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2015 vs. 2016 Chevrolet Spark: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2016

If you're interested in an affordable subcompact car, the tiny Chevrolet Spark probably has a spot on your shopping list. That's especially true now that the 2016 Chevrolet Spark has earned major changes over last year's model. But what exactly is new with the latest Spark? And is it worth a price premium over the outgoing model? We're taking a closer look at the differences between the latest Chevy Spark and the outgoing model in order to answer these questions.

Exterior

On the outside, the latest Spark offers some obvious and major changes compared to last year's version. More specifically, some of the old model's most unusual design features, such as its large wheel arches, tall profile and huge headlights, have been toned down in favor of a more traditional, grown-up look. Although we think the latest Spark is more generic than last year's model, we suspect many shoppers won't necessarily consider that to be a bad thing, especially since the old Spark's design could be polarizing.

Interior

Regardless of your feelings on the Spark's new exterior styling, we suspect you'll find that the interior has changed dramatically for the better. Not only are the subcompact's cabin materials improved, but the Spark also boasts a more stylish dashboard, a more traditional gauge cluster with an available screen inside it and a nicer-looking center control stack. The Spark also adds more comfortable seats for 2016, along with slightly improved interior room and cargo space. Simply put, the interior of the latest Spark is a better place to spend time than last year's cabin.

Mechanicals

Last year, all Spark models were powered by a 1.2-liter 4-cylinder engine that produced a meager 82 horsepower and 84 lb-ft of torque. The 2015 Spark came standard with a 5-speed manual transmission but offered an optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

For 2016, the Spark upgrades to a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder that touts 98 hp and 94 lb-ft of torque -- a big improvement when you're considering a car the size of the Spark. Once again, transmission choices are limited to a 5-speed manual or a CVT automatic, but fuel economy jumps from last year's 31 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway to 31 mpg city/41 mpg hwy.

Features & Technology

The latest Spark offers some major features and technology upgrades over last year's model. In the safety realm, for instance, the 2016 Spark offers forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning -- two items you can't get in the outgoing model or in most other subcompact cars.

But it isn't just safety where the 2016 Spark offers major improvements. Other newly available features include parking sensors, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a power sunroof. For drivers interested in gadgets, no subcompact car is going to measure up to today's top luxury cars, or even many top midsize sedans, but the latest Spark comes closer than virtually any other subcompact car on the road.

Driving Experience

Both the new Spark and the outgoing model offer surprisingly similar driving experiences. We say surprisingly because a lot has changed in the new model, from styling to equipment to the powertrain. But the new Spark is still sluggish under full acceleration, noisy and relatively cramped on the inside. Of course, those are all characteristics of most subcompact cars.

Naturally, the latest Spark improves in a few key areas -- namely ride and handling, where it's clearly been enhanced compared to the outgoing Spark. But we suspect that most subcompact-car shoppers will find that the latest Spark doesn't offer any major benefits -- or drawbacks -- compared with the outgoing model or most other subcompact cars on the market.

Safety

The 2016 Spark has not yet been tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Last year's model fared well in crash tests, however, earning the IIHS's Top Safety Pick designation and four stars out of five from the NHTSA -- strong scores for a subcompact car.

As for safety features, both the new and the old Spark offer everything you need -- anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags and traction control. But the new one goes a few steps further, adding available parking sensors, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning -- three items offered by very few cars in this segment. We're impressed to see those features in a model like the Spark, and we suspect safety-focused shoppers will be, too.

Conclusions

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark represents a big step up compared to its predecessor. In fact, it offers improvements in just about every area: exterior styling, interior design and materials, safety equipment and comfort and convenience features. It even offers slightly better gas mileage. As a result, we think the latest Spark is worth a few extra bucks over a leftover or used 2015 model -- unless you get such a great deal on the outgoing Spark that you can't possibly pass it up.

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Used 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV
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Used 2015 Chevrolet Spark LT
Used 2015 Chevrolet Spark
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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 vs. 2016 Chevrolet Spark: What's the Difference? - Autotrader