The good: The 2013 Chevrolet Spark integrates navigation into its dashboard running off of a smartphone. OnStar provides a number of emergency and concierge services. Fuel economy is in the mid-30s.
The bad: The Bluetooth streaming tech can’t handle phone calls and audio streaming from the same device. Voice command is limited to the hands-free phone system. You get slow starts and limited passing ability thanks to the 84 horsepower.
The bottom line: The 2013 Chevrolet Spark includes some intriguing features for its price, but bizarre limitations in the cabin electronics and low horsepower create too many compromises.
As a city dweller, I appreciate the parkability and maneuverability of small cars, so was predisposed to like the tiny 2013 Chevrolet Spark. This littlest of Chevy models tries to capture the utility of the Honda Fit. Its low price makes it a good entry-level car, and high fuel economy adds to its practicality.
Small cars tend to come with extreme styling, as seen in the retro Fiat 500 and the futuristic Scion iQ. The Spark leans toward the latter, with oversize headlight casings dominating the front end and an interesting dip in the side graphic where it hits the side mirror. Chevy smooths the rear styling by having the exhaust pipe integrated with the rear fascia.
The tiny cargo area expands through folding up the rear seats, a two-stage process that involves lifting the bench, then pushing the back forward. When all is stowed the rear area becomes capacious, suitable for the worldly possessions of the typical college student.
At 32 mpg in the city and 38 mpg highway, fuel economy looks good, but Chevy achieves it the old-fashioned way, by using a very low-power engine. At 1.25 liters, this four-cylinder is laughably small, while 84 horsepower and 83 pound-feet of torque are numbers rarely seen in the U.S. automotive market. By contrast, a high-tech engine like the Ford EcoBoost 1-literboasts 123 horsepower.
Connected from the start
Although the drivetrain doesn’t make much use of modern tech, the infotainment features certainly do. In either 1LT or 2LT trims, the Spark comes with a big, 7-inch touch screen showing a menu with options for digital audio, video, telephone, and apps. That last menu item holds the holy grail of car navigation, complete integration with smartphone-based navigation.
Using an iPhone or Android running the BringGo navigation app, which was not publicly available as of this review, the navigation screens, complete with full touch control, show up on the car’s LCD. The smartphone app performs route processing and offers online search for destinations. It receives traffic data from an online source as well, using that to avoid traffic jams.
Under route guidance, the turn instructions showed up in a small inset in a corner of the map, but the app provided good voice prompts. The maps were readable, and displayed in both 2D and perspective views. The app can also download a projected route so it will continue to give guidance when out of cell coverage.
BringGo does not register as a well-known name in U.S. navigation. The app comes from a Korean company, EnGIS Technologies. I would like to see Chevy extend the navigation app integration to some of the more popular navigation apps, such as the ones I cover in this article, “Five free and mostly free iPhone navigation apps.”
Other apps available in the Spark were Pandora and Stitcher. With this platform, I assume Chevy will be adding more in the future. I noticed the system could be a little buggy when I tried to activate an app, occasionally popping up a message saying that the phone was already running something. Grabbing the phone and lighting up its screen tended to clear this error. My iPhone had to be cabled to the car, as the Bluetooth connection would not support app integration.
The Pandora integration worked very well, letting me choose from my personal list of stations and give the current song the thumbs-up or thumbs-down. However, I would prefer to see Pandora listed as one of the audio sources instead of being tucked away on the app screen.
In another step toward the future of in-car entertainment, Chevy did not bother with a CD player in the Spark, something I am quite happy to do without. Instead, the Spark offers a USB port for iOS devices and thumbdrives, an auxiliary input, and satellite radio. Bluetooth audio streaming is available with one extreme caveat: you cannot use a hands-free phone connection and streaming from the same device. That restriction is inexplicable, as that sort of simultaneous connection works with just about every other car on the road.
The touch screen makes it easy to select music from devices plugged into the USB port, and had no problem reading an iPhone 5 with its Lightning cable connection. With a USB drive filled with MP3 tracks, the head unit cataloged the music by ID3 tagging, organizing the library screen into album, artist, and song categories.
Strangely, the car’s voice command did not let me request music by name, or offer any control over the audio system. Chevy brands this head unit under its MyLink name, and its other models with this system offer that functionality. I believe Chevy is using an essentially different electronics platform for the Spark than it does for other models, and referring to both systems as MyLink. Apparently GM’s restructuring did not eliminate bad product-marketing decisions.
This voice command did let me place phone calls by name, using my Bluetooth-paired phone. The phone screen also gave me access to my phone’s contact list. The Spark also features OnStar, one of the best telematics systems available, which has its own hands-free phone system and concierge services for navigation and emergency services.
The audio system in the Spark we tested consisted of two speakers and not much amplification, making the car essentially a boom box on wheels. I wanted to hold the Spark over my head and stand under GM CEO Dan Akerson’s window, a la Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything.”
Sound quality from the system was fairly atrocious, lacking any sort of power or tangible bass. There was a little clarity in the treble, but most of the frequencies on a track were compressed into one muddy audio stream. For example, the vocals on Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” were nearly indistinguishable from the midrange instrumentation on the track. According to GM spec sheets, our 2LT-trim Spark should have come with six speakers, but the remaining four were not in evidence.
At 1.25 liters, the engine seemed as minimal as the audio system. This car came with a five-speed manual transmission, while a four-speed automatic is available. Given the limited horsepower, I would opt for the manual, as it is easier to control engine speed and get boost when you need it. A six-speed probably would have improved fuel economy, as the engine had to run at 3,000rpm when driving at freeway speeds in top gear.
The shifter, which felt a little floppy in neutral, slotted through its gate with reasonable precision. The Spark seemed like a good car for people learning how to drive a manual transmission. The clutch take was a bit high, but it is impossible to know whether that was set at the factory or the car had suffered abuse in the hands of previous reviewers. The car purportedly includes a hill hold feature, but it seemed to work intermittently.
Driving a car with such low horsepower takes a little getting used to. With barely any power at idle, I had to rev it up high for first-gear starts. It certainly doesn’t leap off the line, giving anemic acceleration even when I tried to get going fast. The manual transmission let me run the engine up to 6,000rpm in third gear, the sole conditions for some feeling of power. The Spark requires a full exploration of the digital tachometer’s limits, and even then I would be very leery about attempting to pass other cars on the highway.
Heading up most hills, fifth and fourth gears became useless, the car slowing down and the gas pedal making no difference. Third gear was the savior for any situation where some power was required, despite what the little upshift icon on the instrument cluster might be suggesting.
In typical mini car style, the Spark’s front wheels connect to the drivetrain, while the rears spin free. The fronts get disc brakes, while the rears sport drums. Likewise, the rear suspension is much simpler than the front, and less capable. The Spark let me know when I was driving over any rough stretch of road, with bumps and potholes communicated firmly to my rear end.
Through the curvy bits, the Spark felt tippy, but actually proved capable of maintaining reasonable speed on the corners. I noticed the traction-control warning light blinking overtime when testing the car, its little 15-inch wheels and 185/55R15 all-season tires not offering much intrinsic grip.
Electric power steering, another feature becoming common today, felt overboosted in the Spark. At a stop, I could turn the wheel with one finger. It firmed up a bit on the road, and even showed a precise tie to wheel angle. There was very little play in this steering system.
A base price of $12,995 is low enough to get the 2013 Chevrolet Spark initial attention, but you will need to go up to the 1LT level to get the so-called MyLink system in the dashboard. The 1LT is $14,595 with a manual transmission, still undercutting most of the small-car competition. The price and utility make it a good choice as a first car for a high school or college student, not to mention a means of teaching aforesaid student how to drive a manual.
Although the size of the car will raise safety concerns for some, Chevy equips it with 10 airbags and electronic stability systems. Crumple zones and modern engineering should protect passengers in a crash.
The small engine gets excellent fuel economy, but sacrifices power, unlike some more technically advanced engines hitting the market. The transmission choices are also very basic; the four-speed automatic sounds particularly primitive. Electric power steering is one of the most advanced features among the driving tech.
The cabin electronics show some ambitious features, but some serious drawbacks as well. Chevrolet is not doing its MyLink brand any good by offering a head unit under the name that differs so substantially in capabilities from its other systems. The voice command was particularly limited, and the inability to use a Bluetooth-paired phone for calls and music streaming at the same time is inexcusable.
I give Chevrolet a lot of credit for its app-based navigation, a very cool innovation with much potential for future, inexpensive cars. Integration of Pandora and Stitcher also seems to pave the way for many more apps. Further contributing to the car’s online capabilities is the OnStar telematics system.
***A special thank you to Wayne Cunningham from cnet.com for this wonderful article!!***
Over 40 vehicles expected to debut at the 2010 North American International Auto Show.
The DETROIT will glow in lights on behalf of International Auto Show. We are in few days before the 2010 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) opens to the media on Jan 11. Workers are on the final touch on the displays inside the Cobo Center. The staffs are working 24/7 to complete to meet the deadline of the Show. The glitz and glamour is coming to America.
Some hot new cars to be revelaed at NAIAS which include the Think City Electric Vehicle, MINI Beach Comber, BMW Active Concept, a Toyota dedicated hybrid concept, the Chevrolet Orlando MPV concept, the Volvo C30 electric vehicle, the Buick Regal GS concept and a Chrysler 300 remake, among many others. Some hot new production models will be on display at NAIAS which includes include the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide, the 2011 Honda CR-Z, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi, the 2010 Cadillac CTS sport wagon, the 2010 Honda Accord Crosstour, the 2011 BMW 740i and 740Li, the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro convertible, the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V coupe and the Chevrolet Spark, among many others. It’s going to be an exciting show for all Americans and all around the world. We actually have more brands this year than last year said NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts. We’re up to 60 this year. A lot of small companies, emerging companies but what’s all about with the NEW alternative fuel and lithium batteries. I guess people are going to find brands like the Electric Avenue we have. We gonna hear the awards going for alternative fuel and also the EcoXperience where you can actually ride and drive the cars with no emission. So for sure, it’s going to be a full fun show.”
The focus on Electric Vehicles will be large, also solar powered vehicles, hydrogen powered vehicles that run on energies other than gasoline. There are new Electric avenue display area for feature vehicles that run on batteries.
The news is Seven new automakers will display their vehicles at Cobo Centre for the very first time. CT&T United, Commuter Cars, Saba Motors, Edison2, EV Innovations, SSI Racing and Zap will display their automobiles on the main floor of the auto show. “We’re just happy to just stage it at the show,” For the Award winners, it will be announced on Monday Jan 11 at 8a.m. during the first day of press days of NAIAS.
The EcoXperience returns for its second year in Michigan Hall, which allows attendees to go on a ride-and-drive of new electric vehicles. The NAIAS is expanding its floor space to include the MGM Grand Casino-Hotel. Luxury vehicles will be on display in a private setting known as “The Gallery.” It will be open from noon to 9 p.m. on Jan. 11 and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Jan. 12. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at naias.com. It includes a one-day entry to the NAIAS public show. AmericaJR.com is proud to be the ONLY website in the world with FREE tickets to the Auto Show. All winners will also receive two toasty combos from Quizno’s Sub.
Special thanks to Quizno’s Sub.
The North American International Auto Show opens to the media on Jan. 11 and 12. The industry preview will take place on Jan. 13 and 14. Don’t forget about the charity preview, which is scheduled for Jan. 15. You’ll have your chance to see the auto show during the public show days, which run from Jan. 16 to 24.
A media preview was held by Chevrolet on Wednesday night at Motown to show their plans for the Detroit Auto Show, next month. The media invited over were allowed to discuss the plans shown to them in detail, but they were not allowed to take any pictures or videos. The presentation started with the introduction of the new General Manager of Chevrolet, Jim Campbell, who had taken up the post only a week ago. The director of exterior design Mike Simcoe along with Campbell took the next half an hour in showcasing the new batch of Chevrolet cars, whose designs had already been shown during the General Motor’s design dome last August. This batch included the upcoming Orlando MPV, Volt, Camaro Convertible, Cruze and the brand new Malibu 2012. These cars are bound to be present in the Chevrolet showrooms in the next two years. The new Orlando is almost the same as the 2008 version, except light cluster have been put in with great detailing.
Spark and Aveo will be making the entry-level end of the Bowtie’s lineup. Since there rumors of Spark program not taking place, Campbell ensured that Spark will make an appearance in 2011. The all new Aveo will be making an appearance for the first time at the Auto Show next month. The designs of the Aveo shown at the media release were exactly same as the design shown in August, except that this car has five-door hatchet. The new model and the old model look nothing alike. The old model had received a lot of criticism for its exterior design. But, hopefully the same would not follow for the new model. Simcoe described the exteriors of the car, as a look that facades ‘deliberate aggression’. The grille on the previous model was too big and this made the car look smaller. This time they have changed the look of the grille. The grille is shorter and wider, which has given the car a more ‘wide, planted stance’ by making the car look wider.
Aveo has four individual round lights, one for each corner and the flanks on the car reminds one of the structure of Spark, in terms of a less exaggerated look. It even has the hidden door handles on the C-pillar like the Spark. Simcoe expressed an aspiration for giving the new Aveo that includes the base model, a ‘hot-hatch’ look. Aveo’s direct competition is the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit, it will be interesting to see the same target customer’s reaction to the new Aveo. When Aveo will be showcased in Detroit, it will be shown in its RS form and not the ‘hot-hatchet’ form. The RS version of the car will be powered by Eco Tec engine. But, no further details were provided, only the exteriors were explained in great detail. The rest of the details can only be presumed on the basis of the previous models, such as the 1.4 liter turbo present in the Cruz. If the car has 138 horse-power and 148 pound torque, then this car will be one heck of a ride on the road.
General Motors Flint south engine plant will be manufacturing the power-plant and the Orion assembly plant will be in charge of car making. The hatch will also have a four-door sedan, following the popular demand. Aveo in RS will be a sight to look at, during the Detroit Auto Show.
In 2007 New York auto show, a design came up as a two-door version called ‘Beat’ along with two more concepts micro-crossover called ‘Trax’ and retro minivan called ‘Groove’.
The voting was done by open public to choose the out of three concepts. Beat got 1.9 million votes which was the majority one.
Spark is a vanilla hatchback as far as technology and basic architecture are concern. With the low price its execution and design are interesting one. Spark is expected to arrive in US in 2011, will be the smallest car ever sold in US.
Chevy Spark is just 143.3 inches long (+1.5 inch long for US), 62.9 inch width, 59.9 inch height, 1950 pounds in weight, 93.5 inch wheelbase, engineered carefully to provide European NCAP safety features.
In the base model, the cabin is monotone gray which gives depressive look, but LT trim have a metallic accents, garnishing body-color gives cheery, unique and modern look. In the top of the steering column there is a motorcycle-type pod instrument. There is conventional speedometer; graphical tech and fuel measure is mono LED screen.
Spark has 1.2 lit four cylinder engine. Spark is little noisy car, engine and tire makes noise when road surface is coarse or when you are hard on the choke. The technical team gives promise to give better NVH pack before the car is launched in US. Spark is a good choice for those who enjoy driving a car at low speeds.
Unlike most of the Asian micro cars, Spark is designed to look bigger than actual. Frontal view of the car is strong, upright nose with tall headlamps with creased bone lines on the outer edges of the hood. Side view is having big wheel housings with an additional shoulder at the rear. The cockpit is narrow over the rear wheels. The door locks are placed behind the side glass, high in the door frames. The handles are painted black which are hidden, giving clean look to the flanks of the car.
The Chevrolet Spark minicar will be revealed at the 2009 Geneva Auto Show. The Spark was inspired by the Beat concept, which was one of three that made the auto show circuit starting in 2007. The Spark comes with a choice of either a 1.0 liter engine or a 1.2 liter engine and comes with electronic stability control and ABS. Inside, the five-door hatchback has a motorcycle inspires instrument cluster that combines analog and digital displays. The Spark will go on sale in Europe early 2010, and then will be available in other global markets.
GM said on Monday that they will begin selling the Chevrolet Spark mini-car in the United States in 2011 as part of the U.S. push to make small, fuel efficient models. The Chevrolet Spark is a 3-door hatchback manufactured by GM Daewoo Auto and Technology Co.