It was just last year that Chevrolet introduced their mini car, the spark, to a U.S. market desperately seeking ways to save on gas. And while sales have taken off, it didn’t exactly fan the flames of desire for anyone hoping “performance” and “fun” were part of the equation. Well now there’s an all new, all electric spark, that’s a little more green, and a lot more mean!
…or as “mean” as a mini car can be. But with the Spark stepping into the EV ring, it’ll take on heavy weights like the Nissan Leaf, newcomers like the Fiat 500e, and even plug-ins like Chevy’s own Volt. So it needs as much attitude as it can muster; as efficiency alone just won’t cut it anymore.
Luckily, the powertrain does have attitude; and like Napoleon, the Spark EV is a little car with a lot to prove. Its 21 kilowatt hour Lithium Ion battery pack, mounted low, between the rear wheels, sends juice up front, where an electric motor quietly churns up 105 kilowatts, that’s 140 horsepower and a neck-snapping 400 lb-ft of torque.
Though we didn’t get to computer clock it, GM says 0-60 time is under 8 seconds and our intro drive certainly felt like it. We even managed to chirp the front tires, as all that torque-y goodness is instantly available from stand still right up to a top speed of 90 MPH. A dedicated Sport mode increases throttle response even more.
Efficiency-wise, the Spark EV is on par with other EV rivals, and its estimated 82 mile cruising range in mixed driving felt honest, and attainable. So as long as you plan ahead, you can leave your range anxiety behind.
Adding close to 600 pounds over its gas powered counterpart, the all-electric Spark actually achieves a closer 50/50 front and rear weight distribution. Yet with near double the horsepower and five times the torque output, additional reinforcements were needed throughout the chassis. Specially tuned coil springs for the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension were added, as well, and disc brakes to all four corners.
We admit “Fun to Drive” is a clichéd way to describe any driving experience, but it is the truth for the Spark EV. More so than any other electric driver, the Spark has an effortless power delivery, tight, composed ride, and a sporty responsiveness; all of which will help you silently but surely navigate the urban sprawl.
For fans of the original Spark, very little changes outside; and everything that has, was done so in the name of efficiency. Front end design remains the same, with the upper grills now closed off, and active grill shutters below. Aero accents on the side mirrors, fenders, underbody, and on top direct and deflect airflow.
The interior continues to shine, with its refreshing simplicity now enhanced by a 7-inch LCD digital gauge cluster. Lifted from the Volt, its range-indicating Confidence Gauge adjusts in real time to your driving style and estimates a maximum and minimum range. There are also readouts for power consumption and regeneration, and an integrated trip computer.
Chevy’s MyLink interface comes standard, on a second 7 inch LCD display in the center stack. In addition to fielding infotainment duties, it provides more detailed readouts of battery charge and vehicle power use. Seats on 1LT trim are cloth, with leatherette for the top 2LT. All the goodies, like satellite radio, Bluetooth, and heated seats come standard. Cargo room is down slightly, to 23.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Government Fuel Economy ratings for the Spark EV are, of course, not really needed, as there’s no traditional fuel consumed or emissions released. But the equivalent combined rating is a lofty 119 MPGe.
Charging is standard fare, with a 120 volt trickle charger included, 240 volt capability, and the availability of the segment’s first SAE approved DC combo Fast Charger, capable of an 80 percent charge in 20 minutes. We estimate a cost of around $2.50 per home recharge.
Currently only available in California and Oregon, the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV in base 1LT trim begins at $27,495. But, government incentives drop that below the 20 grand mark. More importantly, monthly leases are available for as little as $199.
Going EV seems a natural fit for the Chevrolet Spark. And its all-electric powertrain is a monster within the small car segment. So even if its sales don’t start a landslide, it has already accomplished something far greater: making itself, and the EV segment as a whole, impossible to ignore. It’s the most impressive mini-EV you’ve never heard coming!
Torque: 400 lb-ft
0-60 mph: Under 8 seconds
EPA: Combined rating 119 MPGe