2013 Chevy Spark Vs. 1973 Full-Size Car: Helpful Infographic

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2013 Chevrolet Spark minicar

2013 Chevrolet Spark minicar

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We luv us some cheerful infographics, as we often say.

Today's specimen comes courtesy of Chevrolet, which is preparing to launch the smallest Chevy it's ever sold, the 2013 Spark minicar.

The infographic compares the Chevy Spark to a full-size 1973 U.S. sedan (using data for unspecified "popularly priced" 1973 sedan models from three U.S. manufacturers), and serves up the four following factoids:

  • The 2013 Spark is "50 percent smaller" than a full-size 1973 sedan
  • But the front and rear headroom and front legroom is just as good in the new minicar as in the 40-year-old sedan
  • The driver sits 6 inches higher in the Spark than in the old sedan
  • Both cars use the same size of wheels, with a 15-inch diameter

We did some thinking about these assertions, and think a bit of discussion is in order.

Our added comments:

2013 Chevrolet Spark minicar vs. 1973 full-size sedan [infographic: Chevrolet]

2013 Chevrolet Spark minicar vs. 1973 full-size sedan [infographic: Chevrolet]

Enlarge Photo
  • It depends how you define "smaller," but presumably Chevy is referring to the car's overall volume, since the 144-inch-long Spark is about two-thirds the length of larger 1973 sedans; it's definitely narrower, but it's worth keeping in mind that the big 1973 sedan had a small cabin but a very long hood and trunk
  • Americans are fatter and taller these days than they were in 1973, meaning even small cars have had to get bigger
  • The "H-point," or hip height in the driver's seat, is a major contributor to a feeling of safety in a world with very tall pickup trucks and SUVs that drivers can't see through
  • The 15-inch wheels on the 40-year-old sedan likely had taller, lower-pressure tires than the Spark's more modern tires, and they may even have been bias-plys rather than radials

The Spark's 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 83 horsepower and is fitted with a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is optional).

Its power output is perhaps one-half to one-third that of the straight-six and V-8 engines three to five times the size used in 1973 (though horsepower was rated differently back then).

As for fuel efficiency, which the infographic doesn't address, the 2013 Chevrolet Spark will likely get a combined EPA rating somewhere in the 30-to-35-mpg range.

(That's about three times as efficient as that 1973 car, designed well before the 1973 fuel crisis drove gas prices temporarily from 12 or 15 cents a gallon to a terrifying, unsustainable 40 or 50 cents.)

MORE INFOGRAPHICS: herehere, here, here, and here

It's actually tougher to get the highest gas-mileage ratings on the smallest cars, since it's easier to reduce aerodynamic drag on longer, sleeker cars (think compact sedans) than shorter, stubbier ones (e.g. the Spark).

We'd like to see other infographics that compare the Spark both to a 1973 "subcompact" like the 140-inch-long Honda Civic and to a true minicar, perhaps the 120-inch-long original 1959 Morris Mini-Minor.

In the end, the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is a prime example of what we call "bracket creep" in car sizing. In 1963, for Europeans it would have been a mid-size car; in 1973, it might have been a compact car in the U.S.

But today, with interior room taking precedence over exterior length, it's a minicar on the outside--even though it's more than enough car for the one or two people who will ever likely occupy it.

As for that unnamed 1973 full-size sedan, sic transit gloria mundi.

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