By Joe Santos - Updated Date: 7/6/2012
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's New for 2013
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 It 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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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.Under the Hood
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.