Chevy Spark: micro car with macro style
By JOHN STEIN Automotive Editor January 21, 2013 2:06PM
2013 CHEVROLET SPARK 2LT
ENGINE: 84-horsepower, 1.25-liter four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: four-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 28 city/37 highway
BASE PRICE: $15,795
AS TESTED: not available
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:06PM
When you first lay eyes upon the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, you get the feeling that you are looking at something different. While the style of the sporty hatchback may grab you at first, once inside there is much more to being “different.”
The five-door hatchback Spark was designed with first-time buyers and urban dwellers in mind. Featuring a swath of bold color options inside and out, and touting 10 standard airbags, great fuel economy and maneuverability within the tiniest of spaces, the Spark has a price tag that begins at less than $13,000.
On the outside, the tiny Spark provides a big statement in a small vehicle. I think the real sportiness is in the somewhat disproportionately large size of some of the features, such as the huge front grille, the elongated headlight assembly or the extra-pronounced wheel well grooves. This is a small car with some really big styling statements that worked for the Spark’s overall appeal.
Another thing that works really well for the Spark is the disguised rear doors. The Spark looks like a three-door hatch; the rear doors are virtually invisible because the handles are integrated into the C-pillar area.
It is the roofline’s distinctly steep slant from its A-pillar to the rear that gives Spark its aggressive profile. The Spark delivers four-door comfort and utility and a lot more cargo room than you might expect.
Under the hood, the Spark has a 1.25-liter, 16-valve, Ecotec four-cylinder engine delivering 84 horsepower and 83 foot-pound of torque. Mated to a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates for fuel economy are 34 mpg in combined city/highway driving (manual) and 32 mpg combined for the automatic. I tested the automatic and found it to be quite capable of getting around town; however, highway driving is another story and it goes like this: Stay in the right lane.
The Spark is available in three trim levels: LS ($12,995), 1LT ($14,495) and 2LT ($15,795). I drove the high-end 2LT Spark and found it to be a surprisingly comfortable and capable way to commute.
On the road I found the suspension (front MacPherson struts and rear compound crank components) to provide excellent feel. Front vented disc brakes, rear drum brakes and antilock brakes are standard, as is hill start assist.
Featuring an impressive turning circle of 32.5 feet, the Spark is quite maneuverable and adept at navigating the smallest of parking spaces. I’m confident I could comfortably drive this down the aisle at Jewel.
Inside the cabin is a wondrous land of small spaces that feel big. Attained through ample use of a seemingly constant wrap-around glass and the natural sunlight that floods the space, the Spark felt much bigger than its true dimensions reveal: 144.7 inches long and 2,269 pounds. Spark also features a 9.2-gallon fuel tank (think $30 fill-up).
The most prominent cue in the cabin is the bold-color accent trim that wraps from the inside of the doors to the middle of the dash. A 7-inch touch screen is center stage (all versions except base LS), and it features Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system.
Driver and passenger seating is firm but adequate to adjust for perfect viewing of the road. Dash gauges are large, as are vents and operating buttons. Spark offers a deceptive 11.4 cubic feet of utility space behind the 60/40-split second row. Fold down the rear seat and the space expands to 31.2 cubic feet.
If you have been driving the proverbial “boat” for decades, or maybe just a midsize sedan, the Spark will feel tight no matter what you have on the radio to distract you or whether you avoid driving next to semis on the highway. This is a vehicle for the new-age driver — one who is new to the auto market or simply new to fuel economy and urban driving challenges.
For small spaces, short commuter jaunts and errands, the Spark is an appealing combination of standard equipment, distinctive looks, noteworthy driving characteristics and value. It should do well as long as fuel stays north of $3 per gallon.
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