Vital Stats

Engine:
1.2L I4
Power:
84 HP / 83 LB-FT
Transmission:
5-Speed Manual
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,269 LBS
Seating:
2+2
Cargo:
11.4 / 31.2 CU-FT
MPG:
32 City / 38 HWY
Base Price:
$12,170
As Tested Price:
$15,795
Chevy's More Manageable Micro Machine



Minicars have yet to really catch on in the US, and while the reason for that is probably at least partially because of our addiction to big crossovers and SUVs, we have a feeling that some of the indifference toward these tiny cars is the lack of functional practicality and efficiency that such small vehicles offer – especially relative to vehicles the next size and price rung up. Looking at the current class of sub-subcompact cars, which includes the Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Scion iQ, only the Spark and 500 provide realistic interior space, and the baby Bowtie is the sole offering in its class large enough to offer a rear set of doors.

The Spark – in one name or another – has been on sale in other markets since 2009 and has sold relatively well, but in the name of globalization and diversifying its lineup, Chevrolet brought it to our shores for 2013. General Motors hasn't marketed a car this small in the US since the Geo/Chevy Metro, and just like the Metro was the product of a collaboration with Suzuki, the Spark is a product of GM's South Korean operations. With its addition to the lineup, Chevy's menu of passenger cars is now bursting with options, but can this pint-sized hatchback ignite any interest with buyers here in the US? We spent a week with one to find out if it could hold our attention – and our stuff.
Maybe it's just the segment in which the Spark competes, but Chevy's minicar doesn't appear to scream for attention with its shape or dimensions as much as its rivals. As American buyers are still warming to these micro machines, though, we don't consider being the segment's wallflower such a bad thing. Resembling something like a scaled-down Chevy Sonic, the only thing about the Spark that truly grabs your attention is its flamboyant color palette. Our tester came in Jalapeno Green, but there are also a handful of pastel hues including pink, blue and yellow.

2013 Chevrolet Spark side view2013 Chevrolet Spark front view2013 Chevrolet Spark rear view

The biggest distinction for the Spark is its extra set of doors.

Although a little rhinoplasty wouldn't hurt the Spark, it's a rather good-looking car for its size... especially after your eyes take in the odd proportions of the Smart Fortwo and the Scion iQ. Sure, it's shaped like a doorstop, but its arched roof, sharply rising beltline and boxy rear end give it a more conventional appearance in a segment where quirky designs have become the norm. After factoring in the car's standard look, our tester added the 2LT trim, which tacks on unique facias with fog lights up front and a chrome exhaust tip poking out the rear, sportier rocker panels, silver roof rails, small amounts of chrome trim and 15-inch aluminum wheels with black accents, all of which help further differentiate the Spark in this class.

The biggest distinction for the Spark is, of course, its extra set of doors. Rather than squeezing between the front seats and B-pillars, the doors make the two-passenger rear seating much more accommodating. In total, there is plenty of room for four adults to travel comfortably with short road trips only limited by cargo space rather than passenger comfort. Rear occupants are separated by a cupholder and storage bin ensuring generous amounts of hip and shoulder room to go with a decent amount of head and legroom, which happens to be considerably roomier than the larger Ford Fiesta. Cargo space with the seats in place is limited to just 11.4 cubic feet, but folding the rear seats down practically triples available cargo space. Unfortunately, folding the 60/40 split seats is a tricky three-step process that still doesn't result in a flat load surface.

2013 Chevrolet Spark headlight2013 Chevrolet Spark2013 Chevrolet Spark wheel2013 Chevrolet Spark taillights

Unlike what we were taught to believe about inexpensive cars, the Spark is no stripper.

Equally surprising as its passenger space, the Spark has a pleasantly styled interior. Don't worry, there is plenty of chintzy plastic to complain about, but the overall layout makes the materials easy to overlook. Again, the Spark borrows some styling cues from the Sonic, including its motorcycle-like gauge cluster with a large speedometer and small multi-function digital display. Unlike what we were taught to believe about inexpensive cars, the Spark is no stripper – air conditioning, power windows and power door locks all come standard.

Though starting at an inexpensive base price barely topping $12,000, this Spark 2LT topped out at almost $16,000, which comes within spitting distance of much larger vehicles. Hoping to attract younger buyers, all LT trims get the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system as standard equipment, which provides popular apps like Pandora and Stitcher and a well-integrated navigation system. The same cannot be said for the Fiat 500 and its dash-mounted nav-on-a-stick or Scion's aftermarket-looking system. Stepping up even further, the 2LT adds heated front seats, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and leatherette on the seats. The latter feel just like vinyl, but there is a fancy pattern and exposed stitching to spice up the look a bit more. Certain exterior colors (including Jalapeno Green) get body-color matching interior pieces for extra flair.

2013 Chevrolet Spark interior2013 Chevrolet Spark interior2013 Chevrolet Spark rear seats2013 Chevrolet Spark rear cargo area

Its little 1.2-liter inline four-cylinder engine out-powers only the Fortwo in this class.

If this car needs some extra flair anywhere, though, it's under the hood. Not that we expect a bargain-priced minicar to come with lots of power (we can dream, can't we?), but the Spark's little 1.2-liter inline four-cylinder engine out-powers only the Fortwo in this class, despite being its biggest member. Our tester's 84 horsepower and 83 pound-feet of torque were sent to the wheels via a five-speed manual transmission, but two-pedal fans can opt for a four-speed automatic – or a new CVT in 2014. As we learned during our First Drive, the four-speed auto isn't an awful choice, but if you don't like playing on-ramp roulette every time you merge onto the highway, then the manual is a wiser choice (the auto adds whole seconds to the already double-digit 0-60 mph time). Even though the Spark is the largest minicar currently offered, its fuel economy is still class competitive with official EPA numbers of 32 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg highway. Keep up with the Spark's tach-mounted shift light, and you'll have no problem meeting or exceeding those official numbers. We averaged just over 34 mpg during our week of mixed driving with the Spark.

Thanks to its added size, the Spark is arguably the best daily driver in this segment, mostly on account of the fact that it feels more stable on the highway where crosswinds or passing tractor trailers aren't religious experiences. While the Spark isn't scary to drive at higher speeds, it is undeniably a city car, as evidenced by the transmission gearing that leaves the low-power engine racing at more than 3,000 rpm at 70 miles per hour. Speed isn't the Spark's specialty, though, as this little hatchback really excels in city driving where its small size equates to excellent maneuverability.

2013 Chevrolet Spark engine

The Spark has the whole segment nailed when it comes to balance and ease of driving.

Looking at the competition, the Fiat (especially in Turbo or Abarth trim) is far more appealing to drive, while the iQ is a winner in the tightest turning radius competition, but the Spark has the whole segment nailed when it comes to balance and ease of driving. For starters, the Spark's electric power steering is perfectly suited for low-speed parking maneuvers, while the standard hill start assist makes stop-and-go traffic easier to bear, especially in hilly cities. The suspension tuning leans toward the firm side, but not so firm as to make its short wheelbase hop all over the road. Potholes, cobblestones and speed bumps are all taken in stride by the Spark's suspension.

After about a year on the market, the Spark has found the most success, according to Chevy, in cities like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. This makes sense for anyone who drives and parks in such dense cities. The small size and relatively high level of comfort that the Spark provides leaves this car feeling less like the big fish in a small pond of minicars, and more like a small car designed just for the big city.

2013 Chevrolet Spark rear 3/4 view

In the not-too-distant past, "inexpensive" and "cheap" were interchangeable words among GM's lineup of small cars, but the 2013 Chevy Spark is proof that this automaker can build a quality car that is also affordable. Furthermore, the Spark one-ups its competition by being priced much lower than the Scion iQ and Fiat 500 and offering a more practical size and powertrain than the Smart Fortwo, all while coming with a styling that is neither frumpy nor goofy.

What's next for this small segment? By next year, each of the four minicars currently on sale will add an all-electric model, which will bring a whole new level of competition to the class. Sitting amongst a set of vehicles that seems to attract with quirkiness, the Spark just does what's expected of it without any excitement or surprises, and that's all we can ask from Chevy's smallest, lowest-priced model.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 121 Comments
      John
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's kind of hard to crap on a car like this. It does precisely what it's intended to do for as little money as possible. I have to say that the quality of the product coming from GM's Korean plant has really improved since they bought it from Daewoo. While I prefer that it were made in the U.S., that is a pretty impressive price point considering the content. One could argue that it would be better to buy a used Mini, but take it from someone who owns a Mini, repairs and maintenance are excruciating (thanks BMW) -- and they're not exceptionally reliable.
      RonMcCord
      • 2 Years Ago
      I live in Colombia and if you own a new car like the Spark or better you are considered doing well for yourself. It is a good looking little car, I have driven two of them and unlike most imports does not cost double here. The streets are small here and parking garages and spaces even smaller so the Spark is perfect for here. For the Usa though I think Ford Fiesta size cars are about as small as you need to go. The Fiesta 2014 3cyl is not only a very good looking small car but it has the all the power and room you need. I am going for the Ford Focus Hatch which is the perfect size and power car and look. Ford has the best lineup of cars with Fiesta, focus and Fusion perhaps the most powerful 1, 2, 3 puch of anyone and I have never owned a Ford!!!
      The Wasp
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm not a Chevy fan but I really find the Spark rather appealing -- mostly due to having one of the lowest entry prices available in the US. The Nissan Versa has been the cheapest for a while but it's pretty easy to believe the Spark really is a better car.
        Healthy Chap
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Wasp
        Price is probably its only redeeming quality. We have a thing for small cars in Quebec and they've hardly been selling until just recently (incentives? I can't say, I just know inventory was pretty static until about 2-3 weeks ago). Let's just say the Aveos left us a bad taste in our collective mouths (the uneducated among us thought this was a proper followup to the Metro/Swift/Firefly; what a terrible surprise owning them was).
          Alfonso T. Alvarez
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Healthy Chap
          Really, I mean really?? You speak for all of us Canadians? Um, no, just no!! I have a lot of family in Quebec and, in spite of living in the most anal retentive province, they don't spout ludicrous comments like you just did!
          Healthy Chap
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Healthy Chap
          Never said I spoke for everyone, but we do buy more small cars than say, Americans. The rest is just what I've been witnessing locally. They've only started selling (decently) recently as far as I can tell. I don't see that many Sonics, either. Cruzes? Different story.
      otakalhasas
      • 1 Year Ago
      This "actual customer" is thrilled with her Spark! I have had it for three months or so and I can't remember when I have had more fun driving at such little cost. The five speed manual is a blast to drive, the road feel is terrific without bouncing all over the place, the amount of cargo space for a subcompact is tremendous and best of all, I average over 34 MPG in the city (well over 40 highway). Personally, I love the look of the car - no mistaking it for anything else!
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      bonehead
      • 2 Years Ago
      WOW thats a lightweight car. But I will never understand why anyone would purchase this. If your budget is so low that this is what you can afford, then you should not be purchasing a new car. It is far better to spend that same sum on a used fit, or xB or anything that cost more while new. I really dont understand the purchase of super cheap but new unless you just MUST have a new car (which is probably why you cant afford anything more to begin with)
        tump
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bonehead
        Or you could live in San Francisco - where every inch on a car's length means the difference in parking or NOT parking at all. Bigger is not in any way better here. This is why Fiat and smart are doing quite well here, too.
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @tump
          @tump I do not believe you. I can believe that parking is expensive and maybe hard to find, but I do not believe that everyone in San Francisco either 1) has a car smaller than a Mazda 3, 2) cannot ever park their cars, or 3) has no car due to lack of parking.
          Quen47
          • 2 Years Ago
          @tump
          @ The Wasp SF is full of street parking spaces that are between two driveways. They vary but many of them are less than 150" in length, meaning that the most skilled parallel -parker in the world isn't going to magically make a Mazda 3 shrink 20" to fit. I have a 1st gen Audi A4, a compact-size car (177", or roughly the same as a Ford Focus or Mazda 3 sedan) and I drive by MULTIPLE spaces like that every time I park that only a Spark (or smaller) size vehicle will fit into. I can't wait to get something smaller.
          tump
          • 2 Years Ago
          @tump
          For those that don't believe me, my Mazda 3 hatchback is TOO EFFING BIG TO PARK. Not parking skills, but parking spot size availability. Even this Spark is really too big to be the best at this job.
        Quen47
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bonehead
        Four words: Parking in San Francisco
        gmar29
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bonehead
        Just because its inexpensive doesn't mean its cheap. This car is obviously not for everybody, but it seems perfect for high-population cities where parking is limited and fuel is expensive. Many people, especially those not "into" cars, just want a reliable, efficient small car that has a warranty and room for people or groceries or occasional use. The Spark fits that bill.
          bonehead
          • 2 Years Ago
          @gmar29
          But this car is cheap. And if you want the luxury of a warranty you are really way better off spending just a little more and not getting an inexpensive car that is cheap. If you care about economy these cars are not great either. If you care about saving money, these cars will have poor resale value and are not going to save you any money. I certainly like smaller lighter cars and economy cars but this car is missing way too many features that you would get by just spending a few grand more.
          bonehead
          • 2 Years Ago
          @gmar29
          i dont consider 15k a "few" grand. This car as tested price is $15,800. A new Honda Fit starts at $15,500 and a sport is just over 17k. Ford fiestas are even less. So since both of these superior cars are only 2 grand more than the Spark, perhaps i should have said a "couple" grand instead of a "few" :/ If you are spending $14-15k on a new car you would be far better off to spend $16-17k on a better new car. If parking size is all you care about then wouldnt you get something even smaller than this?
        Zoom
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bonehead
        Affordability isn't the only factor people use when deciding to buy a car.
        Shiftright
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bonehead
        You're really not getting the big picture. Firstly, 'new' means 'warranty', which is a must for a lot of people. Secondly, it's often easier to buy or lease a new car than even a slightly used one. Yes, I often think about the cool cars you can get for the price of a new loaded Camry, but it really is comparing apples to oranges.
      Koenigsegg
      • 2 Years Ago
      except its uglier than the fiat, smart and toyota **** q
      William
      • 2 Years Ago
      What a horrible, ugly excuse for a car. From the folks that brought us the Metro, the Citation, the Corvair, etc. Chevy could be on a little bit of a roll with the new Impala, the Camero and their pick-ups. Chevy has had some great cars over the years, but also some of the worst...worst as in some have virtually all been scrapped because no one saw any value in collecting them. Chevy needs to put their engineering skills to work and build their own American interpertation of what a small car should be instead of re-branded Korean crap that even the Koreans won't sell in our market. Note: I have a Hyundai Azera with 70k on it and it hasn't had one issue. I also have a Corvette, a Lexus RX350 and a Civic. The Civic proves that a small, inexpensive car needn't be a cheesy car with a lot of excuses after it has had some miles put on it.
      Jeremy
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car was designed by Daewoo it is a Matiz in Korea and India. Don't applaud GM for creating the design, they didn't .
        The Wasp
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jeremy
        Daewoo Motors became a subsidiary of GM in 2001.
          Jeremy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Wasp
          I know GM owns them, it is still designed by Daewoo. Over the past decade the company I work for was bought and sold a few times , I still sit next to the same engineers and work with the same people and design similar products no matter what name is on the front of the building. So even though GM owns them Daewoo still designed it .
          dan1malk
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Wasp
          GM=Daewoo. Deawoo designed the Matiz. GM designed the Matiz. These are all correct statements. Your point is moot.
          Jeremy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Wasp
          SO theoretically, if GM wanted to get in the super-car market and they decided to buy koenigsegg; would all the innovations and hard work the engineers at Koenigsegg be credited to GM ? I am just trying to understand your thinking. I do understand on paper , yes GM did make the spark .
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Wasp
          @Jeremy Nope.
        Alfonso T. Alvarez
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jeremy
        GM DAT is the name - they are required to use GM design standards for new vehicle designs - so, no, it has nothing to do with Daewoo or the vehicles they designed prior to GM ownership. Time to give up that rant!
          Jeremy
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Alfonso T. Alvarez
          Good information to know . Thanks for clearing that up SMH. ...................You are absolutely clueless. O and by the way I am a fan of GM and own several of their products. I was not trying to put down GM just giving credit where its due .
      Rob
      • 2 Years Ago
      If you cant spring for a new B segment car than buy a used one. For what you get these A segment vehicles are sub par and in the case of the Smart and Fiat...way over priced
        Mike Pulsifer
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob
        For many, small size is a feature worth paying for.
        Quen47
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob
        Don't tell me what I want or need. Your not living other people's lives.
        tump
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rob
        I could buy a $50,000 car but there's nowhere to park it in San Francisco so why bother.
      dukeisduke
      • 2 Years Ago
      They should create a versatile CUV version, and call it the Spork.
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