Chevrolet Spark review
The Chevrolet Spark is a budget city car with quirky styling - but it's let down by its cheap interior
The Chevrolet Spark is the firm's smallest offering, and it's designed to go head-to-head with models like the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Volkswagen up!. The quality of the interior certainly isn't as good as any of those models, but the Spark does represent pretty good value for money. Unfortunately the engines have become a little outdated too and can't deliver the kind of rock-bottom running costs people have come to expect from small city cars. A facelift in 2012 made key improvements to the interior with new trim and a simplified centre console but entry-level modesl like the LS and LT come with steel wheels and no electronic stability control.
Our choice: Spark 1.2 LS
With its mini-MPV stance, huge swept-back headlights and hidden rear door handles the Spark is certainly a quirky looking city car. Not everyone will appreciate the way the Spark looks but at least it represents something genuinely different in this class. The revised version launched in 2012 features a new dual-port grille, tweaked headlights and a sporty new bumper. Top-spec LTZ models get 15-inch alloy wheels and there are some vibrant paint choices available to help it stand out. The main feature of the interior is a motorbike-style pod mounted above the steering wheel, which holds the speedometer. The Spark also gets some soft blue backlights for the air-conditioning and stereo switches.
Chevrolet offers the Spark with a choice of two petrol engines: a 1.0-litre unit with 68bhp or a 1.2-litre engine producing 80bhp. The lower-powered engine feels like it struggles and on paper you can see why, with a 0-62mph time of 15.5 seconds. The 1.2-litre unit is a better option for people who make regular motorway journeys, with its more reasonable 0-62mph time of 12.1 seconds but both feel very unresponsive at low revs and become noisy and strained on the motorway. The Spark drives much like most other city cars, which means the light controls are very easy to use and it's low kerbweight makes it agile through narrow city streets. The numb steering and excessive body roll mean it lacks the dynamic poise of rivals like the VW up! and Toyota Aygo and the ride at low speed is jittery at best. On the motorway the engine becomes very noisy and strained and there's a large amount of wind and road noise in the cabin as well.
The Chevrolet Spark received four out of five stars when it was tested for crash safety by Euro NCAP despite having six airbags as standard. Some city cars do manage to achieve the full five stars in this test but it's not easy for cars this size to do so. Entry-level versions come without electronic-stability which may have contributed to its average score in the test. Mechanical problems so far have been few and far between but some pieces of the interior feel like they would break quite easily.
As such a small car you can't expect the Spark to be incredibly practical but it does a reasonable job nevertheless. With the three rear seats in place there's a meagre 170 litres of boot space but you can carry longer items by simply folding them flat. Cupholders, storage places and a glovebox can all be found in the cabin, so there's plenty of room to store all your bits and bobs. Carrying five adults will always be a bit of a struggle as space in the rear seats is limited and head and legroom are both at a serious premium.
The larger 1.2-litre engine is actually the most efficient in the range, claiming 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 118g/km. Compare that to other city cars like the Volkswagen up! or the Citroen C1 though and it doesn't sounds quite as good, with all those models claiming versions with under 100g/km of CO2. The 1.0-litre unit emits 119g/km and the combined fuel economy figure stands at 55.4mpg. Insurance costs will be relatively low and Chevrolet do offer the Spark with zero per cent finance and no deposit over a five-year period along with an extended warranty, but it will cost more in fuel than its rivals.