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Test Drive: 2013 Chevy Spark minicar delivers personality, value

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Chevy’s Spark minicar is a reflection of the changing desires of first-time car buyers. It’s as much about the data that can be pushed through the USB port as it is about the power put to the wheels. It’s about squeezing efficiency out of the engine, and every bit of versatility out of the interior.
Small subcompacts such as the Spark are still niche models in the American market, but are popular around the world for their value, nimble maneuverability and ease of parking in urban settings. It looks like a 2-door, but it’s actually a 4-passenger 4-door, with the rear door handles cleverly disguised in the rear window pillar.

John M. Vincent/The Oregonian The Spark takes an upright stance, with a very short front end and wheels pushed to the extreme corners. The shape maximizes the space inside for all but the tallest passengers. The back seat’s even comfortable enough to stuff your coworkers into for a short drive. (Lunch meeting at Five Guys, anyone?)

If the minicar shape, with its oversized headlights, doesn’t get you noticed, the intense exterior and interior accent colors will. Salsa, Techno Pink, Lemonade, and Jalapeño are just a few of the available hues.

The Spark is revolutionary in how it connects to the electronic world. Instead of a complex audio system with loads of internal features, the Spark’s fairly simple MyLink radio, with a 7-inch display screen, acts as a conduit for apps running on your smartphone. The MyLink radio is standard on 1LT and 2LT models. There’s no CD player; the system relies on data streamed either by Bluetooth or via a USB cable from external devices.

John M. Vincent/The Oregonian At launch, there were two media streaming services available – Pandora and Stitcher. The MyLink interface for Pandora allows you to tag music with a thumbs-up or down right on the dash-mounted display, without unsafely fumbling for your phone.
Coming soon is a game-changing navigation system called BringGo, a $50 smartphone app that looks just like a built-in navigation system when it’s linked to the screen in the Spark. No more need for a $1,000 built-in navigation system, or easily stolen aftermarket units.

One of the beauties of the design is that the apps can be updated and features can easily be added to the system. Chevy’s already announced the integration of the 70,000-station TuneIn Radio network.

Apple iPhone users are able to access Siri through a steering wheel-mounted button. From phone calls to sports scores, almost everything that Siri does on the handset will be available handsfree. The phone screen will be kept dark, to minimize driver distraction.

John M. Vincent/The Oregonian The Spark is powered by a 1.25-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 84 hp. That’s not a lot of power, but it’s sufficient for driving around town, and is ample enough to power the Spark over the Sylvan hill in the fast lane with four adults onboard. There’s a 4-speed automatic transmission available, but the best efficiency and driving experience is found with the standard 5-speed manual gearbox.
EPA-estimated mileage with the manual is 32/city and 38/highway. In my weekly mixed city and highway driving cycle, I achieved 34.7 mpg.

Base price: $12,185, 2LT $15,085
Price as tested: $15,895, including $810 destination charge
Type: Front-wheel drive, 4-passenger, subcompact 4-door hatchback
Engine: 1.25-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder
Final assembly: Changwon, South Korea
EPA estimated mileage: 32 city/38 highway (as tested)
Length: 144.7 inches
Wheelbase: 93.5 inches
Weight: 2,237 lbs. (as tested)

Test Drive: 2013 Chevy Spark minicar delivers personality, value |
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As economical as it is colorful, the new Chevy Spark packs plenty into its 93.5-inch wheelbase including rear door with handles integrated into the rear pillars.

The back seat in the Spark fits 2 adults.

A MyLink radio acts as the interface for smartphone-driven apps.

Under the short hood is a 1.25-liter 4-cylinder engine.
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