Although only in its sophomore season, Chevrolet is already refining its tiny Spark with new technology and transmissions; Spark EV has 400 pound-feet of torque, but is only sold in two states.
An itty-bitty 1.2-liter four-cylinder generates 85 horsepower and is likely the smallest engine ever to wear the Bowtie badge; five-speed manual transmission now complemented by new continually variable transmission replacing old four-speed automatic.
The littlest Chevy’s boxy design helps it deliver an impressive level of usable volume in the least amount of space, which is perfect for city dwellers. The car is nearly six inches taller than a Mini Cooper, but is slightly shorter overall and offers less distance between the front and rear wheels. With the rear seat in place, you’ll find only minimal stowage in back, but accommodating life’s bulky items is just a split-folding-rear-bench away. The rear door handles have been cleverly integrated as part of the window frame, giving the car a two-door appearance. Up-level Sparks come with added visual enhancements, including rocker-panel moldings, roof rails and chrome trim. Inside, the single-pod speedometer, adjacent tachometer/fuel gauge plus a trio of temperature and ventilation control knobs are done up in a contemporary style. A seven-inch touch-screen operating the audio, navigation and hands-free communications systems can also be added. In keeping with the Spark’s modest transportation role, a 1.2-liter four-cylinder generates an equally modest 85 horsepower and 82 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, but the old optional four-speed automatic has been replaced by a continually variable transmission, which improves both efficiency and acceleration. In fact, fuel economy figures between the manual and the CVT are essentially identical. The standard feature list includes air conditioning, power windows, ambient interior lighting, front disc brakes and 10 airbags, including knee protection for both front occupants. On the options list are remote keyless entry, leather-like seat covers, heated front seats, alloy wheels and a premium audio package. Other new touches for 2014 include standard automatic headlights, new mirrors with integrated turn signals on top-end Sparks, and a whole gamut of dealer-installed accessories.
Base price (incl. destination): $13,000; $27,500 (EV)
Type: Four-door hatchback
Engine (hp): 1.2-liter DOHC I4 (85)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Five-speed manual; CVT (opt.)
MPG (city/hwy): 31/39 (MT)
Safety: Front airbags; front/rear side-impact airbags; front knee airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,240