Small cars are exceedingly under-appreciated and despite this, OEMs are making good ones. One of the good ones: The Chevy Spark
I love small cars. I know I’ve said this before but I’m a huge fan. Thing is though that because cars are so affordable nowadays, you either want a small or can truly only afford a most basic new mode of transportation. The Chevy Spark is incredibly affordable and is a fantastic small car.
I could end the review right here, or should I? Everything else that needs to be said about a subcompact car is quite evident. The trunk is more or less an extended glove compartment and the rear bench seat is quite tight. In this respect, the Chevy Spark serves more as a 2+2 than a 5-door 4-seater hatchback.
Snug but value-packed
With the rear seats up, boot volume is limited to 314 litres but it’s so narrow at the top that a carry-on bag will not fit upright. Lowering the seatback more than doubles the available room and now you have a functional boot. Upfront, there’s plenty of space for two and all of their gear.
Chevrolet caters to its Spark buyers with a very complete list of standard features, even in the $9,995 base LS manual. Get this: 7-inch touchscreen, Chevy Infotainment with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and WIFI hotspot, but no A/C or power anything. If this is not a perfect snapshot of today’s “needs”, then I don’t know what is. Moving up to the LT delivers A/C, power windows and door locks, cruise control and a few other bits for $14,695. Now we’re talking.
My tester was an LT with the $1,200 continuously variable transmission option for a total of $15,895. This is the Spark’s sweet spot as moving up to the 2LT (leatherette, sunroof, other stuff) at for over $19,000 is missing the point of purchasing such a car – the Spark is a means to get around, and not much more.
However! There’s loads of fun to be had from behind the Chevy Spark’s steering wheel, I kid you not! There may have been a time when these small cars were dreadful to drive (the Mitsubishi Mirage still is…) but for the most case, they are all entertaining to say the least. And this applies to the Spark.
No word of a lie but I enjoyed my time with the Spark more than I did a G20 2019 BMW 330i – I drove them back-to-back. Obviously, the BMW was faster but all things considered, the Chevy’s ride quality was more comfortable, compliant and better adapted to non-Californian roads.
In fact, the Chevy Spark’s chassis tune could teach larger GM cars a lesson or two in road manners. Believe me-you that there’s nothing special about the front independent, rear torsion beam suspension and the car’s structure is not made out of carbon-Kevlar! The dampers are designed to soak up and settle. Granted, a high-speed on- or off-ramp induces a fair amount of body roll but there’s nothing to fear. Steering too is well adapted to the car as are the brakes.
One of the Spark’s not-so-secret secrets is that it weighs nothing. At barely 1,050 kg (2,300 lb), the Spark is agile on its toes. Weight is performance’s nemesis although the Spark is not quick. The standard-for-all 1.4-litre Ecotec 4-cylinder engine produces 98-horsepower and 94 lb.-ft. of torque. Comical as these numbers may seem, the Spark still goes about its business, if you get on the throttle soon and hard – it’s kinda fun actually.
Not for its fuel economy
Even when not pushing the car, the 2019 Chevy Spark’s Achille’s heel is fuel consumption. Such a small, lightweight car should not need nearly 8L/100km to get around. In fact, this is the reason why you should not get this car. If one of your main criteria behind the purchase of a car is fuel economy, most compact cars (Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic…) are better on average.
By the same token, the Chevy Spark is not the better option in the subcompact car segment either. The Honda Fit is tops but always too expensive. The Nissan Micra is near and dear to my heart while the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio are decent choices. The Toyota Yaris remains the go-to little car for all the right reasons including efficiency, design, drive and value.