CleanMPG First Drive Review of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by xcel, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    [​IMG]Cute and inexpensive to own thanks to its most endearing attribute, it's affordable for most anyone.

    [fimg=right][/fimg]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Nov. 4, 2012

    2013 Chevrolet Spark – $12,245 to start and a 32/38 city/highway rating with the 5-speed stick. The auto is rated at a much less enticing 28/37 mpgUS city/highway.

    Chicago, IL -- Members of the Midwest Automobile Media Association (MAMA) were invited to experience the sporty “looking” four-passenger, five-door 2013 Chevrolet Spark up close and personal in an inner city setting many of us are all to familiar with. While priced for the for the first-time buyer on a budget, the unique interior and exterior styling offer what I deem to be an attractive city car both inside and out.

    Meet the 2013 Chevrolet Spark.

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Exterior

    The Spark gained fame in Transformers 3 as Skidz (green) and Mudflap (orange), both who took on the larger and far more powerful Autobots with a feistiness not expected from characters so small. As art imitates life, the Sparks smallish exterior appears ready to “take on the town” while fitting in a parking spot barely larger than what a go cart would need.

    The Spark’s Chevy signature two-tier grille and bowtie cannot be mistaken for anything but a Chevrolet. The hood has two shut lines boxing in the upper grille opening and flowing neatly back towards the inside edge of the A-pillar.

    Wraparound front headlamps lenses stretch from the front fascia to the A-pillar while body-color front door handles, body-color rear door handles hidden within the C-pillar keep the upper profile clean. A lower feature line with a deep sill cutout, 15 in alloys, and flair off the back of the rear door into the center rear taillight lens give the Spark a youthful profile never before seen in a GM sub-compact. Ever!

    From the rear, an integrated spoiler wrapping around the rear hatch not only enhances the micro’s appearance but also lowers its aerodynamic drag.

    Best of all, this is all standard even on the base LS.

    The Spark "fits" nicely when parked on an inner city street.​

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Interior

    Directly out of the Sonic is the motorcycle-inspired instrument cluster featuring one of two large, full-color LCD screens within the confines of the Sparks’ instrument cluster and dash.

    While the upper dash plastics were not exactly soft, they had a warm texture and accents that flow from the upper exterior to the lower central console with a decorative colored accent interior panel separating the upper and lower dash pieces.

    The same decorative dash pieces were continued into the doors and to put it lightly, looked expensive, clean and added an uplifting feel to the interior of what is normally considered a penalty box. The Spark is anything but considering its price would make you think so.

    Up top you have an honest to goodness textured cloth like headliner material on a soft foam backing vs. mouse fir on egg cartons that many Asian manufacturers force you to endure up to and including $30,000 offerings!

    A/C and power windows are standard across the lineup.

    A colorful, inviting and far more modern interior than its price tag suggests.​

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Infotainment – Remember the “BringGo”!

    The upper trim Spark like most Chevrolet’s nowadays incorporates MyLink with a seven-inch color touch screen, AM/FM/SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, six speakers and voice recognition for connected phones with this capability.

    What the Spark does not include is a CD player. And come to think about it, why should it with entire music library stored on your smart phone or USB device vs. bulky CDs in jewel cases. MyLink integrates your smartphone via Bluetooth, plug-in outlet or USB. This lets owners enjoy their own idea of connectivity while their smartphone is stowed neatly below.

    Pandora and Stitcher Smart Radio are both integrated with the real kick @$$app just around the corner. It is called BringGo and is a fully functional embedded app that delivers full-function navigation, on-phone maps and live traffic updates, for just $50. That is right. It does not cost $2,000 USD. It does not cost $1,500. It does not even cost $500 as the bottom we are seeing in some SW based NAVI systems today. This app brings full navigation capability to the Spark for just $50.00!!! This is the kind of thing that makes luxury marque owners spending large sums for embedded HW NAVI based systems look like sheep led to the slaughter.

    BringGo also provides easy access to emergency information such as police, fire and the nearest hospital; thousands of points of interest; local search via Google; Where am I? locator; live traffic functionality that provides crash reports, lane closures and alternative routes; three-dimensional maps and more.

    While still a beta product with an approximate 2-second lag of the turn by turn directions from when they should be displayed on the large 7” touchscreen, once BringGo is finalized and released, it should be really good!

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Drivetrain

    The Spark is equipped with an old school 84 HP 1.25L I4 with a cast iron block and aluminum head mated to either a five-speed manual or 4 speed automatic. While the Spark’s drivetrain was 100% price driven, it does incorporate a dual-overhead cam with continuously variable valve timing. Expecting the latest direct injected low friction all-aluminum wonder mated to the very latest 6-speed MT or dual clutch AT is simply not going to occur at the price the Spark is being offered for but the combinations offered worked good enough. Again when consider the price a Spark can be purchased for today.

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Ride and Handling

    The Spark is built off from a platform with more than 62 percent of its underbody and 42 percent of its upper body composed of high-strength steel. This structure provides a flex limited structure and rigid mounting points for its strut based front end and torsion beam at the rear. With a wheelbase of just 93.5 in, it will pogo when driven over large undulations at higher speeds but only at higher speeds. Fortunately it is tuned stiff enough to feel sporty yet compliant enough not cause passengers to comment about a poor ride. This is more of a city car so driving 70 + around town is going to occur rarely if at all. Even still, the Spark is composed and with the ability to U-Turn within a tight inner city street (32.5 ft. turning radius), that alone will pay dividends for the inner city dweller for years to come.

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Safety

    Following the recent GM mantra that safety will no longer take a back seat no matter the price point, the Spark like its larger siblings the Sonic, Cruze and Malibu includes a class leading 10 airbags including front, side, side curtain, driver and passenger side knee and outward rear seat side airbags standard. To think many cars costing 3 X’s its price are still trying to get away with 6-airbags should make most here wonder about those manufacturers profit motives over the safety of their customers. Good for GM and good for GM owners.

    On the active Safety front, ABS, ESC and Hill Start Assist are standard.

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Fuel Economy Results

    While not a calibrated drive by any means, the averaging fuel consumption display (aFCD) while behind the wheel of both the 5-speed stick and 4-speed automatic in traffic that sees most automobiles in single digits or lower teens provided excellent results.

    49.4 mpgUS result displayed while driving the 4-speed AT through multiple tens of stop signs and lights when crossing multiple neighborhoods through the City of Chicago.

    A 51.3 mpgUS result with the 5-speed stick while driving a 50/50 mixed inner city/highway drive across the City of Chicago at Rush Hour.

    And what the Highway drive across the City of Chicago actually looked like from behind the wheel of the Spark… Yeah, it’s a stop and crawl for as far as the eye can see.​

    With the above, anything not propelled by a hybrid or non-hybrid achieving 30 + mpg is doing well. Busting out 50 + mpg averages in this type of traffic and inner city conditions shows the Spark has capability. Both of the above results were achieved when using simple basic and intermediate techniques. Add some advanced driving and both the MT and AT equipped Sparks are going to impress many a Prius owner and for just half the cost as well!

    2013 Chevrolet Spark Early Conclusions

    The Spark is an interesting addition to the Chevrolet lineup.

    On the downside, the 5-speed stick is rubbery and imprecise but gets the job done when driving from point A to B up to 300 times a year. Both the stick and automatics short ratios will make you wish you had less highway travel as both see the engine spinning at 2,800 + RPM range at just 60 mph. The front and rear seat bottoms are a bit short for proper long distance thigh support and room for 4 may be stretching the point a bit if you have taller friends that will have to sit behind a taller driver.

    Knee room is tight in back while headroom is fine.​

    The negatives are minor compared to how the Spark shines however.

    It is small on the outside yet big inside so inner city folks will love its utility and ability to park just about anywhere.

    The leather wrapped wheel in the 2LT trim “feels” like it belongs in a much more expensive automobile and is very comfortable to hold onto.

    It is far more fuel efficient than its EPA ratings suggest as shown above -- a very pleasant surprise given GM’s past offerings -- so visiting the pump will be a lot less painful than most anything else this side of a Prius.

    It looks great both inside and out for a budget minded buyers first automobile. In fact, because of the youthful design, it looks better than many B and C-segment offerings that cost $10 to $20,000 more $’s!

    Best of all, it was just last week when I saw brand new 2013 Spark’s with both the 5-speed stick and 4-speed autos being offered for < $12,000 and $13,000 USD respectively on the West Coast!

    A fuel efficient, safe and affordable automobile offered up as a cute hatch with a “wild” color selection including Salsa Red, Jalapeno, Denim, Lemonade and Techno Pink provides curb appeal like few others in the A, B and even C-segments.

    The diminutive cute as a button Spark. Go try one as it is a lot more “car” than its purchase price indicates.

    More Spark details can be found in the 2013 Chevrolet Spark Pricing, Options and Specifications write-up.


    Thanks to GM's Connie Burke, Detroit Manager Communications, Fred Ligouri, North Central Region Communications manager, Sara LeBlanc, Chevrolet MyLink Infotainment Director for the detailed presentation on BringGo and Kathy Sirvio, Chevrolet Global Color and Trim Senior Design Manager for enduring my endless questions on the Spark's design.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2012
  2. Blackbelt

    Blackbelt Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    I think the Spark is a great option to consider in the lower priced category. My only real complaint is the old tech 4 speed automatic. Would it really have cost THAT much more to go with a 5 or 6 speed auto? Hyundai even buts a 6 speed auto option in the accent.
    I know it's nit picking, but imagine the mileage with a good 6 speed auto!
  3. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    These will be great little commuting cars.
    For $14000 out the door-you get a new car-with honest 30 mpg city mileage for an average driver.
    With this economy-and so many college grads in debt and under employed-Chevy has another winner. Probably would prefer a Spark- but this is maybe $2500 less-so
  4. RichXKU

    RichXKU Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Accent 28/37/31 with 6 speed auto
    Spark 28/37/32 with 4 speed auto.

    I imagine it would be 1 MPG improvement at most on the EPA cycle. Remember unlike the Sonic this is a Daewoo, and swapping some other transmission for their off the shelf 4AT would definitely add cost.
  5. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    What phoebeisis said. A great package in a small car at an unbelievable price point. I see some nice sales numbers for this car.
  6. 300kmileprius

    300kmileprius Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Pathetic fuel economy for such a small car. Also my insight back in the day had even less horse power but spun at 3k at 87mph. Spark has horrible gearing.
  7. Indigo

    Indigo Witch with wry sense of humor

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    It's a shame GM decided to put a 35-year-old transmission into this car. It could have gotten mid-40s with a CVT.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  8. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Hi Jesse and Indigo:

    It was built to make a new car affordable for just about anyone and sticks 32/38 mpgUS city/highway rating is right in line with just about everyone else. With such a short cord length, it was probably lucky to get the 38 mpg highway rating.

    Regarding the 4-speed AT, again it was built to be affordable meaning taking a 10-year old transmission off the shelf and making it work. GM has done that and a lot more.

    If it were a Cruze competitor with an $18K price point, the arguments would be valid (13 Corolla is stuck with a 4-speed AT) and for some stupid reason people (sheeple?) still buy that worthless car more than any other C-segment in the US marketplace. Mid-40's on the EPA from this car would be impossible with a simple tranny change.

    All told, the Spark is a good looking brand new runabout with some first class features for a price nobody other than the stripped Versa (and we all know it is not a very good car either) can touch.

  9. RichXKU

    RichXKU Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    I strongly disagree. The Scion iQ gets 37 as a 1.3L with CVT.
    The Spark has an overall better shape for the highway, but still not beating 38ish on our EPA.
  10. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    I believe GM's decision to use the 4AT was based mostly on the price target. The transmission is an Aisin unit - meaning it's a Toyota transmission. Same one used in the Echo/Yaris/Scion and the Aveo that Chevy hopes you already forgot about. What makes it cheaper than a comparable 6AT is that it is a "dumb" transmission, complete with roller clutches to allow shift overlap and a couple of simple sensors. It doesn't need the computer horsepower that the six speed "clutch to clutch" designs need, with their half dozen (or more) shift solenoids, fluid temperature sensors, powerful 32 bit transmission controller, and pricier electronic "transaxle range selector" switches in place of the quaint cable stretching from the shift lever to a simple shaft atop the transaxle that moves an old-fashioned spool valve.

    The ratio span of the 4AT is equivalent to gears 2-6 of a 6AT. The missing "first gear" means the final drive necessarily ends up in buzz-bomb territory. So the result is good city mileage along with lower highway mileage, and a steeper dropoff at speeds at and beyond posted speed limits. Considering its mission as a city car, it's not the worst tradeoff they could have made. The 1.25L engine isn't a bad choice, and I read that it has a timing chain rather than a belt, which is a relief for many owners of previous Daewoo-based powerplants that were too often equipped with suicidal belts that would break before the recommended replacement interval.

    Once supply catches up with demand and GM starts offering their trademark low-rate financing, the Spark can shape up to be quite a value as a simple commuter car parked in the drive alongside the family truckster. With a loan of 2.9% for 60 months, borrowing $15,000 means $269 a month. So putting down only taxes & tags, someone could drive out in a brand new 1LT automatic and make payments lower than most people pay for leases.
  11. RedylC94

    RedylC94 Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Yes, but the Accent isn't too small to have reasonable cargo space.

    Super-high gearing wouldn't be a great idea with such a small engine, except to the most dedicated hypermilers.
  12. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    This is a car people in the current economy can actually AFFORD-cheaper than used cars
    and it has a bit of "FUN" built in
    and it is EASY for young drivers to PARK- oldsters too.
  13. CRT1

    CRT1 Newbie McNewbster

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    I saw one on the road the other day and it looks sharp in live metal. I'm generally not too keen on the Chevy design aesthetic but I think they nailed it with this one.

    Wayne, when do we see the Spark EV?
  14. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Hi CRT1:

    Regarding the Spark EV, I do not know. Maybe never?

  15. Blackbelt

    Blackbelt Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Keep in mind that the Accent is 400 pounds heavier, has 54 more horsepower, has more passenger room and twice the cargo room, and is almost 2' longer. The economy numbers should not be almost identical.
    Daewoo has been producing the 6T40 6 speed auto tranny in South Korea since 2008. If they were charging $500 or less for that 4 speed auto option, that would be fine, but they are charging almost $1000, which is what Hyundai is charging for the 6 speed auto.

    Don't get me wrong, i love the fact that the Spark is available, and i applaud GM for selling it. I just wish they would have spent a little more for a more modern transmission, with the mileage and drive-ability benefits that come with one.
  16. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Too expensive to EV
    The $14000 out the door-AT- makes it a GREAT car.

    Wayne-that is you stuffed into that back seat(-6 ft 200+ lbs of you) -OKish fit considering

    Folks on the forum are frugal-but probably more affluent than average-
    so they don't get how good $14000 out the door is vs $17000 for say a Civic
    Many many college grads are under employed-making $1000-$1500/mo-living at home driving folk's car
    3- year note $3000 less-that is $100/mo less -at the crummy interest rates many must pay.
    The price makes it a GREAT CAR.
    Reminds me of the little Fiats-nice looking cars-old and new.
    GM now has two EXCELLENT cars-and one good one(Cruze)-that hasn't happened since maybe 1970.Malibu-maybe a miss.
    No POS rental fleet type cars you have to discount heavily to sell.
  17. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Hi All:

    Chevrolet's Media team put the following vid together and laid out the "Spark" facts in a fun sort of way :)



  18. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    What Video ?
  19. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Hi CRT1:

    I have more on the Spark EV as it will debut at the L.A. Auto Show in just over two weeks. It will be GM's first all-electric since the EV1. Pricing and any further details were not provided :(

  20. CRT1

    CRT1 Newbie McNewbster

    Re: CleanMPG Previews the 2013 Chevrolet Spark

    Thanks, Wayne. If they can sell the 4-door Spark EV for less than $20k after the tax break, I think they will really have something. Thoughts?

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