New Car Review

2015 Chevrolet Spark: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader September 2014

Are Americans finally ready for really small cars? Interesting options in the subcompact segment were once in short supply here, but recent years have seen increasingly competitive offerings with small footprints and efficient designs.

Offering a counterintuitive take on the tiny domestic car, the 2015 Chevrolet Spark actually has its roots overseas, where it was designed and built. In fact, the small hatchback sold more than 600,000 units globally in 2 years before it finally made its stateside debut.

When it was adapted to be sold in the U.S., the Chevrolet Spark was revised with bigger 15-inch wheels, anti-lock brakes, more interior amenities, extra airbags and better insulation for a quieter ride.

What's New for 2015?

Although the Spark doesn't offer any major changes for 2015, there is one minor update: a revised OnStar system that boasts 4G and Wi-Fi hot spot capability.

What We Like

Distinctive styling in an inexpensive package; four doors squeezed into a compact size normally reserved for two; surprisingly spacious interior

What We Don't

The Spark is only slightly less expensive than Chevrolet's larger and better-equipped Sonic; the 5-speed manual transmission could use another gear; feels underpowered when accelerating uphill

How Much?

$13,000-$16,200

Fuel Economy

Gas-powered Spark models are offered with just one engine: an 84-horsepower 1.2-liter 4-cylinder. Fuel economy is rated at 31 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway with the standard 5-speed manual transmission, or 30 mpg city/39 mpg hwy with the optional automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Chevrolet Spark is offered in three trim levels: LS, 1LT and 2LT.

The base-level LS ($13,000) boasts a surprising amount of standard equipment, given its size and pricing. Standard features include air conditioning, OnStar, an auxiliary jack, alloy wheels, a split-folding rear seat, and a tilt steering wheel.

Stepping up to the 1LT ($14,800) adds a few more luxuries. These include power mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control, floor mats, Bluetooth, satellite radio and Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system, which comes with a standard touchscreen.

At the top end is the 2LT, which starts around $16,200. Additional equipment over the 1LT includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and new power-heated mirrors with built-in turn signals.

Safety

Though small in size, the Spark is big on safety features and boasts 60 percent high-tensile steel, which aids crash safety and torsional rigidity. The Spark also packs 10 airbags into its compact body. Other standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system and panic brake assist.

As of this writing, the Spark has not yet been rated in crash tests by the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), though it earned high marks from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who awarded the Spark its Top Safety Pick overall score.

Behind the Wheel

Visibility out of the Spark's cockpit is excellent, with tall seats offering a confidence-inspiring view of the road. There's a lot of plastic within the cabin, but it's colorful and modern looking, which distracts from the lack of soft-touch materials.

While the Spark won't win any drag races, its 4-cylinder engine isn't severely taxed by its roughly 2,200-lb curb weight. The automatic CVT is an improvement over the 4-speed, but it's still designed more for fuel economy than for outright acceleration. Opt for the 5-speed manual, and you'll appreciate having more control over power delivery -- not to mention the fun of rowing your own gears.

Our road test took us through stretches of Los Angeles surface streets and highways, and the Spark mostly held its own against faster-moving traffic when pushed hard. However, we felt that extracting every last pony from this tiny engine might yield worse fuel economy than you might expect from such a small car.

Other Cars to Consider

FIAT 500 -- This stylish Italian starts around $17,000 (just below the top-of-the-line Spark 2LT automatic) and offers a decidedly more European -- if, a bit plastic -- take on the diminutive hatchback paradigm.

Scion iQ -- Scion's iQ starts around $16,200, which is just in-between a Spark 2LT with a manual transmission and a 2LT model with an automatic. The Scion's interior feels more plush than the Spark's does, and its CVT offers a more fun-to-drive alternative to the Spark's automatic transmission. The Scion offers just two doors.

smart fortwo -- The Spark barely undercuts the base-level fortwo model's pricing, but the smart fortwo's jerky transmission makes it a less enticing offering compared to the bigger and more substantial-feeling Spark.

AutoTrader's Advice

While the Spark lacks some of the polish and premium feel offered by some of its competitors, it does offer one feature the others can't touch: a 4-door configuration with surprisingly spacious rear legroom. Serious drivers might feel like there's something lacking under the hood, but if you're not taxing the powerplant too much, you should be able to get decent fuel economy in the 30 mpg range. We recommend the 1LT trim level, which offers nicer amenities than the base model at a still very affordable $14,500 with shipping.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Chevrolet Spark: New Car Review - Autotrader