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Test drive: The new Chevrolet Spark minicar - CBS News

(MoneyWatch) A FedEx van cruises to my left and a big delivery truck to my right, with just a narrow lane between them. But my bright red Chevrolet Spark squirts through the opening with room to spare. That's the kind of urban maneuverability that General Motors (GM) hopes will attract buyers to the Spark, its new mini-car.

The Spark, already sold in 80 other countries, enters a U.S. segment previously populated mainly by interesting, but unsuccessful, entries like the Smartfortwo. Last year, the Fiat 500 brought a stylish, drivable alternative into this category.

With the $12,999 starting price for the Spark base version and an array of splashy colors, GM aims to attract new buyers to this segment. (The Mini Cooper, although a similar size, starts at $19,500 and competes with more expensive subcompacts and compacts.)

A 2013 model, the Spark has just gone on sale. With a four-cylinder 1.25-liter engine paired with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, Spark's acceleration won't be confused with a Corvette. But in the manual version that I test-drove, it produced enough oomph to outmaneuver the trucks and taxis on New York City streets or pass when needed at highway speeds.
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