Review and photos by Mark Stevenson

PSY, the YouTube phenom famous for his Gangnam Style rap and dance, has a lot in common with the new minicar from the General. Both were born in South Korea: PSY is from the hip city of Seoul and the Spark designed in Incheon, a city whose basketball team is named the Land Elephants (quite fitting considering GM’s size and sluggishness in the paint at times).

If the marketing boffins at Chevrolet were smart, they would have grabbed the Korean superstar to advertise the diminutive motor to the company’s target “millennials”, the same people watching PSY’s YouTube video on repeat and all the spinoffs it has generated.

GM is pushing the Spark as a hip city car – a four-door alternative to the two-door-only Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo, and Scion iQ. Yet, it plays in this automotive sort-of no man’s land, bigger than all the aforementioned city cars but smaller and (sort-of) cheaper than cars in the subcompact class such as the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and GM’s own Chevy Sonic.

Either the Spark is one of the smartest moves by GM in a very long time or it’s an automotive exercise in splitting hairs.

2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic
2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic. Click image to enlarge

As far as four-door hatches go, the Spark is the least expensive option on the market – the base model starts at $13,345 including destination with a five-speed manual. In base LS trim, the Korean-built car even offers up some impressive features, like 15-inch aluminum painted wheels, metallic paint, and 10 airbags as standard. This is a vast improvement over the Aveo, Chevy’s former point of entry and the ultimate car to show the world you’ve given up on life.

But, I was not plagued with the stripper LS model; instead, I was given a top-of-the-line 2LT-trimmed Spark equipped with automatic gears and full suite of gadgetry in an effort to sway my judgment in GM’s favour.

When the Spark debuted at the 2007 New York International Auto Show under the Beat name, it set the auto journo chatterboxes atwitter with want, this writer included. The concept had razor sharp lines and, even more surprising, came from a company with nothing if not contempt for the subcompact segment for years.

2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic
2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT Automatic. Click image to enlarge

The Beat was such an eye catcher Michael Bay put it in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Unfortunately for GM, it was used for the character Skids, widely criticized for being a rolling racial stereotype and drawing more ire than Jar Jar Binks. Even with that negative blip behind it, the concept still generated enough attention from the general public to push it into production.

And, thankfully, GM stayed fairly true to the concept as it brought the Spark into reality. Put it and the Beat concept side-by-side in pictures and you’ll find very few major differences. Sure, the Spark has added some rear passenger doors and ridded itself of the silly rear valance treatment, but overall it’s a facsimile of the concept. Not a bad thing in my book – I like the massive headlights and huge grille.

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