Minicars haven’t been at all significant or successful in the U.S. market, yet several carmakers think that there is a future for this size car in American cities and urban centers. At about 14 inches shorter than the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact (in hatchback form), the Spark measures up as longer than a Smart Fortwo or Fiat 500, or about the same length as a base Mini Cooper. Fuel economy should be excellent (especially in city driving), parking and maneuverability will be even easier than in nearly any other vehicle and yet the Spark’s four seats should give it more flexibility versus some other minicars.
2013 Chevy Sonic at Bob Maguire Chevrolet
The Chevrolet Spark is offered in three different trims: LS, 1LT and 2LT. Standard equipment even on the base LS includes air conditioning, power steering, power windows, tilt steering-wheel adjustment, a rear defogger, variable intermittent wipers and a 4-speaker AM/FM radio. Spark 1LT adds some popular equipment, including keyless entry, power locks, cruise control, power side mirrors and upgraded 6-speaker audio with USB and aux inputs, satellite radio and Chevrolet’s MyLink Touch system, which has a 7-inch color touch screen and allows hands-free and audio-streaming capability, as well as access to apps like Pandora and Stitcher, with some smartphones. Top-level 2LT models get an upgraded look with leatherette (vinyl) seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, steering-wheel controls, alloy wheels and fog lamps, plus special front-end details, chrome trim, a chrome exhaust tip and bright-painted roof rails. No matter the model, the Spark will be powered by an 84-horsepower, 1.2L 4-cylinder engine, mated to either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic transmission. The engine has a modern design, with dual overhead cams and dual continuous variable cam timing, so GM promises both low maintenance and high fuel economy figures. On the outside, the Spark looks sportier than you might expect for a simple urban hatchback, with ‘hidden’ rear door handles and flamboyant exterior finishes in colors that include Denim, Jalapeno, Lemonade, Salsa and Techno Pink, as well as traditional colors. Inside, too, a dash design that’s motorcycle inspired and borrows some of the same influences from the Chevrolet Sonic, the look inside is far from economy-car drab. The Spark has space for four, with an upright seating position and a good view out from the front seats, combined with the space to fit two smaller adults in back. The Spark’s layout is quite typical for a very low-cost, front-wheel-drive small car. The suspension follows a MacPherson strut-type arrangement in front, with a torsion-beam setup in back. Stops are provided by front-disc, rear-drum brakes; there’s electric power steering; and the Spark runs on low-rolling-resistance tires, which also boost mileage. Safety is taken seriously here–especially considering the Spark’s very small size (at less than 145 inches long)–and Chevrolet has included a roster of safety features that wouldn’t be impressive in a mid-size luxury car. StabiliTrak stability control is included, as are anti-lock brakes. There are ten standard airbags in the Spark, including front side bags, side-curtain bags, and front knee airbags. The Spark even includes GM’s OnStar emergency and concierge services.