2013 Chevrolet Spark Review
The city car has been with us for a long time. They were often small volume vehicles with very limited interest from the motoring public. City cars make sense is densely populated urban locales, where on-street parking is limited and traffic less than manageable. As some of the lowest priced vehicles on sale in this country, they also make sense as an entry point for limited pocketbooks.
It was the foretelling of the automotive future that General Motors threw their hat in this arena by offering one of their global products here – the Chevrolet Spark. Sold in virtually every country the gold bowtie makes it presence, the Spark represents a new baseline for motorists worldwide.
In this country, a few modifications were made to fit America’s safety and emissions standards. GM also gussied up the interior a bit by adding features we would find on larger cars. The result is the smallest Chevrolet ever offered in North America.
When you approach the Spark, its size becomes a curiosity. The Spark’s design was not meant to be alluring or elegant. There is a purpose for the high roofline and the tight overhangs. To conquer these urban enclaves, you have to fit in the most miniscule of places. Therefore, the overall look is useful, practical and a subject of much discussion.
For North America, the Spark’s overall look was adjusted for taste. The shape remains the same, but the front fascia and the use of larger wheels help in bringing some form of distinction over here. Yet, one will be surprised by how wide the each door opens and how practical the hatch is. Let us not forget the roof rails for even more cargo holds up on top.
Once inside, the driver will find mounds of room behind the wheel. A tall driver can find a place behind the adjustable steering wheel/instrumentation pod. The driver seat is manually adjustable for rake, height and recline, with an adjustable headrest. However, to seat four adults inside the Spark will be somewhat of a challenge, unless they are average or smaller. A family of four – including two small children will also be just fins inside the Spark.
The instrument pod is a design is a more concentrated version of the same on the larger Chevrolet Sonic. In turn, modern motorcycles also influence the instrument pod. You have a speedometer dial with a blue LCD screen to the right for the tachometer, fuel gauge and trip information readouts. Though the screen may seem a bit cluttered, it is a useful tool for drivers to get the information they need on their journey.
In the center stack is Chevrolet’s MyLink screen, with a unique set of graphics and simplified commands. There is a screen for apps that are interfaced with your smartphone. One such app is the BringGo navigation app, which is serves as the Spark’s GPS and mapping system. You can also stream music via Pandora, Stitcher and TuneIn Radio. I thought it was cool to bring in an old favorite station from Los Angeles and the news from Australia’s main public radio network while traversing the streets. The OnStar buttons are on the headliner near the rearview mirror.
Cargo space is adequate, yet expandable with the rear seats down. You can get warm or cool with the Spark’s air conditioning system, but it does take a bit of time to get the air circulating in the car.
Powering the Spark is a 1.25liter in-line four that offers only 84 horsepower and 83-pound-feet of torque. Today, these numbers may seem inadequate, but they do work in the Spark. In the city, you do not need a lot of power to accomplish everything possible. It does well just rolling along in town.
It is where you need to accelerate is the point that the power is not enough. This Spark is connected to a four-speed automatic gearbox, which is fine after first gear. On heavy acceleration, first gear will take longer to shift down and a wall of noise will tell you hard this small engine is working to get there. Manual drivers may opt to go that route with five gears to work with the clutch.
It is worth noting that the four-speed automatic will be superseded by a continuously variable transmission for the 2014 Spark.
One does not expect a sports hatch ride from the Spark. An enthusiast will be disappointed, but not every day drivers. It rides quite well, yet it will react to road imperfections and noticeable bumps. The Spark leans and rolls in the corners. Yet, its steering action is quick and sharp, truly giving this city car the agility it needs to get into tight spots. Braking is fine under normal conditions, though we found some sideways movement on panic stops – easily recovered through its anti-lock brakes and sharp steering system.
When people ask about the Spark, they would think it would be a car that would achieve very high fuel efficiency. Some even asked if it was electric – though consumers in California and Oregon can now get the Spark EV to plug in and stay off away from gas pumps. However, this gas-fueled Spark only mustered 34.4MPG.
The Spark is the lowest priced vehicle GM sells in North America – starting at $12,995 for a LS manual model. Our 2013 2LT tester came to $16,720. Opting for the 2014 model with the new CVT would mean paying another $490.
The Spark is meant to roam in the middle of the city. In its element, it is a happy vehicle to transport people and your day’s shopping while maneuvering through the ins and outs of urban life. This is not to say that it works elsewhere, because it would do the same no matter where the Spark is set to roam.