A feisty little subcompact | A quirky little car that offers plenty of practicality when you get past its limitations.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, a lot has changed in the automotive landscape. There’s been a focus on producing smaller and much more affordable cars. Manufacturers, no longer strive to dominate the compact car market. Nowadays, we’ve seen an uptick in focus on sub-compact cars. Literally every major manufacturer has an offering to the market. Mitsubishi with the Mirage, Nissan with the Micra, Honda’s Fit, and Toyota’s Yaris, the list goes on and on. GM’s offering is this 2014 Chevrolet Spark LT; a quirky little car that offers plenty of practicality when you get past its limitations.
The best way to ease into the Spark is by putting oneself in the right mindset. The car is powered by GM’s smallest engine. An inline four cylinder 1.8L pushing out 84 hp and 86 lb-ft of torque. Yup, that’s right, 84 hp. Now let’s couple those 84 horses with a CVT and you’ll start to get a picture of what the Spark isn’t, and begin to understand what the Spark is. It’s for the people who view the car as nothing more than a city commuter tool; a means of getting from point A to point B, and in that aspect, it does quite well.
Despite this though, I had to crack a grin when I got the keys to the car for the week. My tester came in “Lemonade” yellow; personally I felt that this was the cleverest of the four fun and happy colours that the car comes in (I also rather liked the Jalepeno green). Even so, the available fun happy colours weren’t enough to detract anyone from the Spark’s polarizing looks. The front end looks too busy and rather compacted together, and the entire car just looks way too tall. While the proportions are a bit odd, the Spark is surprisingly functional and the short wheelbase makes it exceptionally easy to park literally anywhere.
However, getting inside the car, one will immediately realize that the tall height of the car paid big dividends. Yes, the Spark does come with a smattering of body coloured accents on the dash, door inserts, and seats. But, the tall height of the car offers plenty of headroom for even the tallest of drivers. Happy is the theme here, but practicality isn’t forgotten. The Spark was riddled with cubbyholes, the dash, door inserts, and passenger sides all featured small spaces for you to fit your personal belongings, a feature that many manufacturers often forget to include.
My tester was the mid level 1LT trim that included GM’s MyTouch Link software inside a single seven-inch touch screen. The infotainment system allowed for Bluetooth connectivity, OnStar, satellite radio, and even featured a back up camera – a nifty little touch for a car so small. The gauge cluster follows the motorcycle-inspired instruments of the Chevrolet Sonic and is easy to read when driving along.
Start the car, and you’re reminded that the Spark’s performance doesn’t quite match that of a Mini Cooper, or even a Fiat 500. The car’s 84 hp and CVT transmission makes for a lack of low-end power. If you really want to do a lot of passing or aggressive driving, prepare to take a hit on your fuel economy. Pushing down on the throttle, you’ll hear the engine build revs, but the car just doesn’t quite get up to speed. More often than not, I found the CVT confused as to whether or not it wants to “upshift”, but it’s important to note that this transmission is new for this model year.
The 4-speed automatic unit in last year’s car was far inferior. It was also in those acceleration moments that I found a grin on my face. Pushing the Spark will only cause the engine to get louder, but that’s what makes the car so entertaining for the enthusiast. The Spark is one of those cars that you can drive near its limits and still stay well within laws. I think the Spark with the available 5-speed manual transmission will alleviate the finicky CVT and bring enough of a smile to people’s faces as well.
At the end of the day, when you sit back and think about the Chevrolet Spark, you’ll realize that the car is for the city dweller that needs it for a quick jaunts around the urban centres. It’s made for those grocery runs or to visit friends and family in the suburbs. At an observed 6.2L/100km in a combined cycle, the consumption is pretty frugal as well! What the Spark isn’t intended to be, is GM’s answer to the Mini Cooper or the the Fiat 500. It’s not quite as cheap as the Mitsubishi Mirage, but for the added value (my pretty loaded-up tester came out around $19,000), it’s built to a significantly higher quality standard. Cars like the Spark are meant to tug at the heartstrings as well as save your wallet in operational costs.
2014 Chevrolet Spark LT Gallery