July 31, 2012
Manufacturer’s web site
Review and photos by Greg Wilson
2013 Chevrolet Spark
Tiny cars have been popular in Europe and Asia for decades, but it’s only recently that we’ve seen an influx of these mini-compact cars in North America, notably the Smart Fortwo, Scion iQ, and Fiat 500. Rising gas prices, increased urbanization, and North America’s economic woes have prompted many consumers to consider a smaller car, especially younger drivers looking for an affordable, entry-level car.
2013 Chevrolet Spark. Click image to enlarge
New this year is the 2013 Chevrolet Spark, the first four-door, four-passenger mini-compact available in North America. With a length of just 3675 mm (144 in.) and a width of only 1598 mm (63 in.), the new Chevy Spark is slightly longer, narrower and taller than the two-door, four-passenger Fiat 500 but smaller than the subcompact four-door, five-passenger Chevrolet Sonic.
Though new to North America, the 2013 Spark is actually the third generation of GM Daewoo’s city car called the Daewoo Matiz in South Korea and Chevrolet Spark in most other areas of the world. For the North American market, it includes a styling refresh, more power, and standard 15-inch tires and alloy wheels, the latter a first in the mini-compact segment. Already on sale in Canada, the 2013 Spark ranges in price from $13,495 to $19,745.
Power comes from a hard-working 1.2-litre (1,249 cc) twin-cam four-cylinder motor developing 85 hp and 82 lb-ft of torque. Around town, this engine delivers adequate power, but at faster speeds on secondary roads and freeways—especially going up hills—it feels underpowered. Put your foot to the floor and the engine sounds very busy, but almost comically, it seems like not much is happening. GM quotes a 0 to 96 km/h time of 12.5 seconds with the standard five-speed manual transmission and 12.8 seconds with the optional four-speed automatic. That’s pretty slow by today’s standards but not necessarily important for people who do most of their driving in the city.
We started the day driving a Spark with the manual transmission. The shift knob falls easily into the right hand, shift motion is fluid, and the gears are easy to find. Clutch pedal effort is light and the clutch-plate engages smoothly except when attempting a quick take-off in first gear where there’s a temptation to slip the clutch to make up for the engine’s lack of torque. Still, the manual transmission is the best way to make the most of the Spark’s small engine, and it contributes to a more enjoyable driving experience. Manual transmission drivers will also appreciate the Spark’s standard Hill Start Assist system that prevents the Spark from rolling backwards on a hill while moving from the brake pedal to the accelerator.