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2014 Chevrolet Spark Overview
The smallest Chevrolet commutes into 2014 without a change, probably at least in part because drivers aren't complaining. As usual with unusual new entries, magazine reviewers were too quick to question, assuming drivers wanted something other than an enjoyable little front-wheel-drive hatchback with great fuel economy at budget prices. There may be only one car on the market with less power, but the 4-seat Spark stands apart for being the only budget subcompact that doesn't ride like a go-kart or announce its price tag with obviously cheap materials.
Powered by a 1.2-liter inline 4-cylinder good for just 85 hp and 82 lb-ft of torque, the Spark is second only to the significantly smaller smart fortwo in terms of having the least powerful engine in the U.S. for 2014. That said, drivers are much more interested in its better-than-advertised fuel economy, topping out just over 40 mpg highway for the default 5-speed manual transmission, which was previously estimated at 32 mpg city/38 highway.
An optional 4-speed automatic drops that estimate to 28/37, also adding about 2 seconds to the manual's estimated 10-second arrival at 60 mph from a standstill. Either time is quite competitive and typical of subcompacts, but there's nothing that beats a manual-equipped Spark in its price range.
The Spark is larger than the FIAT 500 and many other rivals, so it might not feel quite as zippy—but it also won't feel as "wild" having a chassis fully capable of handling every bit of the Spark's power and weight with a predictable and smooth driving style. Still fun, just not the heart-stopping overreactions and bone-grinding thumps of your typical little budget car. Although interior space isn't much bigger than any competitor on paper, Chevrolet says the Spark feels bigger inside than any other subcompact and offers a more upright seating position that most drivers still find comfortable.
The back seat is likewise oddly situated to provide enough head- and legroom for adults, so while taller passengers can get in and out of the rear more easily because it has 4 doors, they might find their knees at their chin. Practical, but not ideal—like the hatch, which offers 11.4 cubic feet before flipping cushions and removing headrests to open up a relatively level 31.2 cubic feet of space with both rear seats folded down. That's about a cubic foot more than the FIAT 500, but the electric Spark EV, reviewed separately, is expected to offer less in order to stow its battery. If cargo capacity is the only deal killer, opting up for the top-shelf Spark 2LT nets roof rails with the added bonus of foglights, a sportier chrome-accented exterior and leather accents with faux leather upholstery for the inside.
Otherwise the interior is just a touch more upscale than you might think for the price. Sure, the Spark is adorned with hard plastics aplenty, but it's textured and stylized for a simple but modern interest. Standard inclusions of OnStar and a digital multifunction display next to the traditional speedometer add to the "What price is it?" mystique, but feature content is pretty basic, otherwise including only air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-only steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, power windows and a 4-speaker stereo with an auxiliary jack at its LS base.
The obvious favorite is the 1LT, sitting in the happy middle ground with power-adjustable mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, MyLink touchscreen interface, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted controls for phone and audio with a 6-speaker stereo offering USB, iPod, satellite radio and Internet radio connectivity with select smartphones. Unfortunately, if you want any of a particular trim's features, you can't opt for them at any other trim, and standalone options are dependent on your dealer. In short, take it or leave it—there's either a Spark from your first drive, or it just wasn't meant to be.
Your prototypical "Tom Girl" Patricia got her start digging into Ford engines before she aged into double digits. Gifted with a mechanical mind, her favorite pass-time in the summer is picking up a fixer-up'r at the local public auction and massaging its every ailment until it's primed for a new lover. From dirt bikes to land yachts, every partner offers something truly special in her love affair with the road - just don't tell her husband.