2013 Chevrolet Spark: First Drive
It's just one of those cute cars. You know what we're talking about--the 2013 Chevrolet Spark looks more like a toy than it does a real driving machine, and there's something decidedly fun that borders on silly about its proportions. But in our opinion, that's half the charm.
Whether you choose to call them city cars, mini-cars or sub-subcompacts, the world of tiny mobility machines has grown pretty quickly in the past few years. Maybe it's been the rising fuel prices and maybe it's been because shoppers just have a little less money to spend on their cars, but either way, there are just more small cars on the road today than there have been in the past. In a market that was once ruled exclusively by the smart fortwo, you can now also look at the Scion iQ, FIAT 500 and Chevy Spark.
Mini-cars like these all share a similar philosophy: Ultra-affordability, easy to park in small spaces and enough room for you, a passenger and your stuff. The Spark takes practicality to the next level, though. As the only vehicle in its class with four doors, it's also the only car that we'd call truly comfortable for four adults. Sure, you can squeeze two people in the back of a FIAT, but not comfortably, and the back seat of the iQ is more of a prison sentence than a road trip solution. The smart doesn't even have a back seat. The Spark, however, offers easy access to relatively comfortable rear seating and more than 31 cu-ft of storage space with the rear seats folded.
We really dig the look of the Spark too. While it might be hard to create a pint-sized car that doesn't look at least a little bit sassy, we think this Chevy has the right doses of sporty looks to complement its small size. Plus, it comes in a huge variety of vibrant colors, ranging everywhere from Salsa red and Jalapeno green to Lemonade yellow and Techno pink. The Spark is just the kind of car that makes you want to smile.
Big on Technology
Chevrolet designed the interior of the Spark with the Millennial buyer in mind. While basic features like power windows, locks and mirrors are all present in all models above the base LS trim, the most notable addition to the Spark is Chevy MyLink, found standard on the 1LT and 2LT trims. MyLink is a 7-inch color touchscreen that controls the vehicle's Bluetooth, radio, iPod and turn-by-turn navigation menus. When paired with an active OnStar subscription, the Spark might just be the least expensive car on the road today with navigation, and the best part is that you get to use OnStar's concierge service to enter all of your directions. Not sure where you're going? No problem, because OnStar will do the work for you. Chevy MyLink is also an app-based program, so you can stream your favorite Pandora and Stitcher radio stations through the system as long as you have a data-equipped smartphone paired via Bluetooth.
Given its small size, safety is a big concern with the Spark. Every model comes with 10 standard airbags, but crash safety ratings have not yet been released.
Frankly, none of the cars in this category are especially quick, and the Spark isn't an exception. With its tiny 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder engine, it produces a mere 84 horsepower. Since we were given the chance to take the car for a spin in San Francisco, we'll admit that those little ponies weren't exactly excited to pedal up the steep hills of the city, but they were capable enough, and the car had no problem darting around the rest of town. If you're looking for an in-town commuter car and you don't live in the mountains, the Spark is perfectly adequate. If you're considering it for long commutes on high-speed interstates, you might want to look at the Chevy Sonic instead.
The upside to its tiny engine is some pretty substantial fuel economy, though. Between city and highway driving, the Spark with a manual transmission is EPA-rated at 34 mpg, while the automatic earns 32 mpg. Given that most shoppers will probably choose this car as a city shuttle over a highway cruiser, we'd expect to see slightly lower numbers on average.
The 2013 Chevrolet Spark starts at $12,995 for the base LS manual model and can be absolutely loaded for less than $17,000. By comparison, the less practical smart fortwo is nearly $2,000 more expensive when comparably equipped, and the Scion iQ can't be made as nice for the same money. If your priority is space per dollar, though, we'd recommend taking a look at the considerably larger Nissan Versa. Otherwise, if city-bound practicality and a bold style statement are your goals here, the Spark makes a lot of sense.