Carrying a toy poodle around in your tote bag is so yesterday. The newest hot accessory is the diminutive 2013 Chevrolet Spark. It’s so cute you want to pinch its little cheek. Everything about the Spark is tiny: short 144.7-inch overall length (2.5 feet shorter than the Sonic and 3 feet shorter than the Cruze), petite Ecotec 1.25-liter four-cylinder engine, and a mini starting price of $12,995 for the LS entry level trim with a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Spark also keeps the minimalist theme going by offering only three trim levels and no stand-alone options or packages. As they say, you get what you get, and we’re okay with that. What you get is LS, 1LT, or 2LT trim, in keeping with Chevrolet’s model lineup. Lest you think the LS is a stripper, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that it comes with air conditioning, power windows, OnStar, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler. The only choices to make on the LS are whether you prefer to pay a tad more for the 4-speed automatic transmission ($925), engine block heater ($75) and Black Granite paint ($195).
The 1LT adds power locks and mirrors, cruise control, MyLink with a 7-inch color touch screen, Bluetooth, USB port and steering wheel controls for $14,495. The 2LT, which is the model we drove, adds items like foglamps, chrome exhaust tip, heated leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel for $15,795. The kicker is, even at the top model, it’s still less expensive than the Scion iQ and Fiat 500 competitors.
But price doesn’t matter if you don’t enjoy the drive. We admit we were laughing most of the time during the test miles because we felt we were in a new Disney movie called Honey I Shrunk the Car. Interior dimensions are tight for two decent-size adults in front, mostly in width. You better like the person next to you because you’ll be spending some time touching them when shifting the manual transmission. Lengthwise, even those 6-feet tall will be comfortable driving and in the front passenger seat. In the back seat (which by the way has real doors to get in and out, not like the iQ or Fiat), it is possible for those taller than 5’ 10” to ride along for a short time without fidgeting.
The 1.25 Ecotec engine produces 84 hp and 83 lb-ft of torque. It’s not going to beat much in a drag race, but it will get the last laugh driving by the gas station thanks to its combined 38-mpg fuel economy rating.
The short wheelbase obviously makes the ride a little choppy, but the steering feel is tight and responsive, the brakes stop the 2,200 lb car admirably, and it handles curves with confidence, plus in the Jalapeño it is SMOKIN HOT!
What we tend to fret about most with small vehicles is safety, but Chevrolet put our worries to rest with standard items like 10 airbags, ABS, traction control, StabiliTrak stability control system, Panic Brake Assist, and Hill Start Assist.
Speaking of Hill Start Assist, this was our only concern with the Spark. We drove the manual-transmission version up one of the steepest hills in Los Angeles, and stopped to try out the Hill Start Assist feature, which holds the vehicle on a hill for a few short seconds while you transition your foot from brake to accelerator pedal to stop the panic feel of rolling backward. While the feature worked perfectly, the problem was the Spark’s low torque prevented it from getting enough momentum to start moving again on the hill. It finally did, but after a couple tries and mashing the pedal to the floor. The moral of this is, if you live in the city of San Francisco, spend the extra cash for the automatic transmission.
The last feature we want to cover is MyLink. It integrates Pandora and Stitcher radio into the touch screen, and soon will be adding an app called BringGo. Purchase BringGo for $50 at the app store (iPhone and Android only), and you’ll be able to connect your phone to the screen for an instant navigation system. Impressive.
Overall, if you’re looking for an affordable new car, this might be your choice. And it comes in Techno Pink. Seriously, what’s cuter than that!
Editors Choice Features for the 2013 Chevrolet Spark:
Jalapeño color was ON FIRE!
StabiliTrak stability control system
Panic Brake Assist
Hill Start Assist