Chevy designers were not allowed some fun. The headlight bezels that stretch nearly to the edge of the windshield is pretty outrageous. The flared fenders offset by handsome 15″ machine faced alloy wheels gives a sporty look. Nice details like blacked out integrated rear door handles is a clever trick. But most important, the Spark is instantly recognizable as a Chevy, something it’s ancestors cannot claim.
In a radical departure from the past, the Spark offers a colorful and fun interior. Yes, hard plastics abound but you never feel like you are sitting in a penalty box. The black and red leatherette seats with red stitching work to add a warmth not often seen in this class of car. The high seating position makes you feel as if you are sitting on, not in the Spark. The Spark features Chevy’s MyLink smartphone integration for navigation, and Pandora radio. Unfortunately, I found the sound quality of the six-speaker audio system to be sub-par, which is critical to the Spark’s target market. Otherwise, the Spark is a fairly pleasant place.
The Spark is available only as a five-door hatchback, with one engine on offer. That engine is a 1.2L four cylinder rated at 84hp. Buyers can choose from a five speed manual or four speed automatic. The Spark is less powerful than its competition, and the 32/38 EPA City/Highway fuel economy figures are decent, but not stellar. Thankfully, The Garage’s Spark was blessed with the five speed manual, which Chevy claims can go 0-60mph in 10.5 seconds. Opt for the automatic, and 0-60mph goes to a lazy 12.2 seconds. Around town, the Spark had plenty of pep, the handling was docile and the manual tranny was a breeze to operate. The Spark is a city car, not a long distance highway cruiser.
Our Spark was the top of the line 2LT, and to Chevy’s credit, it comes well equipped. GM’s OnStar, XM radio, Bluetooth, heated seats, remote keyless entry, rear spoiler, fog lamps and chrome exhaust tip tally’s up with an as delivered price of $15,795USD. This represents a fantastic value for the content provided.
Chevy sees the Spark competing against the stylish Fiat 500 ,the Scion iQ and Smart. I do not. These cars are more fashion statements, while the Spark distinguishes itself as a useful, four door car, and far more practical. The Spark is Chevy’s best effort yet for a sub-compact car, and it meshes perfectly with Chevy’s brand image.