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With the exception of the rather fashionable Fiat 500, the small-car segment of the U.S. auto industry has been, well, uninspiring over the past couple of years. With only a few offerings including the woeful smart fortwo and the competent-but-flawed Scion iQ, small city cars haven't really made a splash on our shores, with either critics or consumers.

The reality is that small--some call these mini-cars--don't offer an incredibly appetizing value proposition. They often come with less space, cheaper interiors and relatively mediocre fuel economy for not a whole lot less money than many bigger, more comfortable cars. For instance, the Scion iQ starts at $15,385 and the Hyundai Elantra starts at $16,695. You're getting a lot more car for just an extra $1,300 with the Elantra. For most people, that's a no-brainer.

Chevrolet, however, thinks that it can buck the trend with its all-new (for America) 2013 Chevrolet Spark – a small four-door hatchback with looks and features that GM hopes will resonate with the small-car crowd, especially millennials (those born between 1981 and 1991).

GM has actually been selling the Spark overseas since 2009, where mini cars are popular. It decided to bring it over to American shores after a concept version of it at the New York Auto Show drew a strong response. It didn't hurt that an Americanized version wasn't terribly expensive and GM seems to think that it could do well in this market. Built in South Korea, the Spark looks to offer space, a solid ride, versatility and functional infotainment in a stylish package, all for a low price.

So does the little Chevy offer enough to truly spark our interest? (Sorry, had to do it). Does it outperform the Scion iQ and smart fortwo, bringing some more excitement to the segment or is it just another tiny car that is fun to park but not fun to drive? Click on through to find out.

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How Much?
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How Much?

MSRP: $12,245 - $15,970
Invoice: $11,878 - $15,331

As Tested: $15,795

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Key Stats
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Key Stats

Engine: 1.2L, I-4 engine

Performance: 84 hp, 83 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission

Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 37 mpg Highway

Seating: Seats 4

Storage: 11 cubic feet max cargo capacity, 31.2 cubic feet with back seats folded down

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The Competition
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The Competition

The Chevrolet Spark's most direct competition is with the smart fortwo, Fiat 500 and the Scion iQ (pictured here).

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What We Like
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What We Like

Michael: I really dug the infotainment system. While I've certainly heard better speakers, sound quality was clear and quite enjoyable. Chevy focused heavily on technology with the Spark – which makes sense, given their target demographic – and did a great job with it. The interface is clean, user friendly, and comes with apps like Pandora and Stitcher.

Another interesting aspect of the Spark's tech is the way in which Chevy is tackling GPS navigation. Instead of offering it as an expensive option on the car, the Spark makes use of the driver's smartphone, streaming a $50 iPhone/Android app called BringGo through the infotainment interface. This cheaper, more up-to-date alternative to in-dash GPS is a fantastic idea (Ford also offers a similar experience) and, while I only got to use the beta version of the technology, it seems to work quite seamlessly.

Autoblog: It's actually a real car. At 144.7 inches long, the Spark is within two inches of the Mini Cooper hardtop, and its 93.5-inch wheelbase is almost two inches longer than the Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster. At 11 cubic feet, cargo capacity isn't huge, but it's better than the others in this class. On the plus side – pun intended – the Spark's EPA passenger volume of 86 cubic feet is fairly huge, topping the Ford Fiesta hatchback, which is ostensibly a class up in the B-segment.

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What We Don't Like
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What We Don't Like

Michael: I really wished GM had put some better seats in the Spark. They're not really a problem for short trips, but if you're spending more than an hour in the car, you're going to experience some discomfort. I get that electing to use lower-quality seats keeps the overall cost of the car down, but I think most people would gladly pay a little bit more for the extra comfort. I know I would.

Additionally, the power to weight ratio leaves something to be desired. The Spark's 1.2L engine, which only puts out 84 hp, has to move more than 2,200 pounds. This means that each horse has to move about 26 pounds of weight, which is worse than the ratios of both the Scion iQ and the Fiat 500. For around the town driving, it's not too noticeable, but merging onto the freeway can get a bit dicey.

Autoblog: Driving the Spark on the open road involves at least some recalibration of your sense of time and space. Like back to the Reagan administration. We did not do any instrumented testing, but it certainly felt like the Spark took as long to accelerate from 60-70 mph as most cars do 0-60. Wide open throttle didn't seem to offer much more acceleration than what's available without trying to push the gas pedal through the floor, but the four-speed box is admirable in that it does absolutely no hunting for the right gear, there not being any extra gears to be had. Perhaps the Spark will be all the rage among retro-living hipsters who never got a chance to drive a Toyota Tercel in period.

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Bottom Line
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Bottom Line

The Spark is undoubtedly a better vehicle than the smart fortwo and Scion iQ and is quite competitive with the Fiat 500. It actually fits 4 people, has some great infotainment features, gets solid fuel economy and starts at a lower price than its competition.

Is it perfect? Definitely not. It could stand some more power and a few tweaks to the interior to make the driving experience a little bit better. But, all in all, I found the Spark to be a competent vehicle that should at least intrigue a younger and/or tech-savvy car buyer. If you're looking for a small car well fit for urban driving, the Spark is a solid option.

Don't expect to be blown away by much in particular, except maybe the infotainment, but this vehicle will get you from A to B easily, efficiently and rather stylishly.

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