Comparison Test: City Cars smart scion reviews car comparisons chevrolet
Comparison Test: City Cars smart scion reviews car comparisons chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Spark. Click image to enlarge

First Place: 2013 Chevrolet Spark

During a lunch break from testing, one reviewer summed up this test best: “What we have here are two interesting design studies and one scale model of a real car.” There is a reason nearly every new hatchback car uses Sir Alec Issigonis’ two-box design layout; it just works. Now before you cry foul that we picked this winner even though its dimensions exceed a city car’s, know this: it is narrower than the iQ and the same height as the fortwo. The only place it greatly exceeds both vehicles is in length, which is only a deterrent if you have a parking space less than 3.5 m deep. The Spark did finish last in both turning radius and parallel parking, but the latter was more because of blind spots than size. However, in narrow parking spaces, the Spark trumped the other two when it came to passenger ingress and egress thanks to its second-narrowest width combined with the shortest front doors. In fact, thanks to equally narrow rear doors, passengers had an easier time getting in and out of the rear seats of the Spark than in the front seats of the iQ or Fortwo.

During our recent trip to AJAC’s annual CCOTY TestFest the Spark was lambasted as the poorest vehicle of the bunch. It is hard to justify such a car when larger, more contemporary subcompacts are priced nearly the same. But, as they say, “you are known by the company you keep.” When compared to the iQ and Fortwo, the Spark suddenly looks the best and drives the best. Take those claims with a grain of salt, though, as this is the equivalent of picking which poisonous snake bite would feel the best.

Comparison Test: City Cars smart scion reviews car comparisons chevrolet
Comparison Test: City Cars smart scion reviews car comparisons chevrolet
Comparison Test: City Cars smart scion reviews car comparisons chevrolet
2013 Chevrolet Spark. Click image to enlarge

On the road, the Spark was voted best in ride comfort, brake feel, and engine/transmission operation, and was second easiest to drive after the iQ, which it also trailed in handling ability. The Spark was by far the quietest on the road (again, relatively speaking) and the vehicle required the least amount of steering correction at highway speeds. The five-speed manual transmission engagement is looser than the rules in a game of shinny and the engine takes it sweet time to wake up the 84 horses burdened with the task of motivating the 1,029-kg Spark. For those not interested in rowing their own gears, Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony notes that driving the four-speed-automatic-equipped Spark felt just as ‘responsive’ if not more so, but that might just be because he hated this car’s clutch and shifter.

The Spark received middling scores for front seat comfort, but as mentioned before, is the easiest by far to enter. Add to that a useful back seat that can actually accommodate full-size adults in both head and legroom and the Spark has a practicality advantage over the other two. With 323 L of cargo space, the Spark finished second to the two-seat Fortwo’s 340 L cargo hold; both vehicles laugh at the iQ’s pathetic 31 L of rear cargo space. Fold the rear seats down and the Spark balloons to 883 L of junk-carrying ability, which nearly doubles the iQ’s rear-seats-folded 473 L capacity while the Fortwo remains at 340 L since there are no rear seats to fold down.

Finally, there is the interior. Where the Fortwo’s interior appears to be swathed with office carpeting and the iQ’s looks like the previously mentioned LSD trip, the Spark’s interior seemingly resembles that of a motor vehicle. Well, maybe not the motorcycle-style gauges or the touchscreen MyLink infotainment unit, but the rest is very familiar. The Spark proves that a city car doesn’t have to be funky or unique to be good. The Spark still looks the part of city car, acts the part of city car, yet functions almost like a regular car. Even as the most expensive in test, the extra money is worth it to avoid the trade-offs of the other two vehicles in this comparison, especially if you have more than 3.5 metres of space in which to park the Spark. -MS

Pricing: 2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Manual
Base price: $18,495
Options: None
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,500
Price as tested: $20,095

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