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Chevrolet hopes its new beefed-up mini-car will catch fire with younger drivers.

Built in South Korea, the five-door Spark has already been available for two years in Europe and Asia. The North American model will get slightly more power, an upgraded interior and sound-deadening materials.

In an effort to attract younger buyers, the Spark comes in eight colour combinations, with names such as jalapeno, techno pink and salsa.

Competing against such cars as the Fiat 500, the Scion IQ and the Smart Fortwo, the Spark is one of the smallest cars to ever be produced by Chevrolet (the Japanese-built Suzuki of 1985-’88 marketed here as the Chevy Sprint and Pontiac Firefly was about 100 mm shorter).

The base LS model starts at $13,495, with a five-speed manual transmission. Add on $1,250 for a four-speed automatic transmission and $1,150 for air conditioning.

At $16,695, the 1LT model includes air conditioning, a security system, cruise control, power locks and Chevy’s MyLink information system with a seven-inch colour screen, Bluetooth, a USB port, and both Stitcher and Sirius XM radio packages.

At $18,495, the top-of-the-line 2LT version adds a modified grill and front bumper, rocker moulding extensions, fog lights, leatherette seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats.

All models are powered by a 1.25-litre double-overhead camshaft inline four-cylinder engine, producing 84 horsepower and 83 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Spark has more interior space than its competitors, with more legroom for front passengers. Its square shape provides 323 litres of cargo space with the rear seat in position, and 883 litres with the seats folded down. They also fold separately for added versatility.

The car will hold four adults comfortably, assuming they’re not football players. A motorcycle-style gauge pod with an analog speedometer sits atop the steering column, which partially blocks the speedometer.

During a short test-drive through city traffic, the Spark 2LT was nimble, with positive steering and handling. The automatic’s shifts were solid and barely perceptible. Visibility was excellent from the greenhouse-like cabin.

On the highway, there was little road or wind noise. But under hard acceleration, the little engine would roar away as the tachometer spun and the engine revs increased.

As expected with such a short wheelbase, the ride was firm and potholes or other road variances were transmitted into the cabin.

Using regular fuel, Chevy estimates fuel consumption at 5.2 L/100 kilometres with the automatic transmission. An electric-drive version should be on the market for 2014.

2013 Chevrolet Spark

PRICE: Base, $13,495; as tested, $18,495

ENGINE: 1.25 L inline four

POWER/TORQUE: 84 hp/83 lb.-ft.

FUEL CONSUMPTION L/100 km: 5.2 estimate combined

COMPETITION: Fiat 500, Scion IQ, Smart ForTwo

WHAT’S BEST: nimble handling, large interior dimensions, fit and finish

WHAT’S WORST: engine noise under hard acceleration, speedometer partially hidden by steering wheel

WHAT’S INTERESTING: one of the smallest Chevy’s in history

Wheels Review: 2013 Chevrolet Spark adds some sizzle to mini-car market -
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