We grab a little time in GM's upcoming little electric car
What is it?
Take a Chevy Spark. Remove about 150 pounds from the front end. Add 400 in the rear. Garnish with 320 extra lb ft of torque. It can run silent, and according the ads, Chevy runs deep. So it has a couple of things in common with a submarine. You can call it Alvin. Given that every electrified GM model undergoes a full saltwater-immersion test before entering production, the comparison is marginally apt. Marginally.
What's it like to drive?
GM's playing many of the Spark EV's figures close to the vest, and the cars we drove were preproduction prototypes, unauthorized by the Feds for use on public roads by anyone other than GM employees. As a result, we made do with a closed loop on the edge of San Francisco Bay at Sausalito's Fort Baker. Expect further details to be revealed later this month at the LA Auto Show, where the car makes its
As such, we can't report crosswind behavior, freeway ride, emergency lane-change responsiveness and all the other scenarios we like to throw at a car. In fact, our seat time in the Spark EV was even more limited than it was in our first drive of the Tesla Model S.
So what did we glean? It's fun. It's fast enough. Chevy quotes the 0-60 time as sub-eight seconds. In a world where cars regularly dip into the five second range, that seems almost slow, especially for a machine with such a torque reserve on tap. Trust us, it's not. The Spark's acceleration is “adequate” in the Rolls-Royce sense of the word. No, you won't be taking on Mongoose McEwen from a tree, but neither will you ball your fists in fury when that hole in traffic closes before you were able to get to it.
The handling's not quite as planted or sorted the rear-motor, rear-drive Mitsubishi i's, and in fact, the car feels markedly different from the internally-combusting Spark. Turn off the traction control and the car will pivot around the front wheels, the rear end breaking loose not unlike a VW Golf R.
Though GM will undoubtedly fine-tune the chassis before the car goes on sale, don't expect amped-up levels of GTI-ness. The electric Spark's no practical sports car; it's an urban runabout fully capable of getting out of its own way. And that's no bad thing at all.
Do I want one?
We'll have to wait for the final figures to make a call on how it stacks up against the rest of the small-EV market, but GM is emphasizing that they didn't just build the car to comply with California's EV mandate; that they took the effort to modify and build upon a global platform because they intend to sell the electrified sub-subcompact in multiple markets.
What's more, it's actually going to be for sale, rather than for lease, with an 8 year, 80,000 mile warranty on the battery pack and drivetrain.
We expect the price to fall somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000, likely coming in under $20k once the $7,500 federal tax credit is applied, and closer to $15k in California, given the additional incentives.
If you like the Mitsubishi i, but perhaps want something with a bit more oomph and interior zazz, the Spark EV might well be your new car.
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV
Base Price: $25,000-30,000 (est.)
Drivetrain: 20+ kWh battery pack; 134-hp, 400-lb-ft permanent magnet motor; one-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: N/A
Chevrolet Spark EV first drive - Autoweek