Auto Review: Chevy starts with a Spark
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Nov. 21, 2012
GM’s Chevrolet motor division has had a long history of success with a broad variety of vehicles, but like any other manufacturer, they’ve had their share of misses as well. One of Chevy’s weak spots over time has been subcompacts, and this is not to say they were wretched cars as much as they weren’t in the same class as the company’s larger, more successful offerings. But recently there’s been improvement with the Sonic, and now with the all-new Spark, a welcome improvement has taken place as the company delves into the ultra-compact category.
I, for one, was pleasantly surprised by Chevy’s new entry-level subcompact, which the company calls its first mini car. Despite its diminutive size, it was loaded with the latest accessories, felt solid and was a lot of fun to drive. With the combination of exemplary fuel economy and a very reasonable price, the company may just be onto something here, and Chevy may finally have an entry-level economy car that will attract a whole new generation of buyers.
The front-drive Spark rides on a 95-inch wheelbase, with a five-door hatchback body and seating for four. With such a short wheelbase and 144.7-inch overall length, the car has a tight, 32.5-foot turning circle, which makes parking and whipping through traffic a breeze. The lone engine is a 1.25-liter Ecotec Inline Four with Variable Valve Timing and 84 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic are the gearbox choices, and out test machine had the manual, which is a very good fit for this modest engine.
Acceleration to 60 mph is an adequate but leisurely 14 seconds, with a smooth-revving throttle response that leaves the impression the engine is actually stronger than it is. With little low-end power, it’s good that the engine revs freely, and sounds quite good at higher RPMs. The cabin has extensive measures to try to keep ambient noise down, and overall it is a tad quieter than a lot of the competitors in this class. Ride quality is on the firm side and can be abrupt on really tough pavement, but the chassis feels solid and the Four-Channel ABS brakes are excellent with very short stops.
Inside, the Spark has good front seat room, although more lateral support would be welcome, but both front seats are heated. The analog speedometer and LCD tachometer are mounted on the steering column motorcycle-style, which is attractive and functional. Our 2LT trim level also had a standard 7-inch touchscreen for the audio interface, while the ventilation system uses more conventional knobs, so you have both types of controls represented. The rear seats are quite firm, but there’s reasonable room available, and with the seatbacks folded, the hatchback area expands for a total of 31.2 cubic feet of cargo space.
The 2013 Chevy Spark 2LT Manual is EPA-rated 32 MPG city/34 highway and we observed 40 MPG in a week of varied driving. Very nicely equipped, our sticker came to $15,795. www.chevy.com