01 October 2014
The Spark is a more grown-up small car from Chevrolet and shows the firm is moving in the right direction. Style-wise, the Spark has a little fire in its belly and touches such the as the rear door handles being hidden in the window surround to give a sportier three-door appearance are welcome. Value remains at the heart of the Spark, though, and all of the engines get under the 120g/km emissions mark to offer low running costs.
With 1.0- and 1.2-litre petrol engines on offer with 67- and 80bhp respectively, the Spark is never going to be very sparky when it comes to naked 0-62mph times. The 1.0-litre model manages 0-62mph in 15.5 seconds while the 1.2 takes a noticeably shorter length of time at 12.1 seconds. If you’re confined to city driving, the 1.0-litre is adequate and it can hold its own in most traffic situations, but the 1.2-litre motor is much the better all-rounder and can even tackle motorways with confidence. Both engines need to be worked hard to give their best, but they seem to thrive on this kind of treatment and the five-speed manual gearbox has well judged ratios. The ’box’s change is not the most precise, but it’s light and easy to use.
Many city cars fall into the trap of concentrating on small size and ease of parking at the expense of driving in normal conditions. Over-light steering and tiny wheels are not uncommon, but thankfully these flaws are nowhere to be found on the Spark. Instead, it proves remarkably adept at calming urban ruts and scars, yet it’s also every bit as easy to slot into parking bays as any of its rivals. The Chevrolet is also blessed with well weighted steering that has just enough feel to make it fun on faster roads yet finger-light when parking. Visibility is generally good in most directions, though the up-sweep of the rear pillar can make lane-changing require a second glance to be sure there’s nothing in the blind spot. On more curvy roads, the Spark leans in corners, but no more than most rivals, and has plenty of grip to feel secure.
There’s a fair amount of cheap-looking plastic scattered throughout the Spark’s cabin, which is a shame as the quality of build appears to be solid. There were no squeaks or rattles from our test car and all of the controls had a mature, fluid feel to them. The engines and gearboxes uses in the Spark are tough customers, so we don’t expect any trouble from them.
Chevrolet doesn’t stint its customers when it comes to most safety items. Every Spark includes twin front, side and curtain airbags as standard to make it one of the best kitted cars in it class on this front. The top spec LT model comes with ESP electronic stability and traction control as standard, but it’s a cost option for every other model, so the Spark drops a star for this omission. Isofix child seat mounts are a welcome inclusion as the Spark is aimed at family users, and ABS anti-lock brakes are fitted. There’s also an immobiliser and, for all but the most basic entry-level 1.0-litre model, central locking. However, an alarm is an optional extra when we’d like to see it included in the price.
Chevrolet has done a superb job of finding the maximum space for occupants in the Spark. It can hold four adults in comfort thanks to its tall sides and roof that allow for an upright seating position. It’s also good news for the driver as every Spark model comes with driver’s seat height adjustment, though more basic versions do without any movement in the steering wheel’s angle. Those models that do have steering wheel adjustment only allows for up and down variation and not depth. The sound driving position is backed up a simple, clear and stylish instrument pod that looks more like one from a sports motorcycle than a city car. The rest of the controls for ventilation and the stereo are obvious and easy to work. A small 170-litre boot will struggle to cope with more than a couple of soft bags, but it can be expanded by folding the 60/40 split rear seats to free up a decent load bay.
Every model in the Spark line-up manages emissions of 119g/km, so it qualifies for very affordable road tax, and the Chevy is also easy on insurance. Both the 1.0- and 1.2-litre engines offer combined fuel economy of 55.4mpg and, with a 35-litre tank, has a reasonable cruising range of more than 400 miles. The entry-level 1.0-litre Spark is best avoided as it does without most kit and not even a CD stereo, though it does come with six airbags and ABS brakes. The 1.0+ gains central locking, CD stereo and air conditioning, while the LS models have some extra body-coloured trim. Alloy wheels and electric door mirrors come with the LS+ and the top spec LT provides climate control and electric rear windows. The Chevrolet Spark is keenly priced against rivals such as the Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto and should hold its value as well these rivals. A three-year, 60,000 mile warranty comes with the Spark and Chevy dealers’ labour rates are very reasonable, so keeping the Spark on the road will not drain your finances.
Submitted: 03/06/2010 12:32:40
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