Chevrolet can't be too happy with the EPA numbers for its tiny Spark. Equipped with the 1.2-liter engine and five-speed manual, the smallest Chevy in history gets 32 miles per gallon in the city, 38 on the highway for a combined EPA number of 34 mpg. Not bad, but not what we and, presumably, Chevy, were hoping for. Add the optional automatic transmission, and the numbers drop to 28 city, 37 highway and a combined number of 32 mpg.

When we first saw the Spark at the Geneva show in 2009, the Spark was expected to get a combined number of 47 mpg, though that may have been forecasting a European rating.

With its small size and small, 1.2 liter, 85 hp engine, it's easy to think of the Spark as super efficient. The similarly-sized Smart ForTwo gets a combined EPA number of 36 mpg, while the larger Hyundai Accent gets 34 as well.

In fact, the Spark's larger stablemates, the Cruze Eco and Sonic, can do almost as well if properly equipped. Both cars gets a combined 33 mpg with the turbocharged 1.4 liter and manual six-speed transmission. The Sonic even breaks the 40-mpg barrier in highway driving and the Cruze Eco gets an even better 42.

The moral of this story? Looks like a sixth gear makes a huge difference in fuel economy. And if you don't mind paying a little more, you can get a larger Chevy with better EPA numbers.


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  • 99 Comments
      RJC
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's all about the shape.
        Brex
        • 2 Years Ago
        @RJC
        Yep, blunt cars aren't terribly slippery. And clearly GM has modeling software that would have predicted the gas mileage better than this article indicates. Indeed, back in Feb., GM was quoted as saying the highway mileage was expected to be 38 mpg. Both of these addressed here: http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/fuel-economy/why-dont-pint-sized-cars-get-better-gas-mileage
      telm12345
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am not sure why anyone is surprised and a few of the posts here mention the right point: that's a pretty average MPG for cars this size. There is a point when the weight and size of car work against it. Aside from higher drag due to its short length and "flat" hatch, this thing doesn't weigh a lot. That explains why it can, and probably will, get you 32mpg in the city (which most vehicles do not, I don't care what the EPA advertises) and why trying to get a car so dimunitive to go 75MPH will actually take more gas - at that speed the wind weighs much more on this lightweight car and there is much less inertia to work with than on a heavier Cruze or other vehicles. Also, I doubt this thing was targeting cross-country drivers. Its made for the city and that is where it'll excel.
      aatbloke1967
      • 2 Years Ago
      In the real world, you should easily be able to average 40mpg (US) from a modern 1.2 litre A-segment hatch.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      Short stumpy cars rarely get stellar highway mileage. See Fiat 500, smart forwto etc.
      CarCrazy24
      • 2 Years Ago
      I still think the first automaker to bring a sub-compact car with a diesel here is going to hit a goldmine...I hope Chevrolet still comes out with that Cruze diesel, I'd love to see another 45+mpg car to compete with the Jetta TDI here in the U.S
      Dark Gnat
      • 2 Years Ago
      Cars this size are not very aerodynamic. They are too short and blunt, which creates drag. Weight is also an issue as required safety features add tremendous amounts of heft. I have a suspicion that city mileage will be better for many drivers, but the Sonic would be my choice if I were looking at getting a small Chevy. It looks better, is bigger, has gotten good reviews, is sporty, and isn't much more in cost. The EV version is on the way, which may be a better city car, depending on charging availability.
      BRKF06
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why no 6th gear on this?
        Gordon Chen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BRKF06
        B/c the engine is too small. It doesn't have enough low RPM torque to utilize a 6th gear.
          EXP Jawa
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Gordon Chen
          Gearing can increase or decrease torque, depending on which way it goes. If you make first gear shorter (or lower geared), then yes, you increase the torque that goes to the wheels while in first gear. In the case of adding another, taller, overdrive, then you are increasing wheel speed and decreasing wheel torque. If the engine has a marginal enough torque to maintain highway speed in 5th gear, adding one more overdrive will not help the situation.
          NissanGTR
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Gordon Chen
          More gears increase the torque not decrease it.
          EXP Jawa
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Gordon Chen
          Gearing can increase or decrease torque, depending on which way it goes. If you make first gear shorter (or lower geared), then yes, you increase the torque that goes to the wheels while in first gear. In the case of adding another, taller, overdrive, then you are increasing wheel speed and decreasing wheel torque. If the engine has a marginal enough torque to maintain highway speed in 5th gear, adding one more overdrive will not help the situation.
          EXP Jawa
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Gordon Chen
          Gearing can increase or decrease torque, depending on which way it goes. If you make first gear shorter (or lower geared), then yes, you increase the torque that goes to the wheels while in first gear. In the case of adding another, taller, overdrive, then you are increasing wheel speed and decreasing wheel torque. If the engine has a marginal enough torque to maintain highway speed in 5th gear, adding one more overdrive will not help the situation.
      Andre Neves
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just visited my retired parents down in FL and did approximately 2003mi up & down i95 to from NJ with my wife in her 2011 Jetta SEL (2.5L) w/sport pckg, about 150lbs of luggage, & the AC on the whole way. Hit about 1 hour(combined) of crawling traffic(VA/MD). Still managed to reach an average 35.2(down) & 35.7(up) MPG average which in my opinion speaks volumes on a car that runs on gasoline-only and has a decent amount of space.
      d.mc4
      • 2 Years Ago
      Aero is the key to good highway mileage. If they start adding all the aero bit that make it more efficient on the highway, all the extra weigh that those add hurt city mileage. I think it would be cool to add a ECO model like the Cruze (belly pan, active shutters, lighter weight), but that would only add cost and that's what this model isn't about, costing money.
      mikelee
      • 2 Years Ago
      Dismal . . . on many levels: (1) the design is odd-ball at best (too tall for too short a wheel-base), (2) the headlights are w-a-y too large and out of scale, (3) the mileage is nowhere near as good as it should have been (exposing the poor engineering that went into the car). Like I said, DISMAL(!)
        09GT
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikelee
        Look at the competitors: Scion iQ (36/37), Smart car (34/38), Spark (32/38). Are all of them poorly engineered?
          • 2 Years Ago
          @09GT
          [blocked]
      k_m94
      • 2 Years Ago
      Reasons this car isn't getting stellar economy numbers (or similar city cars) 1 Being short, tall, and upright shaped, it's getting terrible drag coefficient, and is consequently pushing too much air (or being sucked backward) at highway speeds to get above 40 mpg. Seriously, if it expanded to have the volume of an SUV, don't be surprised if it created *more* drag. At least as much as a minivan. And the frontal area (we all should know drag= frontal area*coefficient) isn't much off a regular sized car, it's narrower but likely taller. Compared to say a Cruze Eco, this is a softball versus a football. Which one goes further with a good pitch? 2) This car needs a 6th gear to get the revs lower while cruising, but it also needs the low end torque so that it can comfortably and efficiently go 60 mph at under 2000 rpm. A puny naturally aspirated 1.2 would be lugging, and at the very least would require a lot more throttle. Same thing in the city cycle: it needs more oomph so that you can afford to upshift earlier without wringing its neck. It doesn't really need more peak horsepower, as that would only come in use during economy be damned full throttle and maximum revs. Now, you could go and make it a hybrid and revel in amazing economy all the time (ie a slightly smaller Prius C), but it'd cost a roughly $5000 premium. The next logical answer is getting the aforementioned torque, plus additional energy density bonus through a miniscule turbodiesel. Also helps that an 80 horsepower diesel would make closer to 130 lbft, an amount not ridiculed in much larger cars. In the cost skewed diesel bashing world of America, at least try and get a pint sized turbo gasoline that might be able to improve both efficiency and a lot more power. When it comes to very small NA engines that get under too much strain in the daily grind, less power and torque can mean worse efficiency counter intuitively. 3) People don't buy micro cars just because they save fuel. Being easy to park in crowded metropolita, looking hip and trendy, short turning radius, and just enough space for 2 people and a decent number of shopping bags. Oh, and unless they are filled with premium leather, 10 speaker audio, and technogeekery for the mini luxury buyer, they end up costing a few grand less, making them also easier to consider as second cars where the first one is bigger and for longer trips. 4) If only VW could consider bringing over the excellent Polo BlueMotion and seeing how it does in both the EPA testing and in the sale books. Their bigger diesels (Golf, Jetta TDI) do fine for sales and easily beat the EPA stickers. Maybe that Polo would be the cheap decent to drive 50+mpg supermini everyone panders over.
        Gordon Chen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @k_m94
        I'd consider this car even at 32/38 for those other reasons you mentioned. Mileage isn't that disappointing. It's +1/+1 better than the CRZ 6MT.
        PiCASSO
        • 2 Years Ago
        @k_m94
        well said...
      stumpy
      • 2 Years Ago
      this seems odd. i'm not questioning the EPA, i'm questioning GM Engineering. If Nissan can get 38mpg out of an Altima, why the hell can't GM get at least 40 mpg out of a spark???
        09GT
        • 2 Years Ago
        @stumpy
        You really don't know anything about aerodynamics, do you? ALL short, tall CITY cars get < 40 mpg highway. They really aren't meany to see much highway use. They are meant to spend most of their time in the city, being easy to park, maneuver, cheap, and get good city mpg's.
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