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.
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.
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.
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.