By David Thomas on November 14, 2011
The microcar segment may be well-established overseas, but in the U.S. we're just starting to see automakers put serious efforts into the field, like Scion's iQ and Smart's ForTwo. Chevy's new Spark looks to join the group with a more traditional four-door hatchback layout.
Power will be beyond modest at 85 horsepower with a five-speed manual transmission standard and a four-speed automatic optional. Mileage figures haven't been announced, but we don't expect them to be higher than the segment's other vehicles, which are generally behind the subcompacts from their respective manufacturers in terms of mileage.
Standard 15-inch alloy wheels should help with the handling and stability much like we experienced on the larger Chevy Sonic. However, the car is equipped with low-rolling-resistance tires, which don't offer as much grip as standard tires.
While the driving experience may sound less than ideal — as it is in the competition — Chevy does note that there are 10 standard airbags, including knee airbags and seat-mounted side airbags for the driver and the front passenger passenger as well as side curtain airbags for both rows of seats.
Cargo area is an impressive 11.4 cubic feet with the rear seats in place. That's much more than the ForTwo and iQ at 7.8 and 3.5 cubic feet, respectively.
But that's just the practical stuff. The Spark, it seems, is all about fun, at least according to Chevy. That's why it's offered in some wild paint colors with wild names like Salsa, Jalapeno, Denim, Lemonade and Techno Pink. There are also four more basic shades of silver, grey, black and white. And inside, some panels match the wild exterior colors.
Air conditioning and power windows are standard on all Spark models. 1LT and 2LT models come with a new multimedia system called MyLink with a 7-inch touch-screen. It is compatible with many smartphones and allows Pandora and Stitcher internet radio and navigation integration via Bluetooth.
The two most important facts about the Spark haven't been revealed yet: price and fuel economy. The Spark could be the hottest little car on the planet, but without competitive numbers in those two categories, it's hard to call the car a success, with or without a test drive.
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Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David