Chevrolet has been looking to put its small car failures of years past behind it (we're looking at you Aveo and Cobalt) with the debuts on the new Cruze and Sonic over the last 12 months. And its latest salvo on that front comes in the form of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark.
The 2013 Spark straddles the line between sub-compact and micro car. It's a bit larger than competitors like the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ, and it could even be argued that the Spark goes up against the smart fortwo. What's under the hood of the Spark is not designed to impress but offers ample power: an 85-horsepower, 1.2-liter four-cylinder that is linked to a five-speed manual for four-speed automatic transmission. Note that an electric version of the Spark will be available in 2013.
The Spark was Chevy's biggest unveil at this year's auto show and we should note that it's quite clear which segment of buyers Chevy has in mind for the Spark. They brought four the cars to the show, dressed in pink, yellow, green, and blue, or should we say techno pink, lemonade, jalapeno, and denim (you read correctly). From the outside, the Spark is actually quite fetching or at least more so than the pre-release pictures would suggest. The mesh front grille and oversized headlight clusters highlight the Spark's front, while the rear features a large rear window (rear visibility will not be an issue in the Spark) and an exhaust tip that's integrated into the rear bumper.
Inside, the party continues with body colored accents and a unique instrument panel treatment that features an analog speedometer with a screen alongside that delivers all other pertinent information. The Spark also has some tech chops, getting a 7.1 inch touchscreen display and Chevrolet's new MyLink multimedia system as options - the Spark definitely has some shine to it.
However, as the Merchant warns us, "all that glitters is not gold." When you sit in the Spark, there's a lot to like within the details such as those matching accents on the dash and doors and the unique instrument panel. But there's only one word that really comes to mind and it's a bad one: plastic.
It might be an unfair comparison, but the Spark goes up against cars like the Fiat 500 and will invariably be compared to the MINI Cooper, even though the Cooper is much bigger even though its name would suggest otherwise. Both of those cars offer interiors that are in a different class than the Spark. The Spark's one saving grace might be its base price. Chevrolet has said the Spark will undercut the Sonic which starts at $13,375, so it's definitely a bargain compared to much of the competition.
While the Spark did delight us in some ways it definitely leaves us wanting in several others. Chevrolet is banking on the Spark appealing to younger consumers or parents looking for a car for young drivers, and the low base price and 10 standard airbags will really help its appeal in that area. But in the battle of style versus substance, the Spark left us hungry for a little more.