A MERE five years ago someone at General Motors had a spark of inspiration.
In the depths of the Asian economic crisis, the American giant had baled out Korean maker Daewoo. Problem was, it had sunk money into a brand that arguably ranked lower in popularity than the Jedwards. Cheap, certainly, cheerful, maybe, but when it came to quality and desirability, Daewoo had taken over Skoda’s mantle as the make everyone loved to hate. Quality and perception issues can be solved over a period of time – as Skoda has proved – but a quick fix was needed.
And some bright spark in GM’s marketing department came up with the answer just dump Daewoo and give the brand a name the world recognizes.
That name was Chevrolet – an American icon with a glorious heritage.
Since the name change, GM has been working hard to improve the quality and desirability of the Korean products and the results can be seen with every new Chevrolet which comes along. And next spring the transformation will be complete when the appropriately named Chevrolet Spark hits our streets.
Styling is hip-hop generation, the interior funky and spacious and build quality and drivability represent a quantum leap forward. Front end design provides a family link with the bigger Chevrolet Cruze, but the Spark has a character all of its own and, with a range of bright, trendy colours, it will certainly stand out on the streets.
Next up is the LS, from £8,445, which comes with bigger wheels, remote central locking, a sunglasses holder and enhanced cosmetic details. A Plus pack providing alloys, front and rear electric windows, trip computer, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, roof bars and steering wheel audio controls is available on the LS for an additional £500.
Topping the range is the £9,845 Spark LT which has bigger, 15 inch, alloys, climate control and exterior body kit and six speaker stereo. So far so good, but the real bonus is the Tardis-like interior space.
The Spark is longer, wider and higher than the Matiz. Even with the front seats well back, there’s plenty of leg room in the rear and a high roofline means that there are no problems for taller passengers.
Access is good through the rear doors but it’s a relatively narrow car and Chevrolet’s claim that this is a full five-seater is stretching it a little. Yes, it will seat five, but it wouldn’t be very comfortable on longer trips. Boot space is little more than shopping sized, but the rear seats fold to provide a decent luggage platform when traveling two-up. It will come with a choice of 1.0 and 1.2 litre petrol engines. While the 1.2 is quicker off the mark and has a higher top speed, official fuel consumption and emissions of 55.4mpg average and 119g/km respectively are identical to those of the one litre engine.
Cute, edgy, fashionable and fun, the Spark is a surprisingly good package and it comes to the market at just the right time. Buyers’ expectations of even the smallest of cars are growing ever higher and the Spark will not disappoint.