2013 Chevrolet Spark minicar, New York City, Aug 2012
The Chevrolet Spark, the smallest Chevy sold in the U.S., will get some mechanical changes next year, according to Christi Landy, the brand's small-car marketing director.
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark, which will go on sale late this year, will offer a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) in place of the current four-speed automatic.
The other transmission choice, a five-speed manual, will continue to be offered. Both transmissions are paired with a 84-horsepower, 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine.
This year's Spark is rated at 34 mpg combined with the five-speed manual, which falls to 32 mpg combined for the automatic.
Over a 350-mile drive of a manual 2013 Spark in January, we averaged 35.8 mpg over a route that was about two-thirds highway travel and one third aggressive city driving.
The CVT should improve EPA-rated gas mileage for the automatic Spark, not to mention provide a better driving experience.
In our first drive of the 2013 Chevy Spark, we wrote:
The 2013 Spark has one of the starkest differences between automatic and manual versions that we've seen in recent years. While the five-speed manual is hardly a quick car, it can be hustled along to keep up with traffic if you wring the engine out.
The automatic, on the other hand, is a dog. Its first gear ratio is high enough that the automatic Spark is slow off the line, but we really didn't get what we felt was adequate power at any speed.
General Motors currently sells no cars in the U.S. with CVTs, although it used them in some versions of the now-defunct Saturn Ion and Vue models.
Nissan and Subaru use CVTs in small and medium-size volume vehicles for better fuel efficiency, and Honda gits one to four-cylinder versions of its 2013 Accord mid-size sedan.
The plan for a CVT-equipped Spark was first reported in March on enthusiast forum GMInsideNews, and confirmed to Green Car Reports by Landy last week.
It's worth noting, by the way, that by far the quickest model in the 2014 Chevy Spark lineup is likely to be the one with a lithium-ion battery pack powering an electric motor.
That motor develops 100 kilowatts (134 hp) at peak output, giving the little electric Spark EV 0-to-60-mph acceleration that's promised to be less than 8 seconds.
And, of course, the Spark EV has no transmission or gears to shift at all.