The Chevrolet Spark isn't a new car -- if you live in Asia, Europe, Australia, or South America, that is. The subcompact Spark has been sold outside of North America for a few years now, and it is finally coming to the U.S. and Canada in mid-2012. The 2013 Chevy Spark will give General Motors a car with which to fight new subcompact offerings including the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ.
At 144.7 inches long and 62.9 inches wide, the Spark is longer but marginally narrower than the iQ and 500. The Fiat 500 is 5.1 inches shorter and 1.2 inches wider; the Scion iQ is 2 feet shorter than the Spark, but about 4 inches wider. The 2013 Spark has been mildly restyled for our market, with several design cues recalling the larger Chevrolet Sonic hatchback. Giant headlights and a massive black grille, bisected by a Chevrolet bow tie, dominate the front end. The rear touts large circular brake lights and a small roof spoiler. Though the petite hatchback has four doors, the door handles for the rears are "hidden" in the C-pillar to give the Spark a sportier, two-door appearance. The overall appearance is fresh and unique, if not the prettiest Chevrolet ever crafted.
Relatively Roomy Interior
Despite its small overall size, the Spark's cabin has been designed to eke out as much interior room as possible. There's 86.3 cubic-feet of room for four occupants, and 11.4 cubic-feet of space behind the rear seats, numbers that eclipse the interior measurements of the four-seat Fiat 500 and Scion iQ. The dashboard has Chevrolet's motorcycle-inspired instrument cluster, which uses a large analog speedometer adjacent to a rectangular digital screen showing engine revs, fuel level, and other information. Ice blue ambient lighting and colored inserts for the dash and door panels inject some personality into an otherwise plain cabin design befitting a car in this price range.
Ten airbags, air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, and power windows are standard on all models. Spark 1LT and 2LT trims receive Chevrolet's MyLink touch-screen infotainment system, while 2LT trims have heated leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Under the Hood
The Spark's only engine choice is a 1.2-liter inline-four with dual variable valve timing. It produces 85 hp and 82 lb-ft of torque, with a five-speed manual transmission as standard and a four-speed automatic optional. Chevrolet promises "competitive" fuel economy figures, which would mean ratings of around 30 mpg in the city and close to 40 mpg on the highway.
Those power figures trail those of both the Fiat (101 hp, 98 lb-ft) and the Scion (94 hp, 89 lb-ft). Fortunately, the engine doesn't have to propel too much mass. Sparks with the manual weigh a mere 2269 pounds, and those with the automatic tip the scales at 2337 pounds. Electric power steering and low rolling resistance tires also help improve fuel efficiency.
The Spark, which is based on the South Korean-market Daewoo Matiz, has already proven a sales success in other parts of the world. Given that concerns about fuel costs and parking spaces have already driven many Americans toward smaller cars, we don't think the Spark will have too much trouble attracting its share of buyers to Chevy showrooms. And after the gasoline model has been on sale for a year or so, Chevrolet will introduce an all-electric version.