The Car Connection Chevrolet Spark Overview
The Chevrolet Spark is a subcompact car, the smallest offered by GM in the U.S.
The Spark competes with vehicles such as the two-seat Smart ForTwo, the Mitsubishi Mirage, and more stylish small cars like the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper. It sets itself apart by its ability to hold four adults, sitting comfortably if not spaciously, inside an extremely small footprint.
Offered through 2016 in both gasoline and electric versions, the Spark was comprehensively updated for 2016 by an all-new second generation model. The all-electric Spark EV, sold only in California and Oregon, continued for 2016 in the older body style and was replaced by the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
MORE: Read our 2017 Chevrolet Spark review
The new Chevy Spark
The second generation of Chevy Spark went on sale early in 2016, and continued essentially unchanged for 2017. Its design uses more grown-up styling without the previous model's cartoonish characteristics. It has a more powerful, 98-horsepower, 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, giving it 16 percent more power than the 84-horsepower, 1.2-liter inline-4 used in 2013-2015 Sparks.
As before, the engine drives the front wheels through either a 5-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Its combined 2016 fuel-economy rating of 35 mpg took a hit for 2017 due to new EPA calculations that brought it down to 33 mpg combined.
New camera-based safety systems, rarely found on cars this small, will be offered and include lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warnings.
Chevrolet Spark history
The Spark has always been one of the smallest cars on sale with four doors, which helped distinguish the first generation (sold in 2013 through 2015) from other extra-compacts like the Scion iQ and Smart ForTwo. It's a minimalist's car with modern amenities, and a happy little car to boot. The shape looks cheerfully designed; inside, the dashboard is simple, with a large speedometer flanked by a digital gauge with extra information.
It's a small vehicle—the next-largest General Motors vehicle sold in the U.S. is the Chevy Sonic, which is more than a foot longer than the Spark. But as the only five-door in its size category, the current Spark wins the practicality war against cars like the Fiat 500 and Mini three-door hardtop. (The slightly larger Mitsubishi Mirage five-door is a competitor as well, but sits somewhere between the minicar and subcompact.)
The Spark is also taller than its main competitors, giving both driver and passenger a better view out, which aids visibility when ensconced in a sea of SUVs. It's much easier to get people and things in and out of the back seat with the Spark's extra doors, even if the interior is just about as tight as in those rival models. Four adults can fit inside, but they'll likely want to keep the journeys short since their elbows will be touching.
Chevy offers the gas-powered Spark in three trim levels, starting at about $13,000. All Sparks come standard with a version of the Chevrolet MyLink connectivity system, offering apps for Pandora internet radio and Stitcher Smart Radio.
The base LS model comes standard with air conditioning, power windows, a rear wiper, a trip computer, 15-inch alloy wheels, a flip-forward 60/40-split folding rear seat, and OnStar built in.
The mid-level 1LT model includes power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, an audio system with a 7.0-inch color touchscreen, steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth pairing, and satellite radio. The top-of-the-line 2LT trim level adds different alloy wheels, trim upgrades, and even heated seats. Chevrolet also added the GogoLink embedded navigation and real-time traffic application later in the Spark's first model year.
Chevy made one important change after the Spark's first year on the market. In 2013 only, a 4-speed automatic was available for an extra $925; that transmission was slow-reacting and didn't do the small car many favors. From 2014 on, however, the two-pedal option has been a CVT, which is a better match for the car. The standard 5-speed manual makes for the most fun in a Spark, however, and also requires no added investment.
Chevy also offered an electric version of the first-generation Spark (get it?) in California and Oregon only. It's known as the Spark EV, and has been sold only in small quantities.
The Chevy Spark EV is what our sister site, Green Car Reports, calls a "compliance car," which is an electric car built to satisfy coming California clear-air regulations that require automakers to sell battery-powered electric cars in order to continue doing business in the state. That means that while you may see a disproportionate volume of media and advertising on the all-electric Spark, you shouldn't pay it a great deal of attention. It's by far the most powerful Spark, and its lack of a transmission delivers the electric power in one single rush of acceleration, but volumes are very low—only about 100 cars a month.