I love small cars and I am not jaded to the point of dismissing the value of enjoying cheap thrills. So many people dream of the day they can afford a brand-new car. No, not something passed down, slight used or previously leased; I’m talking about that first new car. Unfortunately, base prices for most “affordable” cars are in the $12,000 to $13,000 zone, (after fees), and that’s before many highly desired options.
Even the Nissan Versa, one of the cheapest cars available in the United States, comes painfully bare and lacks personality.
For some reason, General Motors has been very stingy about allotting small cars to the Rocky Mountains for testing. Hell, even the turbocharged Chevrolet Sonic has yet to climb our mountains. Many cities have played with them, but not Denver. That’s a shame, because forced-induction cars like the Sonic would do rather well here. So I am less than optimistic that we will have a Chevrolet Spark to test here in less than six months.
That’s a funny irony as the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press passed two Chevy Sparks this past summer chugging up towards Echo Lake, Colorado. They were lightly disguised, but there was no mistaking those unique if funky headlights. With that said, the top automotive journalists in the Rocky Mountain region got an early glimpse of the cuddly Spark.
It is a cute car in an oddball way. Some components, like the lights and glass are nearly cartoonish in scale compared to the rest of the tiny car. How tiny? Well, it is shorter in length than a New Beetle, Fit, Yaris, Versa, Fiesta and a regular Mini to name a few. Despite the size, four average sized adults can ride in relative comfort. I know the European models have seatbelts for five, but I am unsure about the American Spark.
My buddy in London (whose ass is larger than mine) says, “A hefty American will be more than comfortable driving.” That would be me… I’m about 6’2” and 250 lbs, so, it should hold most of you too.
Squirrels under the hood? Two power-plants will be available for the Chevrolet Spark over the next two years. The regular Spark will have a wee-little 85 horsepower 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 82 lbs-feet of torque. It will be mated to a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. That’s not much power, but you have to remember, this car will weigh about 2,300 lbs. Gas mileage should be better than 30 mpg combined.
The other motivator will be an electric power-plant that should have a range of around 100 miles. The electric Chevrolet Spark will be available near 2013.
Power windows, Air conditioning, 15-inch wheels and 10 (yes, ten) airbags are standard on all Chevrolet Sparks. Heated seats will be available too! I applaud GM for eliminating the size prohibitive CD player and settling on an MP3 input instead. It’s lighter, smaller and has no moving parts… gotta’ love MP3s. Better still: you will be able to get live streaming audio via Pandora as well.
The interior is GM’s take on looking “youthful” and for once, they’re in the right ballpark. It’s slightly cheaper looking than the similarly styled Sonic, but you got to dig that motorcycle-like pod. Thank you GM for NOT placing information in the center of the car – unlike some automakers.
Pricing has not been announced, but General Motors wants the Chevrolet Spark to be the cheapest vehicle in its American fleet. The Chevrolet Sonic starts at $13,735 – so I suspect the 2012 Chevrolet Spark will base at about $11,500. Fully optioned (and there won’t be many to choose from) you should be able to get a fully loaded Chevrolet Spark for under $15,000. Mind you: that is a semi-educated guess. General Motors may go even lower… or slightly higher.
Competition? There isn’t much. The Chevy Spark slots lower than many automakers’ entry level cars. It’s nearly the same size as a Scion IQ and FIAT 500, but those cars are 2-door while it’s smaller than the Hyundai Accent and Ford Fiesta hatchbacks.
For now at least, it’s in a league of its own.
Those of you who waited for the chance to purchase a new, unique, zippy-looking small car of your very own; your time is coming soon. If you live in the Rocky Mountain region, your time may have to wait a little longer. I will keep you posted!