Aveo, Optra, Spark. Do any of those cars strike a particular interest in you? The designs were bland, the powertrains left plenty to be desired and the same goes for the fit and finish inside. No wonder the old guard of Chevrolet in the country, in General Motors Philippines, packed up and left in the wake of low domestic sales and financial troubles in their home country, the good ol' U. S. of A.
Then things started to change for the Chevrolet brand. Under the new custodianship and the enterprising leadership of the guys over at The Covenant Car Company, Chevrolet in the Philippines began to turn things around with a wave of new marketing tactics (Facebook, anyone?), new models headed by the Chevy Cruze, and aggressive promotions have started to make an impact on the market. Now, with the introduction of another all new model, things are set to get even better for a brand that just a few years ago was in the full swing of fizzling out.
Now, with the introduction of the all new Spark, the Chevy brand is set to continue the upward trend, and reenter the entry level car market with their best foot forward.
On the design end, the new Spark is well and truly a breath of fresh air. Gone is the cutesy design of old, replaced with a very, very bold design statement from every angle. The front end is daring, to say the least, with the large Chevy grille, a pair of sculpted headlamps and great feature lines running all around the car. I love the boldness of the new look, as the Spark seems to be at the forefront of urban car design. It definitely looks much more modern and much more upmarket than its chief rivals, clearly conveying the design of the Chevrolet Beat concept car just a few years before.
Now the old Spark had what was probably the most low-rent interiors I've ever been in. In fact, the Chinese copy of the Spark, the Chery QQ, actually seemed much better than the one it copied. So, its a great surprise that this new one has raised the bar. Considerably.
Stepping into the cabin for the first time, it's easy to note the high tech design and feel to all the surfaces and controls, and even has color-keyed (blue, in this case) panels. There are quite a few details that seem to have been adopted from the masters of the ultra small car: MINI. The focal point of the cabin is the uber-cool instrument pod sitting on top of the steering column, featuring an analog speedometer, an LCD with a digital for the tachometer, fuel gauge, trip and other pertinent information, as well as the standard complement of warning and indicator lights. Even the center console and cupholders are reminiscent of new MINIs.
Quality has also improved, almost incredulously. The plastics are high grade while interior panel alignment has been monitored so closely to ensure no gaps larger than 5mm between door shuts. It's these high levels of quality and fit and finish that give the Spark a feel that costs more than its 598,000 peso price tag.
In terms of features, the Spark also delivers a decent amount of kit with a keyless entry and alarm system, power windows, mirrors, door locks, an AM/FM CD MP3 audio system with auxiliary input for your iPod and an airbag for the driver. I do wish it came with anti lock brakes instead of that airbag, as to me, having having the extra help to avoid an accident seems like a better trade off.
The car may be small for room, but considering the size of the Spark, it generates a decent amount of space inside. Beyond the standard glove compartment and pockets there are some novel storage options, as designers and engineers placed around the cabin with multiple door pockets and other cubby holes. Pop the tailgate and you'll see a decent amount of room, even more so with the rear seats down.
Slotting and twisting the key in for the first time, the Spark's engine springs to life. I'm not exactly expecting much from the little engine in the Spark, but after trying it out for a few days, I have to say I quite like the powertrain arrangement. The engine is a 1.2 liter, twin cam 16-valve motor, and is capable of 82 horsepower and 110 newton meters of torque. That doesn't sound like much, but when combined with a 5-speed manual tranny and at around 900 kilograms curb weight, the Spark is actually a peppy little car to drive. The handling dynamics of the car are quite good (something the old car didn't really have), and maintains good poise in the corners, and the short wheelbase makes it incredibly easy to maneuver around town and in traffic.
Some people think that because entry level cars like the Spark are meant for those who can't afford bigger, more upscale models makes cutting corners in terms of driving dynamics, quality, features and design par for the course. However, in my experience with vehicle sales, those who have less to spend on a new vehicle tend to be much more discerning on which to pick. Based on what I've seen and felt behind the wheel of the new Spark, Chevy has delivered a great entry level model that doesn't compromised on quality, looks and the drive, and is definitely made for those who believe in better cars for their hard earned money.