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Chevrolet Spark 1.2 LS (2009) review

Published:27 November 2009

The new Chevrolet Spark: CAR's first drive review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
This is the Chevy Spark, the replacement for the Matiz supermini and the first car to use GM’s new small car platform, designed by GM-DAT in South Korea.

Was this the car that had its design chosen in an online competition?

Yes, that’s the one. Out of three proposals shown at the New York Motor Show in 2007, this design – at the time known as the Beat – was chosen in an online competition.

The Spark is a busy car visually, with a line, curve or styling device on every surface. Where the Matiz was rounded and anodyne, the Spark is much bolder, but there are some unfortunate angles – notably the high-rise front when viewed from down the side of the car. Blame pedestrian impact legislation for that.

Ok, so it’s an odd box with a Chevy grille. But what’s the Spark like inside?

Very spacious for the class, in fact. Shoulder room is a bit tight, but head and legroom is fine, even for tall drivers. There’s a surprising amount of room on the rear bench too, plus seatbelts for three. Said seating folds flat with a 60/40 split, while the boot is big enough for a couple of decent travel bags.

Sure, the cabin plastics wouldn’t even impress Tamiya, but higher spec models do get splashes of either piano black, faux aluminium or even fake carbonfibre. There are a multitude of storage spaces, and the scooter-inspired info display pod next to the speedometer makes for a clear and fun dashboard.

What engines are available then?

Both a 1.0- and a 1.2-litre engine will make up the range, but it’s the larger of the two that’s expected to be the biggest seller in the UK. It musters 81bhp and 82lb ft of torque, propelling the pleasingly light (864kg) Spark to 60mph in around 12 seconds. In practise, it’s a mixed bag: surprisingly willing up to the mid range, less so past 5000rpm on the digi-bar rev counter.

Most of all though, you can’t help wondering if there’s still a pile of unused sound deadening material left on the factory floor: you’d never call the Spark’s engine quiet at any revs, but at motorway speeds it’s growling and grating is a real issue, and there’s plenty of vibration through the pedals to complement the noticeable road roar.

To be fair though, this lack of refinement varied considerably from car to car, with the old excuse of pre-production build issues coming into play. Time will tell. The 1.0-litre engine, on the other hand, is surprisingly peppy below 50mph, and a much, much sweeter unit to use.

And the ride and handling – is the Chevrolet Spark err, sparky?

Small car givens like easy-twirl steering and duck-and-dive manoeuvrability are all present, but the Spark also appears encouragingly adept at dealing with rough surfaces, remaining on the whole unfazed by large bumps and potholes.

It’s not overfilling with brio, but the wide track and wheel at each corner stance help resist body roll and make it entertaining in a typical small-car way.

What about the deal – surely VFM is a top priority with the Spark?

Yes, but although £6945 is the headline grabbing figure where Spark ownership starts, to get air-conditioning and some basic comforts like electric windows you’ll need to look at the £8145 1.0+.

The projected best seller – the 1.2 LS driven here – is £8795, with a combined fuel consumption figure of 55.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km, both comparable with class rivals.

Verdict

It might look a bit odd, and there are a few NVH issues at present, but first impressions of the Spark are of a competent car with a surprisingly grown up and spacious feel to it.

Specs

Price when new: £8,795
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1206cc 4cyl, 81bhp @ 6200rpm, 82lb ft @ 4600rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive,
Performance: 0-62mph 12.1sec, 102mph, 55.4mpg, 119g/km CO2
Weight / material: 864kg, steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3640/1597/1522

Rivals

Chevrolet Spark Cars for Sale

View all Chevrolet Spark Cars for Sale

Photo Gallery

  • Chevy's new city car: the Spark
  • Chevrolet Spark production version: it's the first GM product on the new small car platform
  • Chevy Spark was sired by a design competition – GM asked the public which of the 2007 New York concepts it should build. The Spark won
  • The Chevrolet Spark is a busy design: edgy, squat, compact. It's pretty cool
  • Chevrolet Spark interior photo
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