January 7 , 2016 /

Chevrolet Spark

Overall: NEW_for_2016_3The made-in-Korea Spark has been a surprise sub-compact hit since its 2012 model-year debut; a clean-sheet replacement improves on the original in style and substance.

Drivetrain: A new 98-horsepower four-cylinder replaces the previous 84-horsepower engine; manual and continuously variable transmissions ship torque to the front wheels.

Despite falling pump prices (so far), 2016 promises to be a banner year for fuel sippers. Chevrolet, in particular, is relaunching the tiny hatchback Spark, along with the compact Cruze and electric Volt models. Then there’s a higher-mpg turbocharged four-cylinder version of the Camaro and a hybrid variant of the 2016 Malibu on the way. As the Bowtie division’s lowest-price vehicle, the Spark remains both thrifty and spacious although there’s a bit less of the latter, owing to a more svelte design. However it’s a small price to pay for a much better looking (mature) car that more buyers are expected to appreciate. What should also resonate with this group is the new four-cylinder powerplant: a 1.4-liter unit that churns out 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque. That compares to 84 horses and 83 pound-feet for the 2015 model. As with the previous Spark, it connects to a five-speed manual transmission, or optional continuously variable unit, referred to as a CVT. Inside, there’s enough room for four adults, even though there’s a middle seatbelt in back for times when you absolutely must transport five people. Chevrolet assures that all aboard will be treated to quieter and more comfortable ride, thanks to a stronger body structure and added sound-absorbing materials. Along with 10 airbags, the standard-feature list includes air conditioning, a seven-inch touch-screen display, rearview camera and front disc brakes. On the options list is a sunroof, navigation system, heated front seats, alloy wheels and a premium audio package. An available Driver Confidence Package features the latest in crash-avoiding items including lane departure warning, forward collision alert and rear-park assist that sounds a warning when closing in on an object while slowly backing up or moving forward.

Base price (incl. destination): $13,500
Type: Four-door hatchback
Base engine (hp): 1.4-liter DOHC I4 (98)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Five-speed manual; continuously variable (opt.)
MPG (city/highway): 34/40 (CVT, est.)
Weight (lb.): 2,250

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