2017 Chevrolet Spark fits the bill
The second generation of Chevrolet’s smallest and most affordable car made its Philippine debut at the 2017 Manila International Auto Show last March, preceded by its simultaneous unveiling at the 2015 New York and Seoul auto shows as a 2016 model.
Most of the design and engineering work on the 2nd gen Spark was done at General Motors Korea which used to be known as GM Daewoo Auto & Technology (GM-DAT) after GM acquired most of the Daewoo group’s assets in 2001.
By launching the all-new Spark in Manila this year, The Covenant Car Company, Inc. (TCCI), otherwise known as Chevrolet Philippines, aims to grab market share from established nameplates in the hotly contested mini subcompact segment such as the Mitsubishi Mirage, Toyota Wigo, and Hyundai Eon.
The Spark’s retail price (P648,888 for the LT 5-speed M/T, P682,888 for the LT CVT, and P763,888 for the LTZ CVT) confirms that it was primarily designed for buyers in more than 40 countries around the world where a small car provides basic family transport.
In the United States and Canada, the Spark is sold as a city car or a first vehicle.
In 2011, the Spark gained show biz mileage by appearing as Skids in the Transformers movie franchise.
Sculpted new look
The new Spark looks more purposeful and less toy-like with its dual-port grille, swept-back projector-type headlamps surrounded by LED daytime running lights (DRLs), round front fog lamps, sculpted body, masculine creases and bulges on the slabby flanks, protruding tail lights, and 15-inch alloy wheels pushed out to the corners.
The car is about 1.5-inches lower than the previous iteration, so the seats are correspondingly lower.
The styling was designed to appeal to first-time car buyers and millennials, although the new colors (Mint My Mind, Brimstone, Pull Me Over Red, Son of a Gun Gray Metallic, Black Meet Kettle, Summit White, and Switchblade Silver) seem to have been coined by teens.
The completely redesigned Spark’s best features are its cutting-edge infotainment system, its fuel efficiency, and more safety equipment than is found in other locally available minicars.
Its drawbacks are slow acceleration, cramped rear legroom, limited cargo space, and tinny doors.
On the other hand, despite an underpowered engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), this little front wheel-drive hatchback is surprisingly agile once it hits its stride.
Although far from a sport sedan, the Spark handles decently, and is nimble around turns.
The all-aluminum 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC Ecotec engine with dual variable valve timing produces 99 hp and 128 Nm max torque.
The ventilated rotor disc brakes in front and drums at the rear are stout and resistant to fading even during repeated use.
The Spark’s diminutiveness and electric power steering make parking in tight spaces a breeze.
Its aluminum block and aluminum head with integrated exhaust manifold further reduce mass, thus enhancing efficiency and responsiveness.
Fuel efficiency is claimed to average 17 kilometers per liter in city/highway driving.
Here’s a tip: Stand on the gas pedal for some 11 seconds to spin the engine up to its 6200 rpm power peak, and soon you’ll be doing 100 kilometers per hour.
On the Skyway, the 99-hp Spark gave a 150 hp Subaru XV a run for its money when challenged.
Considering its size, the Spark provides good ride quality and smooth road manners with body motions well damped except when driven over extra large potholes.
The springs are soft enough to keep the ride comfy on secondary roads, while the suspension is sufficiently responsive to make the Spark somewhat engaging to drive: a good compromise between comfort and handling.
The longer wheelbase, finely tuned chassis, and stiffer new structure contribute to the sense of stability and make highway driving pleasant—although engine and road noise intrude at highway speeds.
Chevrolet claims that the Spark’s new unibody is stiffer, but the doors, when shut, sound tinny instead of giving off a solid thunk.
With its tall stance, the Spark seats four adults with sufficient headroom for all, but legroom in the back is cramped. Adjusting the front seats leaves little knee clearance for backseat passengers.
Cargo capacity is limited to 195 liters but the rear seat 60/40 split-folds to increase this.
Upon entering the Spark, what immediately catches your eye is the 7-inch touchscreen display for the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system at the center of the dashboard.
MyLink offers smartphone pairing and mirroring that enables you to use your phone and stay connected while your eyes are still on the road and your hands are on the steering wheel.
Instead of motorcycle-style gauges, the new Spark has a traditional instrument cluster with a digital multifunction display between actual gauges.
Two-tone blue and black seat fabric, color-accented dash and door panels, piano black, chrome accents, and silver trim enhance the sporty, upscale vibe of the cockpit.
In my opinion, the Spark has one of the neatest, most attractive interiors in the minicar segment.
If the 2017 Spark were to be crash-tested by the Asean NCAP (New Car Assessment Program), it would probably rate four or five stars for Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, and Safety Assist.
This is because the Spark meets all the current requirements of Asean NCAP.
It has driver and front passenger SRS airbags, seatbelt reminders for driver, front passenger and rear passenger, traction control, and ISOFIX child restraint.
In addition, the Spark is equipped with antilock braking system, anti-theft alarm and electronic engine immobilizer.
Bottom line, the 2017 Chevrolet Spark LTZ fits the bill if you are buying a car for the first time or need a city vehicle that is light and somewhat fun to drive, easy to park, fuel-frugal, and occupant protective according to Asean NCAP standards.
The Spark comes with a 5-year warranty program or 100,000 km, whichever comes first, and the Chevrolet Complete Care Program.
Chevrolet Philippines imports the Spark as a CBU (completely built unit) from GM Korea Co., one of General Motors’ largest manufacturing, design and technology hubs outside North America.