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The little Spark has been somewhat of a surprising entry in the modern Chevy lineup in the US. Given its diminutive stature, you might have expected the slightly larger Sonic to cannibalize the tiny sibling's sales, but that hasn't happened. The Bowtie moved 39,159 Sparks in the US in 2014, a 14.7 percent boost from the previous year. Now at the 2015 New York Auto Show, the latest generation is being unveiled with a new engine and much improved styling.

Replacing the current 1.2-liter four-cylinder is an all-aluminum 1.4-liter unit making 98 horsepower. That still doesn't sound like much, but it's 16 percent more than the 2015 Spark. The new mill can be connected to either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission with which Chevy estimates 40 miles per gallon highway fuel economy.

The 2016 Spark also gets a longer wheelbase and 1.6-inch lower overall height. Combined with more elliptical headlights at the front, the changes make for a somewhat more sleek appearance than the current, boxy model. The platform underneath is more rigid as well, and Chevy claims the latest underpinnings mean better handling and lower NHV levels inside. The little hatch isn't growing up too much, though, and gets a trio of new colors that sound like jellybean flavors: Toasted Marshmallow, Kalamata and Splash.

Chevy is packing the interior with better quality materials and improved tech. Chevy's latest seven-inch MyLink system sits in the center stack with a capacitive touchscreen, and it now comes with a physical volume control and other buttons for easier use. All models also get a rearview camera, and a LCD instrument cluster remains in front of the driver. The available suite of safety systems includes Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Side Blind Spot Alert.

The 2016 Spark goes on sale in the US in the fourth quarter of 2015 and is produced in South Korea. Expect a gallery showing off all its new styling from the New York show floor soon.
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Innovation is the Spark behind Chevrolet's Minicar

- Redesigned, more refined global minicar offers greater efficiency, safety and connectivity

- New 1.4L engine offers 16 percent more horsepower than current model

- New available active safety features include Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Side Blind Spot Alert

- On sale in the fourth quarter of 2015

NEW YORK – Chevrolet today introduced the all-new 2016 Spark – a completely redesigned and more sophisticated execution of the brand's global minicar. It offers greater efficiency and refinement, along with new, available safety and connectivity features.

As one of Chevrolet's most global vehicles, the 2016 Spark will be offered in more than 40 markets around the world.

"Chevrolet is fast becoming one of the world's most important mini- and small car manufacturers, offering customers around the globe a new road to the refinement, efficiency and connectivity features that resonate with them," said Alan Batey, president, GM North America and Global Chevrolet.

"The redesigned 2016 Spark builds on a strong legacy and takes the segment to a higher level with features and technologies not typically offered."

The new Spark has a sleeker appearance, thanks to a slightly longer wheelbase, and an overall height about 1.6 inches (40 mm) lower than the current model. The lower profile reduces aerodynamic drag to help improve efficiency and interior changes maintain the Spark's traditionally generous headroom.

It is also built on an all-new, more robust architecture that serves as the foundation for its more sophisticated driving experience. The stronger body structure enabled engineers to tune ride and handling more precisely, for greater feelings of control and refinement, while fostering a quieter ride.

"At its core, the new Spark is still the fun, agile urban car that made the first-generation model so popular, but it delivers that fun driving experience with greater sophistication," said Sam Basile, executive chief engineer. "And while it's a truly global car, it is targeted for more developed vehicle markets, allowing engineers to focus more precisely on the materials and technologies that resonate with customers in those markets."

Additional new and enhanced vehicle features:

• All-new Ecotec 1.4L I-4 with manual and continuously variable (CVT) transmissions – delivering a GM-estimated 40 mpg on the highway with the available CVT

• New available safety features including Side Blind Spot Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Alert

• Next-generation Chevrolet MyLink with 7-inch-diagonal color touch screen

• Advanced dot-matrix LCD instrument cluster display

• Comprehensive lineup of accessory packages for unprecedented personalization options.

Design details

With the instantly recognizable face of a contemporary global Chevrolet, the 2016 Spark is distinguished by a sleeker proportion and aesthetics.

The lower roof height reduces the characteristic upright look of many minicars, while a "shrink-wrapped" body – with the wheels pushed to the edges of the fenders – contribute to a firmly planted presence.

An evolution of Chevrolet's signature dual-port grille is flanked by large, elliptical headlamps that sweep back into the front fenders. The headlamps have a highly detailed appearance that contribute to the Spark's more sophisticated design.

"In short, the Spark has grown up," said Michael Simcoe, GM International vice president of Design. "It retains a youthful flair, but reflects the maturation of the global minicar market and customers' desires for richly styled and highly contented choices."

A palette of bold exterior colors remains, and three new colors – Toasted Marshmallow, Kalamata and Splash – join the mix, depending on the market.

Inside, designers matched the lowered roof height by adjusting the hip-point dimensions for the seats, maintaining the ample headroom of the current model and offering comparable spaciousness with a more engaging driving position.

Upgraded materials and greater attention to detail, including everything from the higher-quality fabrics to higher-density seat foam that enhance comfort and durability, add sophistication.

"You have a greater feeling of sitting in the seats rather than on them," said Simcoe.

An all-new instrument panel design with an advanced liquid crystal display (LCD) features a prominent "center stack" for the infotainment and climate system controls. The Spark's signature color-matched instrument panel décors are updated with trapezoidal air outlets compared with round outlets on the current model.

The Spark's all-new MyLink radio features a capacitive-touch color display, with an icon-based interface similar to smartphones and other electronic devices. And like a smartphone, the capacitive-touch display allows swiping, pinching and other gestures for quick, easy operation.

New volume control and other physical buttons reduce complexity and enhance the system intuitiveness.

Complementing MyLink to enhance Spark's connectivity is available OnStar with 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. It provides a mobile hub for drivers and passengers to stay connected. The hotspot is on whenever the vehicle is on.

All-new engine

The 2016 Spark is powered by an all-new 1.4L engine that is part of GM's new, global family of Ecotec small-displacement engines. It offers an estimated 98 horsepower (73 kW) – a 16-percent increase over the current model.

Engineered to deliver strong performance with excellent efficiency, the new Ecotec engine family represents a clean-sheet design and engineering process, leveraging the diverse experience of GM's global resources.

"The new Ecotec architecture represents the most advanced and efficient family of small-car gas engines in GM's history," said Tom Sutter, global chief engineer. "Along with performance and efficiency targets, we've also aimed for segment-challenging refinement with low noise and vibration – and we've hit the bulls-eye."

Spark's new 1.4L features an aluminum cylinder block and head, which helps reduce the vehicle's overall mass to enhance performance and efficiency. The cylinder head also incorporates an integrated exhaust manifold, which further reduces weight – an attribute that contributes to increased vehicle efficiency and a more favorable front-to-rear weight balance, for a more responsive driving experience.

Engine efficiency is also enhanced through reduced friction, including low-friction piston rings, a low-friction camshaft drive and a low-friction oil pump. A five-speed manual transmission or dual-range continuously variable transmission are available with the new 1.4L.

Enhanced safety

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark builds on the current model's reputation for delivering excellent passenger safety in the minicar segment, where the 2015 Spark is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A stronger body structure is at the core of the new Spark's safety story and is complemented by a wider array of passive and active safety features. Ten standard air bags include driver/front passenger knee air bags, roof rail side air bags and seat-mounted thorax/pelvic air bags. A rollover sensing and protection system is also offered.

Additionally, new active safety features can help drivers avoid collisions through camera-based technology providing alerts to possible collision threats:

• Forward Collision Alert

• Lane Departure Warning

• Side Blind Spot Alert.

A rear-vision camera system is standard and rear park assist is offered.

Manufacturing

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark will be produced from globally sourced parts at GM's Changwon, South Korea assembly facility. It goes on sale in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2015.

FAST FACT: Global Chevrolet Spark sales have surpassed 1 million since it went on sale in 2010.

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 115 countries and selling around 4.8 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.

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