You come to expect what you’ll get from a car just by looking at it. When we’re talking small, budget friendly, compact cars we expect small tires, small engines with low output and a rather bare bones interior. The sacrifices mentioned are acceptable to many as a trade off for higher MPG and a lower sticker price. Thing is, not all budget friendly cars meet our expectations. So what are the highs and lows of the Spark?
Let’s start with appearance. Chevy has incorporated a range of atypical colors for this compact car. I see this as a smart move. After all, paint is an inexpensive way to add flair to a scaled down vehicle. The vehicle we were loaned was that flamboyant green you see in all the commercials (it’s called Jalapeno). The stubby appearance of the Spark mixed with a loud bright color really does demand attention. So as I cruise around town, heads turn and people smile. Now are they laughing with me or …. Never mind that. Climb into the Spark and you’ll find that the cockpit is adequate and pretty much on par with what you would expect from a budget friendly car. I was actually surprised that I fit into it so well considering my 48” shoulder span. Head room was also acceptable. That said, I wasn’t actually comfortable. I blame this on the seat and pedal positioning. The seat feels too tall and the pedals feel too close. So it starts to feel more like you’re driving a John Deere then a Chevy. Obviously a consequence of the short wheelbase. Even though I don’t find this position relaxing it didn’t cause me any pain or leg cramping. So perhaps it’s a matter a preference or body type.
Looking through the steering wheel at the dash, you’ll find a simple speedometer nestled dead center with a smaller digital multiscreen to the right displaying RPMs, fuel gauge, gear selection etc. It’s functional enough for those gauges I just mentioned, but when it came to reaching around the wheel to scroll through the other settings, I found its positioned annoying and the buttons too small and awkward. Unlike the controls on the steering wheel. These are well placed and convenient. But, you better memorize them because there is no back lit LED on these controls to help you identify what’s what at night. The entertainment unit is truly the highlight of this car. The new Chevy mylink touch screen radio is both stylish and innovative. The 7” color screen looks so nice it’s almost out of place on this budget car. Bluetooth for your phone calls and music works well and with the proper app installed, you can access your cell phones navigation through the 7” color radio screen. So the source of the navigation is your cell phone, no more expensive CD updates! Now why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?
As I rode around town and through the city the appeal of the little car started to come to light. As I slipped into tight spots and quickly spun the little car around in quick u turns , giving no regard to reverse, it suddenly became a bit more practical. This little crush however was short lived once I entered the highway. As I merged into traffic I gave the throttle the usual 50%…. But nothing’s happening. I go 80% still nothing. 100% I hear something happening up under the hood, but my butt-o-meter isn’t picking up any readings. The 1.2 liter produces a max 84 HP and does 0-60 by… ummm evening? However this doesn’t really put me off. As I mentioned, you understand the trade off of power for fuel efficiency. However, I was not impressed with the MPG either. I averaged about 29 MPG with mixed driving for the week. The engine size and feel led me to believe those numbers would be higher. They do climb to a more respectable 34 combined should you choose a manual gearbox. Aside from fuel economy, the rest of the ride was surprisingly good. The handling was better then what I expected as was the suspension. The Spark does a good job specifically in the area of absorbing the type of bumps and pot holes you come across on old, well traveled city streets. Giving it another “check mark” as a city commuter car.
The Spark certainly has an appeal. Along with the pocket friendly price, you also get Swanky colors a great radio, a comfortable cabin and a decent ride. However I would highly recommend that you take the Spark for a long test drive to see if both seating position and acceleration suits you. I would also recommend the manual transmission option. With better MPG and performance it’s a double win.