Base Price: $15,970
Price as Tested: $16,720
This week, we're driving Chevy's all-new Spark, a mini four-door hatchback that takes direct aim at consumers who demand good fuel mileage, low cost and small car driving ease. It's also Chevy's first ever sub-compact mini to be sold in the U.S.
Riding on an impressive 93.5-inch wheelbase, Chevy's Spark over-delivers or is equal to the competition in safety, interior room, amenities and entry price.
Although our tester came in top line LT2 Automatic trim, you can park a five- speed manual entry level LS in your driveway for just $12,185. The mid-level version, dubbed LT1, is only slightly more at $13,785. A manual LT2 is also available for $15,085, so just about anyone on a working budget should be able to afford a brand new Spark.
Built in South Korea, Spark is Chevy's lowest cost car and shorter by nine- inches of wheelbase when compared to a Chevy Sonic. Spark is prepared to do battle with the "min-car" heavyweights, including Fiat 500, Scion iQ, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Smart Car, Mazda2 and Mini Cooper. All of the competition is priced higher, some by thousands more.
Under the hood sits an Ecotec 84-horsepower 1.2-liter four-cylinder that delivers a near identical 83 lb. ft. of torque. A hill hold feature is standard, as are a 5-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
Granted, the horsepower numbers won't win you any drag races, but Spark's intention is fuel mileage and easy driving, especially in cities. Expect zero to 60 in about 12.5 seconds with the automatic, and less than 11 with the manual. Don't fret, however, as once the RPM's move into a more reasonable power range, Spark's engine and overall light weight allow for acceptable merging.
A choice of a five-speed manual or four speed automatic will determine your fuel mileage, as the manual delivers 32 city and 38 highway while the automatic reduces the number to 28 and 37. Both highway numbers are good, so be it the automatic or the manual, you go far when you fill up a Spark.
Inside, Spark's cabin is "impressively simple" and loaded with features. In addition to the base model's air conditioning, 60/40 rear seats, all the powers, 10 air bags and power steering, the LT2 upgrades include OnStar, XM Satellite and a six-speaker premium sound radio with USB/iPod. There's a fair amount of molded plastic instead of softer dash surfaces, but in all my years of driving no one ever complained that the dash was too hard on a low priced car.
There are more notable LT2 standard features, including Bluetooth, cruise, keyless entry, steering wheel controls, navigation, stabilitrack, traction control, ABS brakes, rear defrost and much more. Your Chevy dealer will walk you through all of each model's features when you visit a showroom.
Outside, the four-door hatchback takes on the look of a two-door as the rear door handles are integrated upward on the door. The rear seats are surprisingly roomy and as for cargo, there's only 11.4 cu. ft. behind the back seat. However, fold down the rear seat and you've now got a roomy 31.2 cu. ft. to work with.
The length of the wheelbase and its small 15-inch tires give Spark a "look of its own." As for the ride, Spark's McPherson strut front suspension helps absorb some of the highway irregularities, but overall, the ride is harsh and interior road noise is high.
Another area of dislike is the radio touch controls instead of tuning knobs. Please give us radio controls that turn, not touch, as touch systems are burdensome at best. Our tester had no options, just a $750 delivery charge.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 93.5 inches, 2,269 lb. curb weight, 9.2 gallon fuel tank and a 32.5 ft. turning circle.
Chevy's new mini is waiting at dealer showrooms and it's worth a test drive if you're shopping this market.
Likes: Lowest priced mini available, amenities, 10 airbags, warranty.
Dislikes: Wind noise, harsh ride, no radio control knobs.
Test Drive: 2013 Chevy Spark 2LT - Sports - Daily Review