I'll admit, I've been starting to get a bit of a soft spot for Chevrolets and how they've impressed us of late. That's a stark contrast to about 4 years ago when we tested cars like the Aveo and Optra, two cars that -in any group driving test- get us to think: “Oh well, if I must."
Well, you get the picture.
Fast forward to today and we're driving the Spark... and having a lot of fun at it, if I might add.
Strictly speaking, it's not our first time with Chevrolet's little tyke, having driven it when it was initially launched to the market in 2011. Needless to say it was a sign of the times to come for the Chevy brand in the Philippines, and this new, updated model is just as promising.
The new model receives a new look, still featuring the split Chevy grille, albeit a bit larger. They've also changed the shape of the foglamp bezels, along with a new pair of tail lights but if you ask me, I prefer the previous tail lights, and I'd also swap the rims right away for something 'sparkier'. Overall, however, it's a nice set of updates to an already peppy looking model.
Inside, it's easy to mistake the interior as the same as the initial model, but not really. The most obvious change is that the previous, color-keyed panels (the blue Spark we drove 2 years ago also had some blue interior trim) were omitted in favor of silver. What I did notice are how the little details such as the layout of the stereo's buttons, the lighting of the A/C bezels and the addition of a USB have updated the dashboard. Turn on the lights at night and the buttons light up nicely; an unexpectedly nice touch in what is essentially an entry level car.
The steering wheel remains the same, but that's a good thing because I liked the way it was ergonomically crafted for the Spark. Seats remain the same, and that's a good thing too because they're pretty comfy for an econo car. The seating position is quite upright, but that's expected, and legroom is decent even in the back. Shifting to 1st or 2nd seems to hit my right thigh a bit more than before, but then again, it's probably because of the extra pounds.
Driving it around town, the Spark feels properly peppy. The 1.2 liter S-TEC II engine and the 5-speed manual combine well to match the weight of the car, and does well for fuel economy. As it stands, in the city with moderate traffic, the Spark did 11.3 kilometers to the liter. On the highway with no traffic and steady 80 km/h, the little red car was doing 16.4 km/l.
What is truly enjoyable about the Chevrolet Spark is its driving dynamics. In town, it just zips around with ease; a degree of peppy fun that the Mirage hatchback can't match. The performance of the engine, transmission and suspension all work together very well and in a very balanced manner. It even rides over potholes better than what its really short wheelbase should allow. If there's really anything to criticize about the Spark, it's the rather notchy manual shifter, but that's about it. The newer and bigger Chevrolet Sonic may be fun, but this Chevrolet Spark even more so.
The Chevy Spark may not deliver the sales numbers as much as its competition from the Japanese brands, but that will change in time. The Spark really is one of those cars that hasn't been given as much credit as it deserves. To me, however, if the Spark was put in the same parking lot with its peers in the entry level hatchback segment, I wouldn't be surprised if the keys with the Chevrolet bowtie are the first to go.
It's a fun, practical, daily-driveable little toy.