Consumer concern for fuel economy has sparked the growth of the smallest car segment, the minicar. Car buyers, it seems, are willing to sacrifice storage and leg room for gas savings but at this size, the cuteness factor increases to help balance the scale.
The latest cutie is the Chevy Spark. On a recent test drive in Austin, the little car couldn’t disguise its diminutiveness but it did surpass its estimated fuel economy.
For starters, how can I not like a car painted Jalapeno green? Like the darlingest baby, its oversized headlamps, rounded fascia, and stumpy hood seem to beg for a hug, or at the least a coo.
The five-door hatch offers seating for four (a cup holder divides the rear seat in two) and hides door handles for the back doors cleverly in the C-pillar.
The Spark 2LT model I drove also came with a five-speed manual transmission—a CVT is available for 2014 as well as a four-speed automatic. Matched to a 1.3-liter four cylinder with 84 horses, the manual transmission adds necessary peppiness. Still, the lack of power was noticeable.
What sets the Spark apart, however, is the generous supply of technology that comes with or is available on such a small car. Power windows, Hill Start Assist, electric power steering , and air conditioning are standard.
The MyLink infotainment system is standard on the LT trim level and up and includes a seven-inch display screen, Bluetooth, voice recognition, and Sirius Satellite radio for three months. It’s also compatible with Pandora and Stitcher Apps. and BringGo, an embedded app for full-function GPS navigation.
Unabashedly targeted to millennials, the Spark is one of a growing number of Chevrolet products that doesn’t come with or even offer a CD player.
Standard 60/40 folding rear seats expand cargo space to 31.2 cubic feet when folded flat.
At this size, safety concerns crop up but the Spark has already passed one important test—the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick. That could be because it comes with important features like StabiliTrak, anti-lock brakes, and ten airbags including front knee and side curtain.
For 2014, the Spark EV will be added to the lineup but with limited availability, and Jalapeno green is gone.
Pricing for the 2014 Chevy Spark starts at $13,890. The test model 2LT added no options and was priced at $15,795. It also comes with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The unlikeliest of halo cars, the Spark has brought new customers to Chevrolet, more than half of Spark buyers are new to GM. Apparently, cute sells.