Strengths and weaknesses:
- urban handling
- cute looks and colours
- small fuel tank
- lack of power
- windshield de-icing
2013 Chevrolet Spark
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark is one of those cars that probably don’t need to exist in North America except for the fact that it allows Chevrolet to sell more trucks and high-performance cars south of the border.
Now, before you go teeing off about how we need more little cars like Spark to lessen our dependency on fossil fuels, lessen congestions on our streets and lessen the impact on buyers’ wallets, let me just point out that Chevrolet already has a small car called Sonic (which isn’t much bigger than Spark).
It doesn’t look all that different, either, with huge rear doors that open nearly to the rear hatch and make getting into the rear seats easier than in some of today’s mid-sized sedans. Once in the rear seats, there’s a big difference not just to those mid-sizers, but also to the larger Sonic.
Rear seat room in Spark is really, really tight. Even with front seats pushed up to uncomfortable tightness for front seat occupants, there is still a very good chance rear occupants will have their knees and shins pressed up against the front seats. There’s also room for two. Period. Don’t even attempt to fit in a centre occupant because there isn’t room for one. The middle position is occupied by a cupholder and cubicle, which allows the passengers to have some semblance of hip and shoulder comfort.
The seatbacks still go down in a 60/40 split (more like 70/30, really), which helps expand cargo space in a naturally small trunk area. With rear seats occupied, you might be able to carry a week’s worth of groceries, provided your family doesn’t eat a lot.
The other end is also noted for its smallness, with an engine compartment housing a 1.25-litre four-cylinder engine that does its darndest to get the Spark motivated but, as expected, doesn’t do it terribly quickly. Its 84 hp and 83 lb.-ft. of torque are better suited for lawn mowers, regardless of how small and lightweight a car you try to fit it into. Mind you it doesn’t help that our test car has a four-speed automatic that acts like a CVT (though you can get a five-speed manual transaxle).
As light and small as it is, Spark proves to be a worthy warrior in our winter wonderland, ploughing through a recent dumping of snow without nearly a tire slip (yes, it has traction control for added safety). About the only complaint to be registered is the clearing of the extremely large windshield – the defogger doesn’t quite reach the extremities and because the wipers sit below the line of warm-air attack, they tend to ice up fairly quickly once they deal with the melted moisture in their paths.
Also of concern is a range of just over 400 km, resulting from a small 34.8 litre fuel tank. That might be good for city driving, but you can watch the fuel gauge go down on longer trips.
Watching all this happen from the front seat is at times frustrating but at least you’re comfortable. The seats are well padded and covered in what appears to be a resilient cloth (albeit decked out in traditionally funky European patterns).
Controls are easy to reach because you’re never far from anything (even the outside right mirror, if you had to manually adjust it) and the instrumentation is comprehensive enough to keep drivers informed without distracting them (although the initial viewing seems to be far too complicated, you get used to it very quickly). The centre stack has a large touchscreen that also takes a little getting used-to but works very well once you do.
The centre console is lower than I like it, but it can house everything from a couple large coffees to sunglasses and pocket change. There are also a couple divots in the dash panel (matched to the exterior body paint) that can house access cards and other oddments.
And you get all that for as little as $12,000, although our test Spark LT chimes in at $19,500 (all in).
2013 Chevrolet Spark
Trim level: LT
Price as tested (before taxes): $17,945
Options on test vehicle: automatic transmission ($1,250)
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.25L 4-cyl./ 4-spd automatic
Power/torque: 84 hp/ 83 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Regular (35L)
Fuel economy ratings: 7.1 L/100km city; 5.2 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 6.8 L/100km over 588 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 160,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Ford Fiesta; Honda Fit; Mazda2; Mitsubishi Mirage; Toyota Yaris