The 2013 Chevrolet Spark is the smallest Chevy sold in the U.S. in at least 20 years. Still, early sales results seem to show that it's finding a market among young and urban buyers who want a short, easy-to-park four-person car with the versatility of a five-door hatchback body.
Sold all over the world, the smallest Chevy serves as family transport in places like India and China. Here in the States, it's more likely to be owned by city dwellers or as a household's third car.
The 2013 Spark only comes in a single body style--a five-door hatchback--and only offers one engine, a 1.2-liter four-cylinder putting out 84 horsepower. You can have it with a standard five-speed manual gearbox or an optional four-speed automatic. Stick with the manual, as the automatic slows down this already-not-very-fast car significantly.
The five-speed manual Spark gets EPA ratings of 32 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 34 mpg--as good as anything in the minicar class. But the automatic hurts fuel efficiency, at a combined 32 mpg (28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway). That makes another reason to avoid it, along with its higher price and worse performance.
Inside, front-seat room is good for two full-sized adults. The Spark is short but tall, and the driver sits upright and high enough that the car doesn't feel low or small. Chevy points out that the front headroom and legroom in the Spark equal those of a full-size U.S. sedan from 40 years ago.
The rear seats, however, are strictly an afterthought. Yes, four adults can ride in the Spark after some negotiations on legroom, but if you routinely carry more than two people, have a look at the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic. It's only a couple of thousand dollars pricier, and it's (relatively) much larger inside.
Like most small cars, the Spark is most fun when driven hard. The electric power steering delivers decent road feel though the steering wheel, and Chevy's done a good job with the noise suppression (beefed up for fussy U.S. buyers) for such a small car.
The ride on standard 15-inch wheels is ride is quite firm, but it handled deep potholes without crashing or feeling unsafe. You'll get to know your local road surfaces and their imperfections well, however.
Possibly the neatest feature of the Spark is the relatively large 7-inch touchscreen that can be ordered with the Chevy MyLink system (standard on the mid-level LT model). To keep costs down, the screen is essentially "dumb," serving only as a display to which the driver's mobile phone can be hooked. A $50 app called BringGo can be downloaded to provide full turn-by-turn navigation and mapping, including live traffic updates. The app updates its map database whenever the user connects the phone to the app store, and the "dumb screen/smartphone" approach means users can update the capabilities of their car every time they get a new phone or add more (GM-authorized) apps. It's smart and (in our short demonstration) seamless, it keeps the cost of the car down, it's likely the cheapest in-car navigation on the market--and we think it's the future of in-car navigation. Well done, Chevy.
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark comes in a remarkable array of pastel colors, including Techno Pink, Salsa (lime green), Denim (pale blue), and Lemonade (pale yellow).
The base price is $12,245 (plus a mandatory $750 destination fee), but the high-end 2LT model with automatic transmission soars to a bottom line of $16,720. At that price, we think buyers may be tempted to step up to the subcompact Sonic.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark range on our sister site, TheCarConnection.