Mini-cars are all the rage again, and Chevrolet is finally jumping aboard with its own offering. Right out of the gate, the 2013 Chevrolet Spark sets itself apart in its class with a four-door hatchback. No other maker offers a four-door hatchback. This configuration is the only one available in the Spark lineup. The Spark, built in Korea, has Daewoo in its DNA. For U.S. consumption, modifications have been made to make it fit the market.
No doubt, this vehicle is cheap, with a base price range of $12,995 – $16,720, comparing favorably to other autos in the class. The interior reflects the low cost. The feeling is mitigated by the design: splashing the bright outside colors (remember the neon green from the 1970s?) into dash and door panels. According to Chevrolet, fuel economy will be competitive in its class. This means it is also in the economy range of subcompacts. There seems to be a law of diminishing returns at this level. Look for the electric-powered version due out next year. That may generate a little more excitement.
New For 2013
The Spark is an all-new model for 2013.
Bulbous seems to be here to stay, at least in the smaller car segments. The 2012 Chevrolet Spark continues the trend toward pod cars. It may look funny, but having decent headroom is a positive thing. The manufacturer describes the stance as athletic, which seems a stretch. It follows the current trend of rounded surfaces and The grille carries what is now Chevrolet's signature front end design language: the horizontal bar. On this vehicle it is near the top of the grille opening. The venerable Chevy bowtie emblem is prominent on the bar. The hood has elevated peaks on either side that run the length of the hood, blending into the A-pillar. This is becoming a popular modern design feature as well.
Even though 15-inch wheels for the U.S. market are larger than original design, they look small with that tall round body ballooning above. The headlights are massive - another modern design feature. From the side view of the body, the downward sloping lines and windowsills give a decided down-in-front rake to the appearance. Maybe that is what they mean by athletic.
At first glance the rear doors seem to have no handles. They are hidden in the C-pillar, as a means of cleaning up the design, as well as providing a unique feature. Not all the colors are bright. For example, there is Techno Pink. It is unusual, but muted. Black is available, but it will cost extra!
Interior & Cargo
As previously stated, the interior reflects its low base cost. The Spark follows a practice established long ago by the old VW Bug, and incorporated more recently in the New Beetle and PT Cruiser. That practice is color-highlighting the interior with the outside color. It brightens things up and adds visual interest. The Salsa Red and Jalepeno Green are the most vivid in this regard.
Mini-cars are not known for robust passenger and cargo room. The 2013 Chevrolet Spark holds its own, though. The rear seats fold down to yield over 31 cubic feet of space. That figure is more than double the maximum cargo space of the 2012 Scion IQ, and more than triple that of the 2012 Fiat 500 Pop. With the seats up cargo space is 11.4 cubic feet.
Due to the rounded shape of the roof, headroom is good. Legroom is snug. The rear doors make access to the back seats much easier. Don't expect to luxuriate in there. It is a tiny car, although three feet longer than the Smart Car, which has no rear seats.
Standard these days, even on a mini such as the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, are knee, head, side, and front airbags. Anti-lock brakes with traction and stability control are provided. One item not so standard, but increasingly coming into play is a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The Spark has a hill-start assist (pioneered years ago by Subaru) which is available with both standard and automatic transmissions. For drivers living in Seattle or San Francisco, this can reduce the white-knuckle feel of starting after hitting a red light on one of those intimidating inclines. As with all General Motors’ cars, OnStar is standard. Get into trouble, call for help.
The steering is precise and well modulated, which inspires confidence, even in bumpy curves. The suspension is stronger for the American market, sporting stiffer front dampers.
This is a front-wheel drive car, with the attendant good traction that comes with such a platform. Once again, these are the U.S. Modifications: stronger suspension (stiffer dampers in front), larger wheels, and electric power steering. These make the 2013 Chevrolet Spark feel stable for its size. Quick precision steering gives confidence, with stability-control keeping the car tracking well through corners with uneven surfaces. The standard five-speed shifter is light, but smooth. Those who prefer may order the optional four-speed automatic.
The car moves with mild crispness with the 83-hp, 1.2-liter, four-cylinder engine being adequate for the 2237 pounds it carries, as long as there are no passengers. Most drivers will realize this is a city car and not a hot rod and will probably be satisfied. Thrills galore are not to be expected. In addition to the 83-horsepower at 6400 rpm, the engine provides 83 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm. The tiny size means this is an excellent city car. It is well suited for traffic navigation and parking space diving.
The mileage ratings are sufficient, but not spectacular, for this class of cars. As is common, they actually fall short of what some subcompacts now offer. The figures are 32/38 mpg city/highway for the manual, five-speed transmission and 28/37 mpg city/highway for the automatic, four-speed transmission.
The performance of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is lacking, but it is made up for by its compact size and above-average fuel economy.
Key Competitors For The 2013 Chevrolet Spark
- Fiat 500
- Scion iQ
- Smart Fortwo