2013 Chevrolet Spark
by John Davis
There are small cars and then there are extremely small cars. The smallest examples are known as mini-cars; that is they are smaller than a subcompact; or city cars since that is where these tiny four-wheelers fit best. Up until now, mini-cars have not gained a meaningful foothold in America. Buyers have resisted them because of a limited size that also limits versatility. Plus, most previous city cars were either boring or odd looking. That changed last year with the arrival of the nostalgic Fiat 500. Its cute; bulldog shape quickly caught the eye of cosmopolitan dwellers. Now, arriving is a mini-car with more modern style, not to mention more practicality, the 2013 Chevrolet Spark.
The front-wheel drive Spark fits near the middle of its tiny class. With an overall length of 144.7 inches it’s about a half foot longer than the Fiat 500, yet dwarves the Scion iQ and Smart ForTwo.
Spark’s narrow, yet tall two-box shape is complete with trendy details like a chrome-trimmed low slung grille, and expressive headlights. Character lines sweep along the sides, and to give Spark a sporty coupe-like look, the rear door handles are hidden.
But, the Spark is actually a 5-door hatchback so owners can get the most use and flexibility out of what space is inside.
City dwellers will find plenty of short and long distance room for two up front, and enough space to squeeze two friendly adults in the back. Rear leg room is tight but bearable, especially for around town trips. There is more luggage room than any other mini-car with the split rear seats up or down.
The interior uses a very trendy, motorcycle theme with a stripped down gauge cluster that includes an analog speedometer with a digital tach and trip computer screen. But, the Spark is actually loaded with features including available heated front seats, standard Hill Hold Assist, air conditioning, power windows, OnStar, and a very advanced smartphone capable stereo system called MyLink. Found in all but the base Spark, MyLink includes a 7-inch color touch screen and direct smartphone access for music apps like Pandora and Stitcher. More apps are coming, including a Bring-Go map-based visual navigation app that will require a one-time fee of only $50.
Under the Spark’s tiny hood sits a tiny Ecotec 1.2-liter I4. It is rated at a meager 84 horsepower and 83 lb-ft of torque. But, the Spark is more about efficiency than stop-light racing. Government Combined fuel economy ratings are 34 MPG for the Spark with a 5-speed manual transmission, and 32 MPG with a 4-speed automatic.
So, while the Spark won’t light up the pavement, for daily driving it is just fine. It handles city-size potholes with ease as the soft suspension soaks most jarring bumps up quickly. The very vague steering, however, could still use a lot more feel.
But, you won’t feel a too big of a pinch in your wallet if you buy a Spark since it cost just under $13,000 to start, making it one of the lease expensive cars you can buy.
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark is not likely to set the car world ablaze. It is clearly too small for most tastes and needs. Still, Spark shows that one domestic brand is finally getting serious about very small cars. For those that live in the city, or just have a limited amount of driveway space, the Spark is one mini-car that delivers on a much larger scale than expected.
For our exclusive road test of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3206 which begins airing on October 12, 2012. Click here for a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable channel.