Los Angeles 2011: 2013 Chevrolet Spark Unveiled, All-Electric Version Promised

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Subcompact cars have become a hot commodity, and Chevrolet wants part of the sales action. As a result, the company has decided to sell the Chevrolet Spark in the U.S. from mid-2012. Although it is making its U.S. debut at the Los Angeles auto show today, the Spark has been on sale in other parts of the world for about two years.

The car’s foreign origins explain its quirky styling. Originally sold as the Daewoo Matiz in South Korea, the American-market Spark has been mildly redesigned for sale in the U.S. Even so, it looks a little bit weird: the big front grille, giant headlights, and large round taillights seem somewhat disproportionate for such a miniature car. We think the motorcycle-inspired instrument cluster, however, is downright cool.

Measuring just 5.1 inches longer than the tiny Fiat 500, the Spark certainly is a small car. Yet the Chevrolet offers more passenger and cargo room than the 500 and the even-smaller Scion iQ -- Chevrolet sees those vehicles as the Spark’s key competitors. Like those cars, the Spark only seats four people, but Chevrolet believes the four-door hatchback design is much more practical than the two-door arrangement employed by the Fiat and Scion.

The lone engine choice is, just like the overall car, very small. The 1.2-liter inline-four offers 85 hp and 82 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual is standard, with a four-speed automatic transmission optional. Chevrolet says fuel economy will match or exceed ratings of its competitors, which we take to mean around 30 mpg in the city and close to 40 mpg on the highway.

Chevrolet spokespeople say they hope the Spark will sell well within its segment, but acknowledge that sales numbers might be modest overall. The tiny Spark will probably sell best in urban markets, and its small size will preclude many buyers from picking it. Don't expect the Spark to match the prodigious sales success of the Cruze compact sedan.

Not thrifty enough for your tastes? Chevrolet also plans to launch an all-electric version of the Spark by 2013. The company isn't sharing too many details on the car so far, though we're told to expect more information by mid-2012. The Spark EV will initially only be offered in limited numbers in certain parts of the U.S., but eventually will be sold globally. The Spark electric will look almost identical to the gasoline-powered model shown today, albeit with some tweaks to make it more aerodynamic. It is expected to use advanced lithium-ion batteries provided by A123 Systems.

For more on the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, check out our First Look here. For more on the 2011 Los Angeles Show, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our L.A. Show homepage.

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