2013 Chevrolet Spark: Just Too Small For U.S. Buyers, Or Not?

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2010 Chevrolet Spark

2010 Chevrolet Spark

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We've covered the 2013 Chevrolet Spark a couple of times before, but now there's a drive report of the European version, courtesy of Motor Trend. We're not entirely sure we agree with their conclusion, though.

Granted, the Spark is the smallest Chevy ever. But Motor Trend winds up its road test with the assertion that the Spark won't be a major factor in the U.S. market because it's just too small.

12 feet long, give or take

Well, how small is it? The hatchback Spark is tall for its 143-inch length, to permit four six-foot people to fit inside. You can assume the U.S. version will be 12 feet long, give or take an inch.

That's an inch shorter than the 2010 Mini Cooper, which has a back seat that's really not suitable for adult humans, but a full three feet longer than the two-seat 2010 Smart ForTwo.

The motorcycle-inspired instrument pod is mounted on the steering column.

The motorcycle-inspired instrument pod is mounted on the steering column.

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Smaller than subcompact

As the magazine points out, the Spark doesn't compete with the (154-inch-long) 2011 Ford Fiesta, which will join the 2010 Honda Fit and a raft of other subcompacts in appealing to the college-student and first-car markets.

Instead, it's half a size smaller than that, and smaller than the current 2010 Chevrolet Aveo, at 170 inches, which will be replaced with a redesigned model in 2012.

Smart styling

To keep the proportions right, some models sit on 15-inch wheels, larger than those of many competitors. The front has the traditional Chevy grille, with its horizontal split, and the rear sports round Chevy taillights.

Inside, a "motorcycle like" instrument cluster is mounted on the steering column. Stylish, sure, but also perhaps a way to make it cheaper and easier to build right- and left-hand-drive versions without major changes.

Peppy but noisy

For European and Asian markets, the Spark offers either a 1.0-liter or 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Motor Trend tested the larger of the two, with a five-speed manual transmission, and found it peppy enough but very noisy--which Chevrolet engineers said would be fixed before U.S. sales.

Fuel efficiency may well surpass 30 mpg in the city, and 40 mpg on highways. But the magazine concludes that the Spark "won't sell many units in the States," and hence can't help GM much with its corporate fuel efficiency.

Why? "It's simply too small to make it onto most buyers' radar."

Tell me the price of gas in 2012

We can make the case for either side of the argument. If gas stays cheap (below $3/gallon), that assessment may be accurate.

But if it spikes more than $4 a gallon, some buyers are likely to expand their horizons. Perhaps some will conclude that a four-seat, four-door car that's fun to drive just might be possible despite its limited length.

What do you think? Would YOU buy a 12-foot-long car if it fit four people? Leave us your comments, below.

[Motor Trend]

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Comments (17)
  1. Make it electric and sign me up! Give me a quick, nimble little car over a bigger one anytime- love my little Saturn coupe, but have been known to steal my husband's smart too...

  2. YES! I drive a Smart already, and laugh with pity at the idiots driving the big Ram 2500 Duelly that drinks gas, apparently only carries one person, but sure seems to emote status of some kind... Half of them have some God Bless the USA or Support Our Troops stickers... yeah, so they can go fight a war so you can suck up more gas when you are running to the store or to work? Pffft.

  3. Hope to see the Spark make it in the US. Chevy will have a laugh along with other small car sellers WHEN (not if) gas goes back up. They NEED the Spark on their lineup, even if initially sold in limited numbers before the next gas crunch.
    Better yet, they should kick it up a notch and add a diesel engine to the lineup. That's what is missing in the US, a SMALL car with a diesel capable of 65+mpg.

  4. Wow DGA really? you drive a smart? that might explain your ignorance toward big trucks huh? someone in my family owns multiple big diesel trucks in their buisness and last time i checked they were completely necessary to get the job done and pay the hard working people that drive them. And how about you actually support our country by buying a better car in everyway compared to your "smart", the ford fusion maybe? oh, and buying a car that's named smart doesnt make YOU smart, obviously because "duelly" is actually spelled dually, with an A, idiot.

  5. God Bless the USA, Rush Limbaugh and Dale Earnhart. I might have misspelled his last name. I must be an idiot, too.

  6. Nope. FWD cars just aren't much fun in the handling department.

  7. Funny, that''s about the size of the VW Beetle. (The original, not the rebodied Golf that finally got axed last week.) The VW Beetle sold 21.5m units of the same basic model; a world production record that will never be broken. The VW Beetle was awfully popular in the states as I recall. Are we ready for a practical successor in the Spark?

  8. I drive a dodge ram and i would love to see more cars like the spark on the road but just change the way it looks for christ sake. The car is very unattractive.

  9. This is exactly what we need in the states. I agree with DGA in that I've seen enough 7 seater minivans with one person in the car (the DRIVER). And I know plenty of guys that own or have owned huge pickups that do no more than haul a bag of groceries home from the store. If you need one for your BUSINESS that's fine, but I'd estimate that 75% of large vehicle drivers DON'T NEED THEM.

  10. YES! Bring it on! It's exactly what I need to commute back and forth to work and run errands during the day. How about adapting the "BAS" hybrid system to this and raising the fuel economy game another notch? Or the diesel suggested by minicarlover at #3 would be awesome as well. Come on Chevy, "Tune out the naysayers and "Just Do It!"

  11. Yes I would definitely buy one if Chevy will sell this model sooner or later in the states. Actually, I've been droven its prdecessor, the 2000 Daewoo Matiz in South Korea. In one's opinion, It wasn't that bad city car. I couldn't feel any inconviniences with my precious Matiz. As the Spark is the successor of the Matiz in its homeland, I'm sure that the Spark got remarkably&technically improved alot!

  12. Well guess what. Tata motors is bringing the Nano car here to the States as well. The Nano is a better design if you ask me. It's built just like the original VW beetle. Rear engined, rear wheel drive, air cooled. It will get 80 miles to the gallon on regular unleaded gas.
    GM Better sell the Chevy Spark here in the States if they want to stay competitive and not lose market share.

  13. My wife and I drove a Chevy Spark for a week while France. It's terrific in the city, fitting the most narrow roads. It is a bit noisy on the highway and can be challenged on the up-hill passing lanes. But if Chevy can improve the cabin sound insulation I would buy one.

  14. This is the car I've been waiting for. Sporty as all hell and great mileage. Now, I've just read it may use a 1.4 which is unusual as the 1.4 is usually only turboed as in the Cruze and Sonic. I guess they're fearing the 1.2 euro engine won't muster it in the US. Actual facts on this car are hard to find considering it's debut is so close. Like will it actually be built here, like it's bigger brother the Sonic and if so what plant?

  15. I drive a 16 year old Geo Metro with 220k miles and I STILL get better gas mileage. It's a shame no one can make a car in the US that is better than technology available 20 years ago.

  16. @Jon: Your 1995 Geo Metro does not meet current new-car standards for emissions, and it is wildly substandard for crash performance.

    It likely only has one or two airbags (most new cars have 6 to 10), and it probably doesn't meet current side-impact, roof-crush, and various other safety standards. The added vehicle size and weight to provide all of these items has some impact on the mileage.

    I think it's highly unlikely that carmakers would find a receptive audience if they were to say, "Hey, we can give you better mileage! Just let us make cars that are far less safe, and pollute more as well .. "

  17. Then why do Harleys sell so well? They also have no heat/AC and cost more.

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