2014 Chevrolet Spark: Putting a Spark in the Chevrolet Lineup
?Hey,? the voice boomed from above.
Probably not The Lord, I guessed, looking up.
But a pretty impressive visage nonetheless, wearing a big beard, a reflective vest and a look of curiosity as he leaned out of the right-hand drive street sweeper that loomed beside me at the stoplight.
?Is that electric?? he hollered down.
?No, it?s not,? I replied.
I could understand where he was coming from, because the yellow hue of this tester was the kind of standout colour that manufacturers usually use to mark something unique like, say, an electric vehicle. As if the stubby and still unusual shape didn?t stand out enough.
?So, what is it?? he demanded.
?A Chevy Spark.? I said.
?A Spark? Well, shouldn?t that be electric??
He had a pretty good point there.
Especially when it comes to obvious names for an electric lead-in to the bigger brother Chevy Volt.? And he was right, actually, because GM does produce a Spark EV version for sale in the incentive-rich eco-markets of Europe, South Korea and California.
The Spark EV is GM?s first electric vehicle since every conspiracy theorist?s favourite, the ill-fated EV1. The Spark EV harnesses a 97 kWh electric motor that makes 130 hp and a whopping 400 lb/ft of torque, lopping three seconds off the 0-100 km/h acceleration time compared to the gas-powered model, even with the 278 kg additional weight of the 21.3 kWh nanophosphate lithium-ion battery and other assorted added bits and pieces.
But I don?t want to get sidetracked with the electric version because GM Canada seems non-committal on the subject and it only recently began selling here in sparse numbers as a fleet-only model.
No, the Spark that I picked up for a test drive was the good old-fashioned gasoline-powered econo-banger.
?And what the heck do you call that?? I had asked as the lot guy squeaked my not-so-mellow yellow tester to a stop.
?That colour?s called Lemonade,? he said as he climbed out of the car.
I resisted the obvious follow-up punch line.
?And I think it?s an old Camaro colour,? he added.
Yeah, well, this ain?t no Camaro, I was thinking, as I plopped into the Spark?s stubby confines.
Although I couldn?t help but be a little dazzled by the colour-matching interior with yellow inserts set against the Dark Pewter cloth seats and the body-coloured metallic-style trim pieces along the doors and dash.
Granted, your mother would probably red flag an interior like this.
?Like those white pants I warned you about . . ?
?Ahh, Mom . . .?
And, sure enough, there were already shmutz marks showing on the light fabric of the seats.
But the bright, cheery colours emphasize a fun and funky spirit that complements the Spark?s goofy gopher-like visage and nimble city car dimensions.? With the glossy body panel interior trim pieces and motorcycle-like gauge cluster, the Spark captures sort of the same impertinent flavour as the MINI and the decor adds to the youthful spirit of the interior ambiance.
The five-door Spark is based on the Daewoo Matiz and Chevy Beat concept. It offers tall and relatively roomy seating for four adults. Cargo space is somewhat limited as 323 litres but that expands to 884 litres of room with the rear seats folded flat.
GM Canada originally pushed the Spark as the ?lowest priced mini-car in the segment?.
But, although some of that thunder has been stolen by the recent entry of the $9,998 Nissan Micra and the same cost, price-slashed Mitsubishi Mirage, when you consider the Spark?s more extensive standard equipment list with 10 airbags and included air conditioning and power windows, it remains competitive as an affordable entry to the small car market and the Chevy lineup.
The front wheel-drive gasoline-powered Spark tested here harnesses an Ecotec 1.2-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing that makes 84 hp at 6,400 rpm and 83 lb/ft of peak torque at 4,200 rpm. Acceleration won?t exactly put you in a whiplash collar but the little engine gets the job done handily enough.
The Spark comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox but a new-for-2014 CVT transmission offers automatic shifting and a frugal fuel economy rating of 6.5/5.0L/100km (city/hwy), almost matching the manual transmission rating. My real-world test numbers over the course of 500 or so kilometers came in at a more realistic 7L/100km (comb).
The engine power (and no snickers here, please) is handled ably enough by a rigid body-frame structure, a MacPherson strut front suspension, electric power steering system and standard traction control and StabiliTrak electronic stability control.
The Spark uses the economical mix of vented front disc and rear drum brakes but the standard ABS system offers competent stopping performance.
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark comes in a three trim choice selection – LS ($11,945), 1LT ($15,595) and 2LT ($17,645). Adding the CVT automatic bumps the price by $1,400 – $2,950, depending on trim level.
Along with the new CVT transmission, new-for-2014 additions include standard automatic halogen headlamps and new heated, power-adjustable body-colour manual folding mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators on upscale models.
New eye-catching Lime and Grape Ice colours join the Lemonade, Salsa and other hues on the funky paint palette. And owners can pump up the jam even further from a list of accessories – interior trim kits, front fog lamps and roof rack cross rails, sport pedals, Z-Spec floor mats and a Z-Spec grille.
There?s plenty to choose from in the small car market this year and Spark shoppers should even consider the rest of GM?s lineup, where an incremental price increase might move you up into a bigger Sonic or Cruze model.
But with the Spark?s affordable starting price, economical performance and available equipment potential that includes a MyLink colour touch screen info/communication system designed to appeal to a new connected generation, this pugnacious little pocket car is already garnering attention from a whole new Chevy fan base.
Now, if we could just add that electric version . . .
Chevrolet Spark 2014 at a glance
BODY STYLE: five-door, four-passenger hatchback subcompact
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 1.2-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder (84 hp, 83 lb/ft)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 6.5/5.0L/100km (city/hwy); as tested 7.0L/100km (comb)
CARGO CAPACITY: 323 litres; 884 litres with folded second row
TOW RATING: Not recommended
PRICE: As tested 2014 Spark 1LT Automatic $17,570 includes Preferred Equipment Group 1SD with fog lamps ($365) and all-weather matts ($160). $1,550 destination charge not included.
WEB SITE: gm.ca