Suggestion No. 1 – 2014 Chevrolet Spark LS Manual
They don’t get much cheaper than the A-Segment Chevy Spark, a five-door hatchback from the Bow-Tie brand. Aside from its deceptively aggressive styling this city car has an appealingly low base price and offers drivers far more than appallingly little content.
With zero options, an LS model with a manual transmission can be had for less than 13 grand, including $825 in freight charges. You could probably drive away from the dealer in one for a song, dance and stack of grilled-cheese sandwiches. How can grizzled salespeople argue with crispy, toasted bread and gooey, melted cheese? They can’t, especially if you throw a folksy ditty and ethnic jig into the mix.
Surprisingly for that modest outlay of scratch you’re far from slumming it. The Spark is equipped with enough standard features to keep you from feeling like you’re riding in the back of a prison van with your ankles dressed in shackles. The car is equipped with things including a four-speaker sound system and auxillary jack. It also has a tilt steering column, power windows, cup holders, an armrest and a four-way adjustable driver’s seat
Outside the Spark features 15-inch silver-painted aluminum wheels, a rear spoiler with an integrated LED CHMSL (center high-mounted stop lamp), body-color folding side-view mirrors and automatic headlights with integrated daytime running lamps. OoooOoooOOOo, fancy!
In the safety department, this itsy-bitsy car has 10 standard airbags, stability and traction control plus hill-start assist for undulating terrain. Proving its strength the Spark earned nearly all “Good” ratings (the highest you can get) from the zealots at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS); it received only one “Acceptable” score (the second-best rating) in the new small-overlap crash test. Its performance is strong enough to earn it the coveted “Top Safety Pick” status; it’s the only so-called minicar to do that. See? The Spark’s got pretty much everything you really need, and no superfluous baloney.
And now for the fun part. Under its pug-like hood is a 1.2-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine that puts out all of 84 hp. Torque tips the scale at 83 lb-ft. Those numbers may sound severely lacking but don’t let them fool you; the Spark is a lot more fun than you might expect.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Chevrolet Spark Review
When teamed with the available five-speed manual transmission, the car is scrappy and entertaining; it kind of feels like a golf cart with doors. Driving on the highway can be a little dicey and crosswinds keep you alert. Overall it’s pretty entertaining for just $12,995.
Fuel economy is commendable as well. The car should be able to hit 31 mpg city and 39 highway, making for a combined rating of 34 mpg. A CVT automatic is also available, but for extra dough.
Add it all up and the Spark is a whole lot more desirable than other “city cars” on the market today. For instance, smart’s fortwo is the punch line to a terrible joke; it’s a car that’s dreadful at just about everything. Event the “brand-new” Mitsubishi Mirage is at best a half-baked effort. GM’s global team hit their mark with the Spark.