June 17, 2014
2014 Chevrolet Spark. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jacob Black
Those who are regular readers of Autos.ca, and especially those who can stomach my diatribes, will know that I adore quirky, funky little hatchbacks. What you may also know, is that I loathe CVTs.
What you may not know, but soon will, is that I detest, despise and hate washed out, limp, water colour paint jobs. For that reason, I couldn’t tolerate the exterior of the 2014 Chevrolet Spark – or as my daughter calls it, “the banana car”.
It’s a shame, though, because the styling is actually really good. In red, white or black the Spark looks fantastic. I appreciate the ultra-short overhangs and the accentuated wheel arches. It’s like a little pug in profile with a solid silhouette, short nose and ugly-but-attractive headlights and fenders. The waistline is cut dramatically downwards just ahead of the driver’s seat, which improves corner visibility and helps the Spark’s sporty and cheerful persona – a roof-mounted lip spoiler at the back completes the effect. Hidden door handles in the rear doors are another stylish touch worthy of applause. My goodness do I hate that washed-out pastel yellow though. It’s like a yellow car that’s seen too much sun.
Pastel is limp, and lame, and boring. Pastel infuriates me. I was reminded of a trip to see the “European Masters” exhibit at an art gallery once. What I hoped for was vibrant, intriguing, engaging works of art. What I got was limp, washed-out, faded, pastel lumps of “meh”.
The Spark, however, is not “meh”. It is – um – sparky. So thankfully, inside the yellow paint gets a bit of a boost in brightness and becomes something actually enjoyable to look at and participate in.
“Honestly Jacob, have you been spending too much time at art galleries?” I hear you ask. “What do you mean “participate in” for crying out loud!
It sounds a little silly I know, but that really is how you feel about the Spark interior. It’s playful, and there are dozens of little trays and storage units for all your stuff, or better yet, for your kid’s stuff. The playful interior design extends to the vibrant-looking seats, which are actually very comfortable on long drives – 300+ km and I never once felt uncomfortable.
2014 Chevrolet Spark dashboard, gauges, centre stack. Click image to enlarge
I like to describe the radio system as “Baby’s First MyLink”. It’s a trimmed down, simplified version of GM’s quite excellent infotainment system with a focus on smartphone linking and entertainment. You won’t find navigation here – but if you cough up $60 for BringGo you can display maps and guidance from your smartphone on the car’s touchscreen.
The six-speaker sound system is clear and crisp, but the lack of a volume knob made me grumpy. Everything else, from the air conditioning (not automatic climate control mind you) to making a phone call, was easy to use and easy to access. There is an inherent elegance to simplicity.
The system is also graphically beautiful, and that is an important attribute for many people. It has the usual USB and aux inputs as well as extremely effective Bluetooth telephony and audio. I’m one of those people who really care about the execution of connectivity and audio in a car, and the Spark delivers on that front.
There are four seats, with the centre of the rear row taken up by a tray and cupholder combination which I have seen in a few cars now and continue to believe looks like a potty. It’s not though – so don’t use it as such. The yellow synthetic material seats looked like they’d not survive the rigours of family life – but two spilled chocolate milks (Maddie), one spilled latte (Daddy – while looking at Maddie) and one dropped lollipop (Maddie passing to Daddy) later – I can confirm that these seats wipe clean as easily as many leather ones. [So if you’re going to have an accident, have it on the seats, not the console. –Ed.]
2014 Chevrolet Spark seating & cargo area. Click image to enlarge
Interior volume is a decent 2,444 L and there is 322 L of cargo volume with the seats up. You can fold them forward for 884 L, but I found that task arduous as the seatbelts inhibited the folding. It was a mission trying to wrestle them out of the way. I didn’t need to anyway. The trunk easily swallowed a large suitcase and some sundry small bags.
There is also a surprising amount of both leg and head room, so much so that we were able to successfully ferry four automotive journalists around in whinge-free comfort.
Have you ever wondered what happens when you put four automotive journalists in a Chevrolet Spark and then take off from a traffic light?