Cute and inexpensive to own thanks to its most endearing attribute, it's affordable for most anyone. [fimg=right]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/501/2013_Chevrolet_Spark.jpg[/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.