The five-door Spark hatchback is the smallest offering from General Motors' biggest brand: Chevrolet. Aside from the usual slew of advantages (efficiency, value and ease of parking) and disadvantages (glacial acceleration, chintzy interior trim) associated with a tiny city car, the Spark offers useful high-tech features and a surprisingly roomy interior with space for four adults.
For the latest year, the Spark's outdated four-speed automatic transmission has been replaced by a CVT that improves both drivability and fuel economy. Automatic headlights are newly standard across the range, while 2LT models benefit from power-adjustable, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators.
The other big news is the expansion of the Spark lineup with the all-electric Spark EV model.
Representing Chevrolet's entry in the increasingly popular supermini segment, the Spark is intended to serve as affordable transportation for first-time car buyers, city dwellers and those who just need something small and economical for commuting.
Despite the Spark's humble mission and petite dimensions - it's fourteen inches shorter than the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact - the hatchback boasts more in the way of feature content and space than one might expect.
While it doesn't make for the most elegant exterior proportions, the hatchback's relatively tall height pays dividends inside, where there's plenty of headroom for even the most vertically-gifted passengers. Thanks to clever rear cabin packing, there's room for two adults in back - something that can't be said of the majority of similarly-priced vehicles.
There's room for a respectable 11.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats, and 31.2 cubes can be unlocked by folding the rear seats flat.
In terms of design and material quality, cheap and cheerful is the order of the day inside the Spark. The instrument cluster is similar to the stylish, motorcycle-inspired unit found in the Sonic, and the dashboard is simple but functional with flowing trim pieces that can be spec'd to match the exterior color. Rock-hard plastics can be found throughout, but that's to be expected given the low price point.
Uplevel Spark models feature Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system, which combines entertainment and Bluetooth-based connectivity functions into a single seven-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard. The setup enables hands-free phone calls, streaming audio via Pandora radio and Stitcher SmartRadio, and even navigation through a downloadable BringGo app.
MyLink also incorporates Apple's Siri Eyes Free system, which uses the Soark's steering wheel-mounted controls to access the Siri function of any iPhone equipped with iOS 6. Once linked, drivers can use voice commands to perform actions like make phone calls, play songs from iTunes, listen and compose text messages and add appointments to their calendars.
In order to minimize distractions, the iPhone's screen remains blank while in Eyes Free mode.
Because of its small size, Spark is able to get by with the smallest engine offering in a GM-produced passenger car in the U.S., a 1.2-liter dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine that delivers 84 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 83 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm.
Two transmissions are on offer: a standard five-speed manual and a new CVT. The stick shift makes the most of the little engine and helps the Spark to return 31 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. The CVT-equipped model trades some acceleration for ease of use and returns 30 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.
Underneath its sheetmetal, the Spark features a MacPherson strut front suspension, standard ABS and stability control, electric power steering and vented front/rear drum brakes.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Spark is offered in three trim levels: LS, 1LT and 2LT.
The entry-level Spark LS comes standard with A/C, power windows, 15-inch alloy wheels, an AM/FM/CD stereo system with an auxiliary input jack, automatic on/off headlights and Onstar.
The mid-grade 1LT trim adds MyLink, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, a USB port and Sirius XM Radio. Also included are power door locks with remote keyless entry, a theft deterrent system, outside power mirrors, floor mats, visor mirrors and cruise control.
The top-spec 2LT dresses up the exterior with sport fascias front and rear, additional chrome trim, heated, power-adjustable exterior window mirrors and unique 15-inch wheels. Leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and fog lamps are also included.
Like its larger Sonic and Cruze siblings, the Sparks comes from the factory with 10 airbags, including front knee airbags, side seat airbags and side curtain airbags. Traction and stability control systems are also standard.
Those looking for modestly-priced transportation like the Spark should also consider the five-door Mitsubishi Mirage, which isn't as spacious as the Chevy but returns better mileage.
Smaller two-door options include the smart fortwo and Scion iQ as well as the more expensive Fiat 500.