Los Angeles – In a city of some 4,000,000, where ‘freeway’ and ‘parking lot’ have been rendered synonymous, a minicar would seem an almost perfect antidote to the consternation that comes with congestion. And so it was that Chevrolet chose the L.A. Auto Show for the public debut of their 2013 Spark, a 5-door, four-passenger confection already on sale in most parts of the developed world, and coming to U.S. showrooms by the middle of next year.
Designed by GM’s small car subsidiary, GM Korea, the 2013 Chevrolet Spark will slot below Chevy’s recently introduced – and U.S. sourced – Sonic, and is targeted at recent mini debuts, the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ. The Spark is longer than both, however. We’re told by GM that the Chevrlet Spark is designed for “those who live large and loud.” And while enjoying more interior volume than either Toyota or Fiat, the Spark prospect shouldn’t be too large; watching two ‘average’ American males fold themselves into and out of the Spark on the auto show floor gave at least one observer pause – and may generate the same reaction on the showroom.
Outside, the Chevy Spark shares a familial resemblance to its Sonic sibling, albeit within a shortened and more upright architecture. There’s little front or rear overhang, and the Spark’s stance is accentuated by standard 15-inch alloy wheels wrapped with 185/55 rubber. Its 4-doors are cleverly disguised, with the rear door handles integrated into the Spark’s C-pillar, a trick also used by Nissan on earlier Pathfinders and – more recently – the subcompact Juke.
Under the hood the 2013 Chevrolet Spark employs a 1.2 liter, 85-horsepower four connected to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. By our informal count, this will put the Spark at the bottom of the output chart for those cars sold in the U.S.; the Fiat generates 101 horsepower out of its 1.4 liters, while the Scion iQ produced 94. Like the Sonic, the Spark employs some creativity inside, beginning with a motorcycle-inspired gauge cluster and continuing with ice blue ambient lighting and MyLink infotainment on upmarket trim levels. Notably, power windows and door locks are standard across the lineup.
Safety, which is inevitably made more important when discussing the minicar segment, is bolstered with ten standard airbags, a unibody structure boasting a significant percentage of high strength steel, and crash-avoidance tech such as StabiliTrak and standard ABS. The Spark’s on-road visibility will be enhanced by a pallet of expressive colors, including Salsa, Jalapeno, Lemonade and Techno Pink.
In a land still dominated by largish SUV’s, the jury remains out on the success of the minicar segment in the U.S. Observers at the rollout questioned the wisdom of adding both Spark and Sonic to a lineup already offering a 40-mpg Cruze. Pricing will be critical, as will a salesman’s preference for selling a pre-owned Civic or Corolla – at a much higher profit and commission. The unanswered question is whether the Chevrolet Spark will move faster off the dealer’s lots…or on those California freeway parking lots.