2010 Chevrolet SparkEnlarge Photo
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.Enlarge Photo
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.
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.