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2021 Chevrolet Spark Overview
Now six years into its second generation, the Chevrolet Spark arrives in the 2021 model year with no significant changes, minus trading the Orange Burst and Raspberry paint options for Cayenne Orange and Mystic Blue, and deleting the 15-inch black-painted aluminum wheels. This is to be expected in a model that just got a mid-cycle refresh and is rumored to end its life-cycle by 2022. Still, as the most affordable model in GM’s lineup, the Spark represents a welcome option for many car buyers.
With just 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque from its 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the Spark is much more at home zipping around city streets than out on the highway. Buyers have a choice between a five-speed manual and one of the noisiest continuously-variable transmissions (CVT) on the market, and while the manual will certainly help wring a bit more performance out of the little engine, the Spark will never be fast. In fact, it’ll never even come close to fast. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really deliver on fuel economy, either. With the manual, all you can expect is 29 mpg city, 38 highway, 33 combined, while the CVT only delivers one more mpg on the city cycle in EPA testing. Given the inelegant nature of the CVT, this alone is enough motivation to learn how to change gears yourself.
Apart from features like a 7-inch touchscreen with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, an onboard WiFi hotspot, and two USB ports, the base LS trim is an exercise in nostalgia. Manual windows, mirrors, and door locks, as well as 15-inch steel wheels and a four-speaker stereo will have you feeling like you’re back in the 90s. At least it comes with standard air conditioning and Bluetooth. The 1LT trim level offers a bit more in the way of convenience and comfort with alloy wheels, power windows, mirrors, and locks, remote entry, cruise control, and two extra speakers, but there’s nothing fancy to be had here.
The Spark’s main advantage comes with its price, but once you get up to trims like the Activ with its heated seats, pleather, and model-specific styling and suspension, you’re already skirting the price of some of the competition, which will frankly offer a better driving experience whether you’re talking about performance, comfort, or efficiency. That’s not even considering the one mpg you lose when going with the Activ trim. Move up to the 2LT with its push-button start, chrome trim, parking sensors, and upgraded display, and the Spark just doesn’t make sense anymore.
When you hear that a model is being discontinued, there’s usually a reason, and there’s nothing here to indicate the Spark is any different. If you need a car, and you need it cheap, the Spark is an option. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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