Can Chevy Spark Activ 'soft-roader' SUV-like version boost appeal?


Chevrolet Beat Activ

Chevrolet Beat Activ

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Sometimes, all it takes to turn a car into an "SUV" is a little extra body cladding and a slightly higher ride height.

Subaru has relied on this formula for years with its Outback and Crosstrek, as has Audi with its Allroad wagon models, just to name three examples.

Now, it appears General Motors is about to try the same thing, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.

DON'T MISS: 2016 Chevrolet Spark Video Preview (Apr 2015)

It will introduce a new "soft-roader" called the Chevrolet Spark Activ in the U.S. sometime soon, reports AutoGuide.

The website cites what appears to be a certification document from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) listing the new model.

GM also has a trademark for the name Spark Activ in the U.S., AutoGuide claims.

Chevrolet Beat Activ

Chevrolet Beat Activ

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The Spark Activ would be based on the redesigned 2016 Spark introduced last year.

It could borrow styling cues from the Beat Activ, a model announced by GM for the Indian market earlier this year.

Chevy currently sells the previous-generation Spark under the Beat name in that country.

MORE: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack wagon debuts for NY Auto Show

Expect black-plastic body cladding, roof rails, a somewhat taller ride height, and model-specific wheels to distinguish the Activ model from a regular Spark.

The CARB document indicates that the Spark Activ will use the same 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine as other Spark models.

It sends 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels, and is available with either five-speed manual or CVT automatic transmissions.

Chevrolet Beat Activ

Chevrolet Beat Activ

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The current Spark gets an EPA-rated 35 mpg combined (31 mpg city, 41 mpg highway) with the CVT, and 34 mpg combined (30 mpg city, 41 mpg highway) with the manual.

GM will not confirm plans to sell the Spark Activ in the U.S., although introducing the "soft-roader" model likely wouldn't hurt.

The current-generation Spark has been in showrooms for a few months, but GM has done very little to promote it.

The Spark Activ could give the model a higher profile, and channel some of the public's considerable enthusiasm for SUVs.

It likely wouldn't, however, offer all-wheel drive, an essential component of the Subaru Crosstrek and Outback and the Audi Allroad.

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

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Still, sometimes a taller profile and a tougher look can bring extra attention and sales to a vehicle.

For that, look no further than the Volkswagen Beetle Dune, which uses bigger wheels, a taller ride height, and sill and fender extensions to give the well-known Beetle an entirely fresh look.

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