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Quick Drive: 2013 Chevrolet Spark

Brace yourselves, because obnoxious and loud Chevy Spark commercials are coming. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is pretty much everything else about the Chevy Spark.  It’s a small, inexpensive, zippy, fuel efficient car. But there is more to the Spark; it’s not just another cheapo econobox, but rather it was designed to be hip and fun, targeted specifically at the youngest of car buyers. The question is – will it be a sales success or a marketing flop?

Disclaimer: Chevy invited me to drive the Spark around New York City. The whole event was a bit weird, with a trip to a fragrance store in SOHO, a weird bakery in Williamsburg, and a weirder bar in Green Point. I actually liked it as Green Point is an old Polish neighborhood that I used to frequent when it was cool, before it became artsy hipster central.

I paid for my own travel costs to NYC and I stayed at my mom’s house in Edgewater, NJ overnight. My transportation included a car, bus, ferry, and a taxi. Chevy provided coffee in the morning and lunch after the drive.

Chevy reps will tell you that the Spark is the smallest and least expensive (don’t call it “cheap”) Chevrolet on the market. It is also the lowest priced “minicar”, which I guess describes cars such as the Smart ForTwo, Scion iQ, and Fiat 500. Chevy further said that theirs is the only one that offers four doors and something of a useable trunk. I’ll have to take their word for it as I haven’t driven the other cars.

Interior:

The interior is well laid out with all controls logically placed and easy to use. The car I drove was of the highest trim level and included heated seats, steering wheel controls, an automatic transmission (5-speed is standard), and a fancy infotainment system. Aside from the infotainment system (more on that later), all controls were easy to access. The seats were not the most comfortable or supportive, but not any worse than in any other similarly priced cars.

With the front seat set for me, a 6’2” driver, I was actually able to sit “behind myself” in the back, albeit it was a bit tight in the knee and headroom departments. It was good for a short trip around town but I wouldn’t want to go on a road trip sitting back there.

On the 1LT trim (GM speak for one above the base) or higher, the Spark comes with a 7-inch touchscreen radio and a feature called “Chevrolet MyLink”. The system has no knobs, just four hard buttons, and it plays AM/FM/Satelite radios. When connected to your Android or iPhone, preloaded with the appropriate 2GB app ($50 for the app), you get a navigational system, Pandora, and Stitcher radio. Based on my quick experience with it, the system works rather well. The only downside is a steep learning curve, especially for older buyers. There is no CD player or another navigational option available.

Driving:

The Spark comes with an 84hp and 83lb-ft 1.2-liter engine. Before you squirm, realize that the car weights approximately 2300 pounds. Around town it is actually fun, and perhaps due to the gearing it does not feel slow. The buzziness and overall lack of power does become evident on the highway, in this case it was the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Triborough Bridge. Even so, the Spark moves but needs to be pretty much floored in order to move faster than surrounding traffic. Even so, I preferred this power-train to the one in the Prius C, although the Prius C is undoubtedly more efficient.

The suspension seemed well designed; it felt smooth on the city roads and was still fun to drive. It won’t set any skidpad records but won’t put you to sleep like a Corolla either. The Spark comes with front discs and rear drums. Next year there will be an electric version.

Conclusion:

Despite the questionable marketing and presentation to the media (Editor’s Note – It was apparently hipsteriffic), Chevy has a nifty little car on its hands. I believe that it’s actually well designed for the intended market, and starting at approximately $13,000 it’s well priced (my fully loaded Spark was $16,720 with destination). It’s got all the modern safety features, good fuel economy (32 city/38 highway stick and 28/37 for auto), and the techy/geeky gadgets which the “millennials” seem to love. It is then wrapped in a pretty, yet not overly cute package. Will it be a hit with the Hipsters of Brooklyn? I have no idea… perhaps if it was sold out of an unfinished loft on Manhattan Avenue at a ridiculous price.

  • Devin

    The pricing in Canada can quickly make a trip into crazytown, the top end 2LT hits $20k.

    • BAMacPherson

      Where did you price this out? I went to gm.ca looking for the configurator but they only have the Sonic.

      • Kogashiwa

        http://bit.ly/U6QirB – that work?

        And yeah over $20k for something I wouldn't want to leave town with is absurd.

        I like the size of it, but wake me when they sell it with the 1.4 turbo.

      • Devin

        Kogashiwa found the link, but GM's site is oddly behind itself. It's in the configurator, but it's not actually given a real site for itself yet, which seems like an odd choice.

        Also, when you look at the configurator, check the pink paint, I think they had some leftovers from the Mary Kay Cadillacs. There's one painted that shade in Regina.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    In my opinion, Chevrolet has been trying to dig themselves out of a hole since the 1st gen Aveo. That thing was already a late entrant to the tiny car segment, and it was actually, to this date, the worst car I have ever driven. I have since been hesitant to give them another chance, but I suppose I'd take a look if I was in the market…

  • topdeadcentre

    Did the marketroids not think of everything close to "Spark" that people might think up? Some of these might be good on license plates..

    snark
    spork
    stark
    shark
    snerk

    and for the Yiddish speakers in the crowd, shtark ("tough") and shtarker ("tough guy")

    And if it keeps breaking down after the warranty ends, it's just because they spelled the name backwards. Kraps.

    • chrystlubitshi

      not sure why this is important to mention… but it is.

      I own a Titanium Spork

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      I read 'stark' as 'stank'.

      Well…

  • Show me a Spark SS and I will feign interest. Like Flick, the Aveo legacy really, really turned me off of Chevrolet's small cars.

  • NoKetchup

    Never heard of the Spark but after seeing the picture, I opened the thread and immediately searched for "Fit" with no hits. Everything about it feels like a direct copy (minus about 35hp)

    • Devin

      The Spark makes the Fit look MASSIVE!

    • Good point. The Fit is bigger, but costs the same and gets similar gas mileage and has historically better reliability. But it's not "new" and it's not hip anymore. That said, anyone looking to buy a Spark would be down right dumb not to consider a new or used Fit.

  • So it isn't dumbed down with racist overtones?

    <img src="http://www.bruneistars.com/Magazine/wp-content/uploads/image4827.png&quot;, width=500>

  • tiberiusẅisë

    It looks worlds better than an Aveo but I think the most important comparison would be to a Fiesta.

    • Devin

      It's actually significantly smaller than a Fiesta.

      It doesn't quite come across in pictures but this is a tiny little bugger.

      • tiberiusẅisë

        Yet similar price and MPG. Actually I'm not so sure on price. It can be hard to figure out comparable equipment.

  • Jeb

    Waitaminute…you have to pay $50 and download a 2GB app to your phone? YGBSM

  • MVEilenstein

    Like the original Scion xB, I can see this being popular . . . with old people.

    • chrystlubitshi

      dude, is 30 old?

      I seriously want a 1st gen xB…… though, I guess you are probably talking about the general buying public…(not the Commentariat of this site) I am "normal" but my "normal" is WAY off center when compared to the 'average' buyer….

      • Devin

        I once met a lady who sells Kias, she said that the Soul is bought primarily by two kinds of people, girls who are 17, and women who are 71. I imagine the xB wasn't that different.

        Makes sense though, cheap, practical and has a great hip point.

      • MVEilenstein

        I never cared for them, and I'm also 30. I imagine most original xB owners are now in their 30's (or 80's), so it makes sense!

    • Agreed… and it's a shame that it won't be marketed to them. As I've said in the post, the infotainment interface isn't older-people friendly either. Anyone who has problems using a radio in the car won't buy the damn car.

      • MVEilenstein

        I don't understand the logic behind them. If it's dangerous to use my smartphone while driving, how is a giant one built into the dash any less of a problem? I see people fooling with them all the time in traffic. Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  • rpdred6

    cool little car, love the photos

  • chrystlubitshi

    I have seen a few of these on the road. The front end reminds me of the last of the Chevy Venture 'mini-vans' flat front, black grille with body color stripe containing a "brushed gold bowtie"… but it's tiny….. I don't want to try to sit in one unless the seat rails are extended (6'3" tall)… and the rear seats taken out… then it'd be a useful little car…

    I had an Eagle Summit 2 door coupe (hence the name–it was a mitsu-chrysler/we cant make up our minds car) that I removed the rear seat from and it made a great two-seater. It also fit 1/3 of my total owned property in it at a time… I wouldn't object to a spark.. but I'd rather buy a 1 or 2LT in 8-10 years for about 1200 or less…..

  • CABEZAGRANDE

    All I can see when I see the nose is a cat that's being pet too hard and it's face is all stretched out.

    I think I could like this car, but my god that's not much power.

  • ramLlama

    The problem that I have with this car, and with all small cars, for that matter, is that they are simply. not. worth. it.

    $13k for a bare-bones car and $16k for full-loaded one? Honestly, if I was in that situation, I would wait and save for an extra year and get a perfectly decent $20k car that has similar features, similar fuel economy, and is just plain bigger (without being a barge). Or just buy a used car with a warranty and spend the savings on gas. Either way, you make out ahead.

    $20 to $30k is a sweet spot for a car. More than that, and you are paying for features you will not use, a brand name, or both.

    Any less, and you are paying too much for too little car.

    All that aside, I do like the spark. I saw one in Dallas last week, and it is just as I remember it (I saw a lot of the Daewoo Matiz back when I lived in India). It doesn't really have a competitor in its size segment, except perhaps the iQ and SmartCar. Even the Prius C should be bigger enough that it is hard to compare.

  • BobWellington

    The only real problem I have with this car is how it looks – not good. The headlights on cars today seem to stretch all the way to the back. It ruins the whole look of the car.

  • Maymar

    "I actually liked it as Green Point is an old Polish neighborhood that I used to frequent when it was cool, before it became artsy hipster central."

    Out-hipstering the hipsters! I'm just shocked GM hasn't done all the Spark's press photos via Instagram. Or that there isn't an in-dash record player instead of the CD player they opted out of. Or that the seats aren't upholstered with reclaimed vintage ringer tees.

    No, I'm sure it's a perfectly pleasant little car, but I'd be streching for a Sonic.

    • I was a hipster before it was cool. 😛

  • TDI_FTW

    I find the car awkwardly proportioned. They're popular here as the cheapest possible rental car option. It's pretty zippy with the manual gear box, but not adequate (for me at least) for a daily driver. It's still not as fuel efficient as my Passat TDI.
    I'm sure there's a market for cars like the Chevrolet Spark but it's not enough car for me.

  • pizzaboy

    The Spark is on the roads here in Yurrup for some time and my mom actually wants to buy one (the Bi-Fuel version). She now drives the Chevrolet Matiz, which is kind of its predecessor, and an even bigger shitbox! Everything about that car is utterly shit. The interior feels like it was made out of recycled tupperware, not to mention the drunk homeless-like handling. Only thing good about it is great city mpg, but on the highway it would get about the same milage as my bmw e36, i kid you not (although with a laidback driving style).

    So based on that experience i would never ever buy Daewoo errr I mean Chevy products (except for their american line-up of course) because it'll make you want to kill yourself. /rant.

  • gessvt

    Chevy, Miller Brewing Co., Verizon, etc. etc.: please, please stop throwing money at hipsters.





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