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TDR 09-26-2012 12:59 PM

Smart Things Come in Small Packages: The Chevy Spark

Hereís an amazing statistic: By 2050, 70 percent of the worldís population will live in cities. That means the way we live, commute, get around, haul stuff, get our kids to school, get our groceries home and escape to the country will change. And where will we ever park the Suburban?

This quandary is something the automakers have been thinking about for a while: nearly every automaker has designed and introduced a car for city dwellers. The latest one is from Chevy: The Spark.
A City Car Built for Four
Plenty of leg room for my travel companion, 6 'tall John Ringwald

We got a chance to drive the Spark recently and loved many things about it; its designers thought about how people would use the car, including places to charge your devices, room for groceries, fold down seats for hauling stuff, and where to put your handbag (in the door panel or between the front seats). The carís interior features many options that typically come with more expensive--or luxury--cars, including a media console, hands free Bluetooth for the phone, heated seats, power everything, six speakers, and more. They also thought about how people get around: in groups. So the car has four doors (well, five really, if you count the rear hatch) and comfortably seats four adults.

Built for the Tech Addict
YAY: My handbag fits nicely (and looks good!) between the front seats

The Spark was designed with younger drivers in mind--those who might be more focused on the carís novel design, technology and sound system than its size or cargo space. But, it includes enough clever touches that it will also satisfy older drivers. And all of us who are addicted to our smartphones will love this car: central to the design of the car is the MyLink system which integrates many of your phoneís operations into the media console. In addition to being able to run Pandora or Stitcher through the carís six speakers, you can load in your phone contacts, sync your phone for hands-free Bluetooth use, and upload photos and movies; the implication is that Chevrolet will add more apps to the system in the future.

A Novel Way to Navigate

Among the things Chevy rethought was the Sparkís Navigation. Rather than installing software on the car, itís a phone app: BringGo is a separate one-time $50 app purchase, which is cheaper than most navigation options on other cars. Then, the app updates with your phone so you always have the most current maps and real time traffic. The downside is that it runs through your phone: You have to have your phone for navigation, and it operates through your data plan. Though Chevy pledged sensitivity to this issue and has tried to make system speedy so itís not too damaging to your monthly phone bill (your Pandora, use, however, they canít help).

TDR 09-26-2012 01:00 PM
Spark's designers painted the door panel compartments a lighter color. No more mystery fishing!

What We Love:
Roomy interior in such a small package
It comes in pink!
Door panel compartments are painted a contrasting color (so you can see what is in there)
Lots of places to put handbags, phones and other necessities
MyLink media console
Apps on the media console, with more to come
USB port right under the console
Wireless sync with Android phones
Cool instrument panel
Four doors, seats four
60/40 split rear seat
31 cubic feet of cargo space (with rear seats folded down)
Roof rack
THE PRICE! $17K fully loaded

What to Know:
A smartphone is a must: without it much of the MyLink won’t function
At 84 horsepower, four passengers and hilly terrain could be challenging
32/38 MPG is less than you might expect for a car this size
31 cubic feet is about the size of the average trunk

Must Haves:
Roof Rack
MyLink media console
Pick a great color--there are some nice options!
The manual transmission if you can; it is more fun to drive (and better MPG)
Spark --in Techno Pink!--has 31 cubic feet of load space: Like a regular trunk!
Great for City, Campus or Gated Community

The Spark isn’t just great for people living in tight urban spaces, it’s also ideal for people living in a gated community who want something more than a golf cart but less than a full size car, or college kids or folks living on a campus--which are known for having tight parking. And, here’s where the horsepower of the car can work in your favor: sending a kid off to college in a Spark might quell the fears of parents of lead-footed drivers. And last, the technology in this car is something every kid can fall in love with. And when little Poindexter graduates from college, the Spark is just the right car to help him to settle into his railroad flat in Brooklyn/Boston/Portland.

Smart Things Come in Small Packages: The Chevy Spark

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