The Chevrolet Spark, which will be going on sale in Europe in early 2010 and coming to the U.S. in 2011, just might end up being General Motors’ ace in the hole. The small car is built on a global platform, which will reduce manufacturing costs, and its small size and small engine will make it a popular choice in crowded cities. In more rural areas, it probably won’t be that much of a hit, but if Chevy can expand its brand lineup and offer solid vehicles to every major demographic, the General may just live on without constant cash infusions from federal governments.
Under the hood of the Spark is a small four-cylinder engine, with the initial offerings being a choice of 1.0-liter or 1.2-liter displacements. While there has been no announcement of a diesel model, it is likely that one will hit dealer showrooms, at least in Europe where the fuel is less expensive and more popular. You certainly won’t be winning any races with these small engines, but their size and the light weight of the car will add up to some good fuel economy. It’s too early in the process to have accurate mpg numbers now, but highway numbers in the 30s-40s wouldn’t be surprising, and even more for a diesel model.
The Chevrolet Spark is not the most beautiful vehicle to ever hit the roads, but it isn’t an eyesore like a lot of other mini-cars that companies are pumping out now. The lines are strong and crisp, giving the Spark a forward-leaning stance. The rear end is a bit squashed and uninspiring, but when you design a mini-car, you don’t have too many styling options. It has to be short, provide decent cabin room, and it has to be light.
Interiors are what make and break mini-cars. It doesn’t matter if a mini-car can get 100 mpg, if it is horribly uncomfortable to be in for more than a short period of time, and if it offers no cargo space, it won’t sell all that well. The Spark kind of sits in the middle here. It is a five-door hatchback, but the rear cargo space is modest at best. The front and rear seats have okay legroom and headroom, but for the larger-than-average driver or passenger, it’ll be a tight fit. The cabin features are modest and don’t scream luxury. The dash and console of the concept model seemed well put together, but who knows if the final model will end up with cheap plastic everywhere. The instrument panel is inspired by a motorcycle, according to Chevrolet, and is very simple and self-contained. This is a good design because the whole unit could be shifted across the dash without much trouble to make a right-hand drive version.
The Spark is going to be facing some tough competition when it finally comes to market. Two of the most well-established mini-cars, the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris, have the benefit of their producing company’s solid reputation and a number of years headstart over the Spark. What does the Chevy have? Well, for its own sake, it better be dirt cheap to lure buyers.