The 2013-14 Chevrolet Spark Road Trip
I rented a Chevrolet Spark for our recent trip to Florida. It was the only choice between this and Fiat 500. The Spark appealed to us because it is four doors and the rear seat splits. We had three passengers, one adult and two teens. The Fiat was not selected because it was two door only and did not plug and play features for the ipod. But as far as styling, the Fiat has much more sex appeal.
The Chevy Spark is a curious design. What engineer would design such an ugly car? Was this intentional out of functional requirements? Every time we approached the car in a parking lot, we all cringed. One guy call it a go cart.
The car only has 84 hp at 6400 rpm and weighs 2300 lbs. Its length is 144 in, 55" wide and 61" high with 15" wheels. Granted, the car costs $12,200 and is meant to be cheap but even carrying three people and three pieces of luggage proved to be a challenge. If you had four, forget it, one suitcase would be left behind. So, in our case, it BARELY worked.
Luckily, Florida is flat with only slight hills. In the nine days of driving the car, accumulating 1200 miles from Orlando-Tampa-Clearwater-Miami-Key West-St. Augustine, the Spark did not spark at all. It did function. The first thing that is noticeable is the gutless nature of the 1.2L engine when doing even slight acceleration. It strains terribly when getting onto the highway or when passing. One must really calculate distance before you pass because it takes a long time to get to cruising speeds of a highway. I will say that once you are at cruise speed, the car is fine. The car averaged 30 mpg.
During our travels we hit a few very intense monsoon downpours and found the windshield wipers unable to keep it clear even at top speed. It also became a bit flighty or unstable to a point I was concerned. The plug and play worked fairly well and the sound was decent but it would do some weird things at random when the song played-like skip or pause.
The Spark interior is simply all plastic and synthetic. The seats were actually fine on the long trips and durable. All of the other usual things like brakes, steering, etc., were functional and worked fine. Overall, the car did fine on the road. I am sure the design of the car is targeting the lower incomes and city driving, which is fine. However, if your city has steep hills in it, say like in San Francisco, this car would be dangerous due to lack of power. The few hills we did encounter quickly forced me into the slow lane. For a 1.2 liter engine, I also expected better gas mileage on the highway and we were cruising at 75 mph. The car has room for four adults with no luggage, but not with luggage. The rear seats do not lay flat and that reduces the actual use of the extra space.
I would hate to be rear ended in this car as there is very little of it to protect the rear seat passenger. The rear wheels are practicably THE rear end. To sum up, the car is made for commuting on flat terrain or city driving. Its worse feature is lack of power when getting onto a highway as the engine struggles and whines over 10 seconds. Perhaps this is not the case with a manual tranny, but in the automatic it is.
No, actually its worse feature is its body style. I really cannot believe car designers thought the public would like its design. There is nothing appealing about owning it in this regard. I guess those who actually buy this car just have to ignore it- I know we did. But, it did its job for the 1200 miles.
The Chevy Spark is not a car you love or admire but one that takes you from point A to B.