The 84-horsepower, 1.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine included in most Spark models provides a decidedly old-school economy-car performance. The Spark comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox, and if you drive aggressively you can hustle it along; a new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) replaces the former four-speed automatic transmission this year. While we haven't driven this model with the new CVT, we hope it's faster than the former automatic, without too much of the coarse engine drone that afflicts small cars with such a transmission.
As for the Spark EV, it's the quickest of the new crop of 'affordable' electric models, with a 0-60 mph time of just 7.6 seconds, and up to 400 pound-feet of torque on tap from its 105-kW electric motor system. It's extremely quiet and responsive, thanks to its 105-kW (140-hp) electric motor. And among electric cars, we've found it more eager than the Leaf, more tossable than the Fit EV,, and better integrated overall than the Smart Electric Drive.
With the manual transmission, the Spark is EPA-rated at 32 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 34 mpg--as good as anything in the class, but slightly lower than various larger compact sedans. The new CVT does improve fuel economy to 30 mpg city, 39 highway (34 Combined)--up 2 mpg versus last year's automatic.