With the introduction of the 2013 Spark minicar to the American market at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show this week, Chevy has capped a year of ever-smaller vehicle introductions meant to capture the hearts and minds of a new type of American consumer just now coming into their own.
Among this group of 18-34 year olds-collectively known as "Millenials"-demand for ever-more fuel-efficient cars in smaller packages has never been higher. Yet, while past generations may have been content with stripped-down subcompacts, the ubiquity of today's smart gadgets and the importance of style among Millenials means most are unwilling to settle for the technology or comfort sacrifices traditionally associated with the term "econobox."
In many ways, the 2013 Spark - available in mid-2012-is the most extreme combination yet in Chevy's new product strategy of small-and-efficient-meets-high-tech-and-stylish. While the Cruze and Sonic are clearly both a result of this strategy as well, the Spark takes it to a new level.
While Chevy hasn't provided official numbers yet (undergoing EPA certification now), the Spark is powered by a highly efficient, 85 horsepower, 1.2-liter, four-cylinder engine and says fuel-economy will be very competitive-in the 40 mpg range.
At only 145 inches long it's an amazing feat of engineering that Chevy was able to fit four doors on the Spark. The achievement was only possible by using almost every last bit of available space, bringing the car's rear doors almost flush with its hatch. While every other competitor in the minicar space - including the Fiat 500, the Scion iQ and the Smart ForTwo-is also a hatchback, the Spark is the only one of them that can claim the convenience and comfort of four doors.
"We felt that customers in this segment, especially Millenials, strongly want cars that they can easily fit their friends in-so put great importance on including four doors during the development process," Mike Albano, Director of Chevrolet Communications, told AutoTrader.com on the sidelines of the 2011 LA Auto Show.
On the inside the Spark shines, offering a heretofore unheard-of-in-this-category 7-inch touchscreen MyLink infotainment and navigation system on the mid- and high-grade trims. The system can also stream Internet radio and play videos from Bluetooth-connected smartphones, a nod to the desires of the mobile generation.
The Spark adopts the innovative, motorcycle-inspired, stylish gauge cluster first launched on the Sonic and comes standard with alloy wheels, air conditioning, power windows and a noteworthy 10 airbags. Available upgrades such as heated seats top off a strong equipment package.
"Spark is for buyers who want much more than a ?cute' small car - they want a car that can be personalized, is dynamic and fashionable, and delivers a lot of value for the money," said Chris Perry, vice president, global Chevrolet marketing and strategy. "Spark's vibrant exterior and interior colors make a fashion statement, but it is also affordable, safe, maneuverable and very fuel-efficient."
See more LA Auto Show news.