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- More grown-up looks
- Truly seats four adults
- Impressive active-safety features
- Fully modern infotainment
- Must be driven hard to keep up
- Gas mileage took a hit this year
- No safety ratings yet
- Marginal air conditioning
The 2017 Chevrolet Spark is one of the best tiny cars you can buy in America, with its laudable array of active-safety systems.
In a world with very low gas prices and inexpensive mid-size sedans, the 2017 Chevrolet Spark runs counter to just about every prevailing trend.
It's in its second year in a new body, and the Spark still intrigues us for doing a very good job at a couple of things: parking and zipping around urban frontiers. The Spark is the tiniest Chevy you can buy, and that means it's almost overlooked in the Chevy lineup of trucks, SUVs and crossovers. (It's right over there...hiding behind them, maybe?)
Three trim levels are offered: base LS, mid-range 1LT, and top-of-the-line 2LT.
We give the Spark a rating of 5.6, with its best rating, predictably, in fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Chevy Spark styling and performance
This second generation of Spark has more substantial and adult looks, slightly more power, and some sophisticated features found neither in other minicars nor its predecessor. From the outside, its snub nose gives more presence while accent lines break up what could be very slabby sides. The interior is no longer "motorcycle derived," and now has conventional instruments and a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash.
To keep up with traffic in the small and underpowered Spark, you'll have to drive it hard; if you do so, it'll reward you with a compromise between a comfortable ride and decent handling and roadholding. The powertrain is a 98-horsepower 4-cylinder engine paired to either a standard 5-speed manual gearbox or an optional continuously variable transmission. The CVT will give you better gas mileage, but adjustments to EPA calculations this year have cut its fuel-economy ratings this year against last.
Spark comfort, safety, and features
The Spark offers the surprising ability to carry four adults inside a very small footprint.
The interior of the Spark can shock onlookers; it doesn't appear to offer much room, but its tall stance gives enough head room to accommodate four actual adults, who will sit upright and close, but not at all hunched over. Cargo space is acceptable for such a small car, though we expect many Sparks to live out their lives with the rear seat backs folded down some or all of the time.
The 2017 Spark hasn't received any NHTSA ratings at all, and only two from the IIHS, although its predecessor got the best IIHS scores among 11 different small cars. And it offers an array of optional active-safety systems (only on the top 2LT trim level) that are very rarely found on smaller cars, making it by far the most advanced minicar on the market.
The base Spark LS with manual gearbox starts below $14,000, including delivery, and every 2017 Spark comes standard with with power windows and door mirrors; air conditioning; a built-in wi-fi hot spot; OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity capability; and the MyLink display system. The CVT adds a substantial $1,100 to the sticker, however.
The mid-level Spark 1LT version adds power locks, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, satellite radio, remote keyless entry, and a theft-deterrent system. Above that, the Spark 2LT includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, enhanced driver-information display between the gauges, rear park assist, and chrome body trim. A power sunroof is optional on either LT trim.
The Spark will never be Chevy's best-selling car, though the previous generation sold better than expected during its three years on the market. It was primarily designed for buyers in more than 40 countries around the world where a car this small provides basic family transport. For buyers in North America, it's more likely a city car or a first vehicle—and for those purposes, we'd say it's a good choice against competitors.