The 2018 Chevrolet Spark is the little car with big features and a bold look. With an affordable price and lots of options, the Spark should be able to satisfy those on a budget who don’t want to drive a bottom-basement bargain on wheels. However, in a market full of tough competitors, it’s worth noting you’ll find more room and power in a Honda Fit, Nissan Versa Note or Kia Rio.
Although the electric version was dropped last year, the gasoline-powered Spark continues to impress by offering first-time buyers an affordable small car that doesn’t feel like a cheap throwaway. Assembled in South Korea from global parts, this 5-door hatchback is designed for visual appeal with its admittedly tiny dimensions. The second-row passenger doors are camouflaged with a handle that’s integrated into the rear of the window frame, resulting in coupelike styling.
What’s New for 2018?
There are no major changes for 2018. See the 2018 Chevrolet Spark models for sale near you
What We Like
Low, low sticker price; clean interior design; tiny footprint
What We Don’t
Excessive road noise; some cheap plastics; limited rear legroom
The Spark’s 1.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine produces 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque. The standard 5-speed manual transmission delivers 29 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, while the optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) does slightly better, at 31 mpg city/38 mpg hwy. The ACTIV trim drops those figures by 1 mpg.
Standard Features & Options
The Spark is available in four variants: the base LS, the midrange 1LT, the sporty ACTIV and the top-of-the-line 2LT.
The base LS ($13,925 manual, $15,025 automatic) is very basic in some respects and nicely equipped in others. It comes standard with manual crank windows and manual-locking doors, which will save you a trip to the car museum to show your kids how difficult life used to be in the old days. The steering wheel adjusts for tilt but not for reach. Fifteen-inch steel wheels hold the rubber, with disc brakes in the front and a drums in the rear. Standard tire-pressure monitoring is included. The LS then surprises you with a bunch of standard technology features, such as a 7-in color touchscreen with Chevrolet MyLink radio, a rear-vision camera and a 3-month trial of GM’s OnStar system with 4G LTE connectively and a Wi-Fi hot spot. The 4-speaker audio system includes Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones as well as standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Step up to the 1LT ($15,750 manual, $16,850 automatic) and you get power windows and remote keyless entry with power door locks. The audio system features six speakers and adds SiriusXM capability with a 3-month trial subscription included. The steering wheel gets redundant audio controls, and cruise control is included.
The ACTIV ($16,995 manual, $18,095 automatic) adds rugged-looking bumpers and side body cladding, 15-in alloy wheels and heated leatherette front seats.
The 2LT ($17,200 manual, $18,300 automatic) model adds some additional exterior chrome trim and makes some added interior bling available as well. The steering wheel gets wrapped in leather, and both front seats are heated. Passive entry and push-button start are included.
The 2018 Chevrolet Spark has an impressive list of standard and available safety features. The tiny car comes with 10 airbags, traction control, hill-start assist, StabiliTrak stability control with Brake Assist, LATCH connectors for two car seats in the second row, anti-lock braking and a rear-vision camera. Lane-departure warning and forward-collision alert are available on the 2LT, and rear park assist is standard with this trim level.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not released crash-test ratings for the 2018 Spark. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2018 Spark Good in the moderate-overlap front crash test and Basic for its front-crash protection.
Behind the Wheel
Despite its compact dimensions, the Spark is surprisingly roomy in the front seat, with plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and headroom, even for taller drivers and passengers. The second row lacks ample legroom, however, and doesn’t even pretend to have a middle seating position. Luggage space in the hatchback is 11.1 cu ft. behind the second row and 27.2 cu ft. with the seat folded. Folding the seat is a little disappointing, as the load floor is not flat, which compromises utility. Big dogs will do better sitting in the second-row seat rather than in the cargo space.
The 1.4-liter engine and the CVT are connected to the front wheels only, but the moderate power means there’s little torque steer to deal with. The Spark weighs only 2,313 pounds with the automatic transmission, or 2,246 pounds with the manual, so acceleration is adequate for most situations. Chevy doesn’t quote top speed or 0-to-60 times for the Spark — it isn’t that kind of car. Around town and on brief freeway jaunts, it’s just fine.
Handling-wise, the Spark’s independent MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension does a pretty good job of delivering a controlled ride. Braking is just adequate, with a bit of a mushy feeling and the need for a heavy foot to get maximum effect. Rack-and-pinion steering with column-mounted power assist is a highlight.
The Spark’s downfall is noise. The little engine is pretty quiet, even under full acceleration, but the cabin is an echo chamber for road noise generated while driving, even at city speeds. Standard air conditioning is welcome but also contributes to the unwanted sound in the cabin. The audio-system quality is pretty basic, so cranking up the tunes to cover the noise doesn’t help, either. Even though the Spark can travel up to 369 miles on its 9-gallon fuel capacity, it wouldn’t be our first choice for a road trip.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Honda Fit — The Fit somehow manages to open up 16.6 cu ft. of luggage space and 52.7 cu ft. of room for cargo with the second row folded flat, and it gets up to 33 mpg city/40 mpg hwy.
2018 Nissan Versa Note — The Versa Note’s 1.6-liter engine outdoes the Spark’s 1.4-liter by over 10 percent while still achieving 31 mpg city/39 mpg hwy.
If you’re looking for the most basic transportation with one of the lowest starting prices of any new car, the 2018 Chevrolet Spark fits the bill. Most buyers will seek more comfort and refinement, which can be found in several competitors at competitively low prices. You might want to consider a certified pre-owned option as well. In the end, the Spark does a lot of things well — but others do those things better.