2013 Chevrolet Spark Review | Toronto Star

2013 Chevrolet Spark Photo

By Jil McIntosh, Toronto Star


Very small cars have generally been a tough sell in North America. But as gas prices rise and downtown cores become more congested, they’re starting to look viable for many drivers.


Chevrolet’s new version for 2013 is the Spark. It’s the tiniest car GM has offered in Canada, and one of the smallest currently available from anyone. At a starting price of $11,845, it’s GM’s least-expensive car and possibly the cheapest new vehicle in the country, although it does have issues that might turn some buyers away.


Chevy’s smallest offering used to be the Aveo, built in South Korea. It was replaced by the slightly larger, Michigan-built Sonic — the best of GM’s little cars. The Spark, also built in Korea and sold in several global markets, is smaller than the Aveo.


Unlike the Sonic, which also comes as a sedan, the Spark is strictly a four-door hatchback. The rear door handles are cleverly tucked behind the window, giving it a sportier two-door look.


How small is the Spark? Lengthwise, only Smart’s Fortwo, Fiat’s 500 and the Scion iQ are tinier. But while the Smart seats two, and the iQ has four chairs but can really handle only three passengers, the Spark is viable for four people, with some cargo space left over. (The Fiat also seats four, but has about 90 mm less rear legroom than the Spark, and since the Fiat is a two-door, it’s tougher to get into the back seats.)


Spark uses a 1.2 L four-cylinder that makes a mere 84 horsepower and 83 lb.-ft. of torque, delivered through a five-speed manual or, in my tester, an optional four-speed automatic.


Its off-the-line acceleration isn’t spectacular, but once you’re moving, there’s more than enough oomph for most city traffic.


However, the engine has a rough idle and it’s very noisy. I’d be fine with that if I got a spectacular payoff at the pump, but the Spark’s fuel economy is the same as or worse than some of its larger competitors.


There are three trim levels.


The base LS includes 10 airbags, alloy wheels, variable intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, power windows, and surprisingly, OnStar with Turn-by-Turn Navigation, although it’s up for renewal after six months (it costs $438 per year).


My tester, the mid-range 1LT, adds convenience features: air conditioning, power mirrors, cruise control, power locks, Bluetooth, and premium stereo.


The step up to the 2LT is mostly cosmetic.


It includes sportier bumpers, fog lights, fancier wheels, and heated fake-leather seats.


Despite the short wheelbase, the ride is pretty good. The steering response is quick and smooth, it corners well, and the turning circle is very tight. Throw in that small footprint, and it’s a good little car for manoeuvring and parking on crowded streets. The front seats are more comfortable than expected for the price, although adjusting them isn’t easy. There’s virtually no room beside the seat, and even with my small hands I had to open the door to access the height adjustment dial. The car’s height means that most tall people will still have enough headroom.


The 60/40-split rear seats fold down, but they don’t go completely flat, and it’s not a simple operation. First, you have to remove the head restraints.


Then you flip the seat cushion up and lower the seat back. This increases the cargo area from a length of 44 cm to 120.


Disc fans beware: the Spark can’t play CDs. Instead, its sophisticated 7-inch touch-screen display includes MyLink, which lets you plug in a compatible smartphone for music and contacts.


The system is easy to figure out, but some of its controls are touch spots on the plastic panel, and it’s annoying to have to keep tapping to turn the volume up or down.


Although there are a few things I don’t like about the Spark, I have to admit it did grow on me during the week. It’s fun to drive, and I could park it in the tightest of spots. Throw in the diminutive price tag, and it’s worth a look for those who no longer think that bigger is always better.


The vehicle tested by freelance writer Jil McIntosh was provided by the manufacturer.


2013 Chevrolet Spark


Price: $11,845 to $18,245; as tested, $16,445


Engine: 1.2 L four-cylinder


Power/torque: 84 hp/83 lb.-ft.


Fuel consumption L/100 km: 7.1 city, 5.2 hwy., 5.1 as tested


Competition: Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Mazda2, Nissan Cube, Scion iQ, Smart Fortwo, Toyota Yaris


What’s best: Roomy interior, cute styling, well-equipped mid-level trim.


What’s worst: Noisy engine, some larger competitors get better fuel economy


What’s interesting: It comes in pink.