By Joe Santos
Cars seem to be downsizing in the name of price, fuel efficiency, and perhaps, novelty. But while cars like the Scion iQ and the Smart Fortwo may be undersized afterthoughts for many car shoppers in the market for a small car, a real 5-seater like the 2013 Chevrolet Spark could be on the radars of anyone looking for an inexpensive sub-compact that can comfortably fit more than 2 people. The Spark's tiny 1.2-liter engine, eye-catching aesthetics and low price make it a gem in the new-car market, but what also makes this micro-cruiser stand out is that it's available with high-tech features that ride along with the ever-growing wave of technology.
In addition to stylish looks, the all-new Chevy Spark has a very attractive starting price and a surprising amount of storage capacity. City-dwellers will like the Spark's ability to fit into the smallest of parking spaces.
Tiny cars can get jittery at higher speeds. If your commute involves a significant amount of freeway driving, you might want to step up to a slightly larger vehicle like the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio 5-door or Chevy Sonic, which are all more high-speed stable than the Spark.
The 2013 Chevy Spark is the latest entry into the A-segment market of micro-compacts. Although it's new to the U.S. market, Chevy has actually been building the Spark in South Korea for the Asian and European markets over the past few years. America's rising gas prices have made this model more relevant. That being said, the Spark's miniscule size, edgy styling and smart packaging are what really make it stand out.
Driving Impressions On the road, the Spark drives like a glorified motorcycle: It's quick and nimble, but also loud and buzzy. The 1.2-liter engine adequately moves the sub-2,300-pound car through and around...traffic and although 83 horsepower doesn't seem like a lot, it's enough to adequately power the car up steep hills. As far as handling, the micro-car is tossable, but body roll is present thanks to the headroom-creating high roofline. We also detected a lot of wind and road noise in the cabin, but still found it easy to carry on conversations with other passengers. The Spark has a very short wheelbase, so don't expect comfortable highway cruising. If the bulk of your commute is done on busy inner-city streets where tight parking spaces and traffic merges are prevalent, however, then the Spark's diminutive size will outweigh its jumpy ride.
We like the Chevy MyLink with its 7-inch touch screen, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio and telephone with voice recognition. But what we like even more is that the system doesn't have a CD player but instead seamlessly connects to the owner's smartphone for personalized integration.
MOTORCYCLE-INSPIRED INSTRUMENT PANEL
Complementing the Spark's futuristic design is the motorcycle-inspired instrument panel that displays a digital tachometer and trip odometer as well as a large, blue-illuminated analog speedometer.
The Spark's interior is small, but it's roomier than you might think. It has enough room for four adults and the rear seat is easier to get into than those in the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ. In addition to a surprising amount of space, the Spark's interior is as modern as the outside thanks to the body-colored trim pieces and motorcycle-inspired instrument panel. There are plenty of plastics and cloth surfaces in the base Spark, but things get more interesting when stepping up a trim level and opting for the available 7-inch touch screen in the center console area and leatherette upholstery. There's not much cargo room with the rear seats up (11.4 cubic feet), but with the seats folded, the Spark offers 31.2 cubic feet of volume – much more than its rivals.Exterior
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark has a lot in common with its Chevy Sonic stablemate. In fact, it's almost hard to tell the difference between the two, until closer inspection. Aside from the similar hatchback shape, the Spark delineates itself from its sibling with its sharply angled headlights and taillights and even smaller size. For the Spark, opting for higher trim levels includes a few exterior enhancements, including chrome trim pieces, body-color front and rear bodywork, fog lights, and unique 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Considering the economy-minded class it competes in, even the base 2013 Chevrolet Spark comes with a host of convenience features. Some of the most notable include air conditioning, power windows, 15-inch alloy wheels, an AM/FM stereo system with 4 speakers, OnStar, and a 60/40 split/folding rear seat. And since an extremely small car calls for extreme small-car safety features, the Spark has 10 airbags (including a driver-side knee airbag), hill start assist and Stabilitrak stability control with brake assist to keep help you panic-stop quicker.
Some of the most notable options for the 2013 Chevy Spark include a 7-inch color touch-screen radio with Chevrolet MyLink, leather seating, Bluetooth connectivity for select smartphones, a 6-speaker audio system, cruise control, and steering-wheel audio controls. These features are available when the higher trim levels are selected.
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark is powered by a 1.2-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 84 horsepower and 83 lb-ft of torque. While one might harbor low expectations for such a low-power engine, we found that it propelled the minicar with ease and was much quieter and smoother than we initially expected. Power is sent to the Spark's front wheels via a standard 5-speed manual transmission, but a 4-speed automatic is also available.
84 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
83 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 32/38 mpg (manual), 28/37 mpg (automatic)
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark holds a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) price of around $12,200, while opting for the highest trim 2LT version costs around $16,700. Adding an automatic transmission to any trim level tacks on an additional $925. For comparison, the Spark's price tag is about $3,000 less than both the Scion iQ and a base Fiat 500 and on par with that of a Smart Fortwo. And as far as residual values, we expect that the Chevy Spark will retain its value better than all other tiny cars in its class, except for the Scion iQ.
By CO2015 (CO) on Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 673overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "GREAT gas mileage, Zippy Tranny, Smooth Steering"
Cons: "No keyless entry, back seats don't fold flat"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I just bought my Spark a few weeks ago and I have to say I absolutely love it. I drive apx 40 miles each way to work, 5 days a week, so I spend a fair amount of time in my car. I got the 5 speed LS model and I am AVERAGING 40.4 miles per gallon!! I am NOT shifting like an old lady, I run 65 & 70 on sections of my route to work, and I don't use premium gasoline, just regular unleaded. I am so pleased with this little car's performance. The ONLY thing I can think of that kept me from giving it a 10 out of 10 for everything is that I REALLY wish they had included keyless entry in this model and I wish the back seat would fold down FLAT (the seat belts are in the way and not moveable) I have already hauled 6 foot sections of 2x8's and 8 bags of soil to build a flower bed and it fit with no problem. People keep confusing it for a 2 door or a Smart Car and I love telling them "NO, Actually its a CHEVY" ! Having the time of my life with this little car.... Thanks Chevrolet!"
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Sparkler (CA) on Monday, May 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,400overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "value for price, gas mileage, easy to maneuver,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We have had our eye on a Spark ever since renting one up in Oregon and getting 44 MPG driving around town and some highway (in an automatic!). We did not expect to purchase until later this year, however, we found a deal we could not refuse @ $3000 off retail. We bought a 5-speed LS for about $10,850 out the door including tax & license. It has been just over a month and we have traveled all over the state to LA, through Yosemite, and over to Reno. On our first tank, we averaged 39 MPG and were thrilled. The next tank yielded 42 MPG... the next 47 MPG... and so on. It just keeps getting better and better with the most recent tankful delivering 54 MPG - loaded with three adults and overnight luggage. Sure, the vehicle is not luxury (we went from a Mercedes to this car) but there is plenty of room for a pleasant trip, the base model comes with air conditioning and power windows, the reliability has already been proven in Europe and Asia, and the cost was comparable to a good used car. With the 5-year warranty, it was a no-brainer to go ahead and purchase our Spark. This car will get pushed around on the freeway by strong cross-winds and large trucks. We have countered this trouble by installing air tabs atop the rear spoiler. For running regular errands and shopping, etc., we will go from spending about $25 a week in fuel to about $25 a month. The only thing I miss about my Mercedes is the sunroof."
6 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Ags (FL) on Monday, May 06, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 400overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I am previous owner of the Cruz 2011. I traded for Spark relying on customer reviews. Spark feels like a rental car. It easy to park but it is difficult for backing caused by passenger's (blind) side. I don't like this car. In my opinion Cruz is 100 times better and also very good on gas."
By mike t (OH) on Sunday, May 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,300overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Drives and rides nice, great mpg, looks nice"
Cons: "terrible radio, pointless On Star for me"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I bough it new and have 2300 mile on it so far. Manual shift. Drives nice and is getting over 40mpg in a mixed driving situation, mostly freeway though. I really like it so far. I have three complaints. One is the radio. I bought the lower price on because the the upper priced one seemed to have a large screen that was really nothing more than a monitor for your phone. No GPS, no extra car data, no high def radio, no CD player, nothing. The lower priced one has a radio that looks to be difficult to change out. A very proprietary hole(s) in the dash take up a lot of space for no particular reason. I would have preferred a radio with a cd player(although I probably would not use it all that much), an aux, and a USB connector. Most car cd/radios have this. My last radio for $80.00 also had a sd card slot. Also the price of the car reflects the cost of having On Star tech already installed, even if you have no intention of using it you are still paying for it, because the price of the car has to reflect the cost of providing it. I'd rather get a few bucks off the car and not have the On Star already there. The last complaint is it has no engine temperature gauge. I still bought the car knowing about the radio and I still really like the car. Right price and I like the way it drives, rides, and looks. I just think GM could do a better job on some of the tech stuff. It's sad that a $50.00 Wal-Mart CD/radio would be a step up!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Ana on Monday, April 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quality, gas mileage, price, size, style"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have been driving this car everyday for about three weeks now. I have had to fill it up only once, for $25. Amazing gas mileage. Spacious enough for my needs, cute car. Nice stereo system, even in the basic model. The only draw back is the acceleration, I literally floor it to merge onto the interstate, but it is fine and sturdy once it gets going. I would gladly give up acceleration for such great gas mileage. No complaints. I was deciding between this and the Fiat 500 and the quality of the Spark was superior, for significantly less money. Certainty not regretting that decision. Just FYI if you are looking to buy it, make sure you double check what features you are getting. I got the cheapest model, and it did not come with cruise control, automatic locks, floor mats, and the mirrors must be manually adjusted. I had everything installed that I wanted for less than 1000 dollars extra, but just a warning to check, because some things I assumed were standard in all new cars were not included."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By jtb9265 (CA) on Sunday, April 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 96overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Cool, stylish, great value, quiet, solid, 'tech-y'"
Cons: "Acceleration, though not unexpected given its size"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Let me start by saying I've read the Spark is for people on a budget. Well, I wasn't on a budget. In fact, I could have afforded a much more expensive car. But having traded in my Smart convertible (I've always been a fan of small cars), I wanted cool, stylish vehicle that would do what a car was designed for - to get me places. And while I haven't owned the Spark for long, it would seem about as good a bang for the buck as my money can buy. The car is cute (I've described it as a cross between a 'mini' Kia Soul and a PT Cruiser), and the cabin is nothing short of 'small car luxury'. It's quiet, feels well-made/solid, and has lots of gadgets and features. Prior to purchasing this car, I even said I'd probably never buy a Chevy. This car changed my mind, and I believe it just might change yours too."
7 people out of 7 found this review helpful