As one of the most affordable cars on the road, the Chevrolet Spark will easily get attention from young drivers and first-time car buyers, and there’s a lot to like.
Engine: 1.4-liter four-cylinder
Power: 98 hp and 94 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 5-speed manual or CVT
Fuel Economy: 30 MPG city/41 MPG highway (manual), 31 MPG City/41 MPG highway (CVT)
US Price: Starts at $13,535
For a budget of around $13,000, you might think the used car market is your only option, but Chevrolet offers a number of features and services with a new Spark that used cars just can’t match. And, of course, there are a number of significant changes to this new generation model that make it a much better small car than before.
Most noticeably, the new Spark looks much better than it used to. Where the first-generation model looked like an automotive Pokémon, this one is far less jarring. This is mainly due to the lower overall profile and longer wheelbase that makes it actually look somewhat sleek for a subcompact hatchback. It’s definitely less quirky and odd, but is still offered in a wide range of colors, including a bright neon green (called Lime), spicy looking red (named Salsa), a dark purple (dubbed Kalamata), and a bright blue (called Splash). Funky colors certainly help make the small car look less like an appliance.
Inside, the Spark is less lively, which is expected for such a low-priced car. Admittedly, there are some nice design ideas in the car, like the gauge cluster that has been upgraded to a three-pod setup including an analog tachometer, which the old Spark didn’t have. This frees up more space for a digital trip computer, which was easy to read. The center console has also been updated, with the main display being moved upwards, while the vents are pushed downwards.
There are hard plastics found throughout the cabin, and base Spark LS models come with manual wind-up windows, manually adjustable mirrors and locks. Fortunately, there’s split folding rear seats, automatic headlights, back-up camera and, yes, that seven-inch touchscreen is standard. The Spark has a number of available features, too, including heated seats, sunroof, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning and forward collision alert, although most of the features are reserved for the top-trim 2LT model.
The front seats are comfortable enough, but the back seats offer little support. And while they fold, they require an extra step that involves lifting the seat bottoms before the seat backs can be folded flat.
Little Car With Big (Standard) Tech
That standard seven-inch touchscreen with the MyLink infotainment system is a very important part of the Spark. For starters, it features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, which greatly expands the in-car tech available to drivers. Users can now use their smartphone to provide navigation or stream music, or even use Siri as a personal assistant in the car. The screen is big and responsive. Furthermore, like all 2016 GM products, the Spark offers 4G LTE wireless connectivity. All new Spark buyers get 3GBs or three months of free in-car 4G LTE, which is great for streaming music or podcasts on the road. You can also use the car as a mobile hotspot to provide your phone or passengers with data on the go.
Additionally, GM and OnStar will give new owners five years of OnStar Basic, which includes support for the RemoteLink app services, Advanced Diagnostics and Dealer Maintenance Notification. The RemoteLink app will be especially useful for drivers who live in cold climates or even paranoid types, who can use the smartphone app to make sure they locked the car or even start it up remotely to get it warmed up. The Advanced Diagnostics will be useful for finding out how much fuel you have in your car and keep tabs on the life of your oil, while the dealer maintenance notification will assist in scheduling trips to the dealership.
The whole connectivity part of the Spark helps it stand out above all other low-cost cars. Those cars are typically very bare bones, so seeing Chevrolet including technology that utilizes the smartphones that buyers likely already have is a big deal. Also, if buyers are considering a used car in the same price range as the Spark, it’s likely they won’t have USB ports to charge or connect to the audio system, or even a Bluetooth connection. The Spark has both as standard equipment.
SO MANY MPGs
Under the hood of the Spark is a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 98 hp and 94 lb-ft of torque. This engine sends power to the front wheels through a five-speed manual or CVT. Both options are quite fuel-friendly, earning 41 mpg on the highway, though slightly different city fuel consumption. The manual earns 30 mpg in the city, while the CVT nets 31.
The engine isn’t engaging or inspiring, but it’s enough to get the 2,312-lb (max weight with the CVT) Spark moving and up to speed around the city, although on the highway, it takes a bit of patience to hit 60 mph.
Also helping its usefulness in the city is the Spark’s fairly small turning circle. Although not as tight as the Smart fortwo’s 22.8 feet, the Fiat 500’s 30.6, and the Mitsubishi Mirage’s 30.2, the Spark isn’t too far off with a 34.5-feet turning circle. Still, the car is easy to maneuver around town and has great visibility. Steering isn’t super engaging and the car’s suspension and chassis can be a bit uncomfortable over broken pavement and potholes, which will discourage aggressive driving habits.
Safety is usually a major concern for small cars, and the Spark comes standard with 10 airbags and is reportedly capable of holding 4.2 times its own weight on its roof, which should bolster confidence.
The car is easy to drive, fuel efficient and cheap, starting at $13,535 including delivery for a base Spark LS with the five-speed manual. This makes it one of the cheapest four-seaters on the market. Fully loaded models will be come in below 20 grand, stickering for $18,160.
The Verdict: 2016 Chevrolet Spark Review
Car buyers on a budget typically lean towards the used car market, but miss out on some cool technology in the process. The Spark is not only affordable, but it also comes with enhanced smartphone integration as standard equipment. There’s also the added benefit of included data connectivity, extra OnStar support and, of course, a warranty. GM will even throw in two years of free oil and filter changes. Sweetening the deal, a cool smartphone box that contains the keys to the car is given to the customer when they buy a Spark, helping new owners believe that they’re not just buying a car, but a mobile device. It’s hard not to recommend it, if you’re in the market for a small city car and on a budget.
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