Updated: 4:35 p.m. Thursday to notes that shipping is included in price and correct horsepower.
No, you probably don't want drive coast-to-coast in a tiny Chevrolet Spark. Or even state-to-state. But for sheer fun around the city, it's a small car that's hard to beat.
Yes, it's still a tad noisy even after sound-deadening touches were added for the U.S. The 84-horsepower, 1.25-liter, four-cylinder engine winds up to warp speed to try to whip you to freeway speeds. And you can feel some of the larger bumps.
But based on a long drive around Los Angeles, we put most of those thoughts aside to focus instead of the car's fun thrash-favor, its excellent handling, sharp turning radius, great headroom (seems like being over 6 feet tall is a requirement to write for Drive On) and cool looks.
It's a four-door hatchback imported from South Korea and it is, indeed, small: about the size of a Fiat 500, a prime competitor. Chevy also thinks it will go head-to-head against the Smart ForTwo and Toyota Scion iQ, which are smaller. Spark is the third small car in Chevy's lineup, a mere babe compared with the Sonic and the larger Cruze compact.
The new smallest Chevrolet, sold around the world and on sale in the U.S. for a month, was made for the city. It was deliberately given only a four-speed automatic engine or five-speed manual transmission because it's not expected to be used on long freeway treks where gas-saving overdrive gears are handy, says GM's global small vehicles chief, Jim Federico.
The gas mileage is certainly respectable: 32 miles a gallon in the city, 38 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission, and 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway with the automatic.
No wonder that it's also Chevrolet's cheapest car: a base price of $12,995, including shipping. Try as you might, even for the most tricked-out version, you will be challenged to pay more than $17,000. Yet, even for the cheapie, you get extras that you might not expect: standard air conditioning, power windows and locks, OnStar communications system, for instance.
The goal is to turn young buyers, the primary target for the car, into General Motors fanatics. Give them a good experience with their first Chevy, then they'll come back for another, maybe even a Buick or a Cadillac, Federico reasons.
Or, if they really like it, maybe they'll just buy another Spark.
Chevrolet's tiny new Spark is meant for city driving