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Small News

The 2013 Chevrolet Spark

You’d almost think that Chevy knew gas would be topping four dollars a gallon, as their new mini car, the Spark, just recently went on sale. An EPA rating at 28/37 miles per gallon city/highway certainly won’t hurt sales.

If you think the Spark looks familiar, it could possibly be for one of these reasons: It closely resembles Chevy’s larger small car, the Sonic; or maybe you remember it as a concept car called the Beat from the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where it appeared alongside two other small concepts, the Trax and the Groove. GM conducted an on-line poll to see which of the three the public desired to see as a production model, and the Beat got half the votes. Two years later it appeared as another concept car called the Spark at the NAIAS. It went on sale just a short time ago.

I headed out to Ki-Po Chevrolet in Ransomville last week where salesman Greg Taylor put me into one of these latest mini cars, and I was not at all disappointed. I’ve always had a soft spot for small cars—my first car was a Sunbeam Imp which, at 141 inches in length, was about three-and-a-half inches shorter than the Spark, which itself is about five inches longer than a new Fiat 500. So yeah, the Spark is mini all right.

But don’t let that smallish exterior fool you. The doors, front and rear, open high and wide to welcome you into its roomy (for four) interior. I had no problem in the driver’s seat, except that the very top of the speedometer was hidden behind the steering wheel. That was due to my seat adjustment. I like to sit high in the saddle, and the Spark’s driver seat has a height adjustment (which I cranked up); and with the driver’s seat set for my six-foot frame, I also fit very well in the (somewhat hard) rear seat, with plenty of head and leg room. Behind that fold-down rear seat is an 11.4-cubic-feet covered cargo area. Not huge by any account, but bigger than the Fiat, and only about three cubic feet smaller than the trunk of a Nissan Versa.

Driving the new Spark was a hoot. Its 1.2-liter four-cylinder was pretty peppy, attached to an optional four-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is standard). Steering was responsive, as was the throttle which had no noticeable hesitation. The controls were easy to reach—which they should be in such a small car. The HVAC controls were easy to figure, but again I was faced with an audio system which forced my eyes off the road when I wanted to make a change other than volume (which had steering-wheel mounted controls). Touch screens, I’m sorry to say, are distractive and potentially dangerous. And as a side note, the Spark’s audio system had a USB port and an auxiliary input jack—but no CD player. Seems that CDs are joining eight-tracks and cassettes on the automotive scrap heap.

Buying a Spark is almost as easy as getting into one. With a starting price of $12,245 it’s less expensive than many of the used cars you’ll find on any Chevy dealer’s lot. The Jalepeño-colored 1LT test car stickered at $15,420. The 1LT upgrade from the base model, adds (besides the automatic): power mirrors and locks; remote keyless entry; cruise; steering wheel audio and phone controls; a content theft alarm; and MyLink, Bluetooth, a USB port, and Sirius/XM are included in the audio system.

It’s plain to see that these mini cars have come a long way since my Imp was on the road. This car should add a real spark to Chevy’s lineup.

More info at www.chevrolet.com/spark-mini-car.html.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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