2013 Chevy Spark Preview


Small cars seem to be popping up everywhere.  First there was MINI with the Cooper, Honda with the Fit, Smart with the FourTwo, Ford with the Fiesta and Scion with the iQ.   The MINI Cooper, once the smallest car sold in America, seems large compared to some of these cars, so when we talk about cars smaller than the Cooper, we’re talking small.

2013 Chevy Spark, arriving at Chevy dealers now.

The Chevy Spark — two inches shorter than the Cooper hardtop — is one of the most inexpensive of the new subcompacts and, like many of them, premiered somewhere else (South Korea and/or  Europe) before making its way to the United States.

The Spark began life in 1998 as the Matiz manufactured in South Korea by Daewoo.  In those days Daewoo was the second largest automobile manufacturer in South Korea ahead of Kia but behind Hyundai.  In 1995 Daewoo started to have financial problems that eventually led to its purchase by GM in 2001.  According to Wikipedia the second generation Matiz was released in Europe and Korea in 2005 and in 2008 the engine was downsized to qualify for tax breaks in the United Kingdom.  In its first 10 years of production roughly 2.3 million versions of the Matiz was sold (under a variety of names including Chevy Spark and Chevy Beat).  The 3rd generation of the Matiz, which is being marketed in the US as the Chevy Spark,  was actually released to the rest of the world in 2009 and 2010.

Will the Spark be worth the wait?  A lot depends on gas prices.  Companies like Ford, GM, Toyota and Fiat seem to be betting that gas prices will continue to go up and they want to be ready with small, inexpensive cars with great gas mileage.  The Spark will be among the least expensive starting at $12,245 (not including the destination fee). However, once the Spark is comparably equipped to match a car like the Scion iQ or the Fiat 500 Pop, its price advantage almost disappears to just $200 less than the iQ and $405 less than the Pop. Still, to Chevy’s credit, the Spark, even at its base price, is a relatively well-equipped vehicle with air-conditioning, power windows and alloy wheels all standard.  Plus, the Spark, is very fuel-efficient with EPA estimates of 32 MPG city, 38 MPG highway.

Chevy Spark with optional 7″ touchscreen radio.

Like any very small car, the Spark is likely to come off second best in an accident with virtually any other car on the road (except another Spark or perhaps an iQ).  To help protect passengers the Spark has 10 airbags covering virtually every area of the human body including the Thorax — which until recently I thought was a book by Dr. Suess.  However, unlike some of the other cars in the this category the Spark has 4 doors and, based on its interior dimensions, has more rear leg room than the Fiat 500 and considerably more than the iQ.

If the Chevy Sonic, also built by GM Daewoo, is any indicator, the Spark will be a decent little car that is well prepared to give the Scion iQ, Fiat Pop and others a run for their money.  Like the iQ, Pop and FourTwo, the Spark won’t set any land speed records but it should get you where you want to go and do so safely and inexpensively.  FYI, an electric version of the Spark is rumored to appear in late 2013.

If you have any questions about the Spark, feel free to leave a reply.  I try to answer questions within 36-hours, often sooner.

Happy motoring.

Chevy Spark Scion iQ Fiat 500 (Pop)
Price (comparably equipped)
$15,795 $15,995 $16,200
Overall Length (in.) 144.7 120.1 139.6
Overall Width (in.) 62.9 66.1 64.1
Overall Height (in) 61.0 59.1 59.8
Wheelbase (in.) 93.5 78.7 90.6
Front Leg Room 42.0 40.9 40.7
Rear Leg Room 35.2 28.6 31.7
Airbags 10 11 7
Horsepower 84 94 101
MPG (city/highway) 32/38 36/37 34/38



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