While I prefer a car that's loud and fun to drive, minicars appeal to me and my wallet. The 2013 Chevrolet Spark is designed to be easier on the bank accounts of millennials like myself, who were born in the 1980s and '90s with its starting price of $12,995, including a $750 destination charge.
I've had seat time in the Scion iQ, which I really liked, the Smart ForTwo and Fiat 500. I recently spent a weekend in the Spark and many of my friends – all millennials like me – were impressed by it. They were shocked at the number of standard features like power windows and alloy wheels in this cut-rate micro.
I drove a Techno Pink – not the most ideal or masculine color — Spark 2LT with a four-speed automatic transmission. The Spark has an 84-horsepower, 1.2-liter inline-four-cylinder engine and gets an EPA-estimated 28/37 mpg city/highway.
The first thing I noticed was this tiny car seemed roomy. At 144.7 inches long, the Spark is more than a foot shorter than the next-biggest Chevy, the Sonic. Everyone who sat in the Spark was shocked at the interior's spaciousness. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, I had more than enough room in the driver's seat, and so did the passenger sitting directly behind me.
Got three friends? They'd better be close friends because while the Spark's legroom and headroom are good, shoulder room in both rows is hard to come by.
In an attempt to see if the Spark could cater to my active lifestyle, I put my set of fat, twin-tip downhill skis inside it. No luck; I guess that's what the optional roof rack is for. The Spark is the only car in its class to offer an available roof rack. How would my mountain bike fit? I was skeptical, but I pushed the front seat all the way forward, folded down both rear seatbacks and removed the front tire on my bicycle. Success! I just had to Instagram it.
Conqueror of the City, Fighter of the Highway
Chevrolet says this car conquers city life, but how does it do on the highway? On a two-hour commute from Chicago to Milwaukee, I averaged an impressive 46 mpg. Great fuel economy is important for anyone who'd rather not spend a working days' worth of wages at the pump regardless of their generational status.
Would I want to drive this little car for six hours to visit my girlfriend in northern Michigan? No. The seats lack any kind of support for long-distance driving, but overall, it feels stable. "I actually feel safe in this car, protected from the elements," one friend said to me as we drove on Interstate 43 on a windy night.
City maneuvers like parallel parking are effortless. "Parking my SUV downtown is just such a hassle, this would make my everyday life so much easier," said my friend Antonina.
The 84-hp engine is loud, though. It reminded a friend of an old racing game he played on his computer. The car has enough oomph to get moving, but add three passengers and the four-seater feels a bit tired.
The MyLink multimedia system was created specifically for my age group, according to Chevy. All my friends who rode in the Spark praised it. I found it responsive and the application integration vital. Who doesn't like Pandora? But when my favorite Mumford & Sons or Drake songs started playing, the stereo's sound quality really turned me off.
Selling to Millennials
"We want something that doesn't look like it's falling apart, and while this car may look kind of goofy, who cares, it is a new car that creates that certain status symbol," my friend Dan explained, alluding to the fact that most drivers we know own older cars.
I took to Facebook and Twitter to ask my 20-something friends, "How old is your car?" After receiving more than 80 responses, I calculated that my millennial friends' average car age is 11 years old.
Can millennials with full-time jobs afford a Spark right now? Yes, but issues like the weight of student loans may be stopping them from dropping any amount of cash on a brand-new car — even if it's perfectly marketed at them.