Chevy Spark

Chevrolet SparkIf you think a trip to the berg will provide a sought after breath of fresh air, maybe a run down to your local Chevrolet dealer will save you a couple hours drive because the new Spark has undergone a substantial transformation, that now sees it going head to head with the likes of VW (Vivo) and Ford (Figo).

Taewan Kim, the head of the design team behind the Spark at the Korean (ie Daewoo) General Motors operation, said they wanted to move away from the “cute and cuddly” approach often associated with the A segment. Well Mr Kim, you did a mighty good job of that.

The Spark’s general demeanour is an aggressive one. They’ve gone for an Alfa 156 two door appearance, with the rear door handles hidden in the C-pillar. The whole front end is sharp and angular, like Stephen Segal’s face.

The interior isn’t what one might call cute and cuddly either. There’s a motorcycle inspired instrument cluster that sits on top of the steering column that in my mind is a bit odd. As you can imagine it’s a very compact unit and I found it terribly difficult to read information off of – granted my eye sight isn’t 20/20. Otherwise there’s an array of curved lines met by sharp angles on the dash that give the Spark a unique look.

The cabin is quite compact, more so than the equivalent VW or Ford. I’d say four adults would be a push, although I’ve no doubt three kids could be jammed in the back with relative ease and minimal contortionism. The boot offers 170 litres of space, which is enough for a school bag or two.

Two models are available, namely the L and LS, that are set apart only by equipment levels. The entry level L is well Chev Sparkequipped with power steering, air conditioner, radio/CD/MP3-player and two airbags. For a few extra bucks the LS has 14-inch alloy wheels, power operated front windows, ABS, EBD and auto-locking doors.

Both models come with a perky 1.2 litre 16 valve four pot kicking out 60kW. This allows for a 0-100km/h time of 12.1 seconds which isn’t half bad. The gear ratios are all wrong though. In 5th gear at highway speeds the poor little Chevy is screaming its little lungs out. The quality of the noise insulation comes into question and unfortunately doesn’t quite live up to the Vivo for example. It’s bearable though. Fuel consumption figures are claimed at 5.1 litres per hundred which is achievable with some careful driving.

When it comes to road holding and comfort the relatively short wheel base (although lengthened from the previous model) and torsion beam rear axle don’t allow the Spark to soak up bumps and ruts with ease. The odd jolt is felt, especially by rear passengers, and severe steering inputs will overwhelm traction on the road. This isn’t a Spark-only occurrence however and therefore the Chevy is forgiven its short comings. In and around town the Spark’s aggressive demeanour and nippy little engine make it quite a laugh, while adequately light steering allow for easy manoeuvres through traffic.

On the safety front you wouldn’t expect much from such a little car, however the GM engineers have used high and ultra high strength steel (whatever that is) to give the Spark the stiffest body in class. What this means is that, coupled with a few other gadgets, the Spark boasts a five star Korean NCAP (not to be confused with Euro NCAP) safety rating. Not too shabby after all.

Taking on the likes of Ford and VW is no mean feat. The Figo and Vivo are built on established platforms that have proven themselves as winners over the last 5 years. However the Chevy offers a fresh and fun design that makes the competition look rather dated. One thing is for sure, the A segment just got a whole lot tougher.

Price: R 125,495 (LS)
Engine: 1.2 litre 4-cylinder
Power: 60 kW
Torque: 108 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 12.1
Top speed (km/h): 176
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 5.1 (claimed)

Miles Downard
Photo Credit: Quickpic

Check out Mark’s opinion of the Spark here.

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