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2020 Chevy Spark - review of one day behind the wheel - via rental


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Have you ever planned a trip "slightly" incorrectly?  Sometimes, it's due to unforeseen events.  In this case, I had rented a car for one day less than I actually needed one.  So, I then proceeded to book a car for one day to bridge that gap.  The car turned out to be a 2020 Chevrolet Spark 5 door hatchback.  For the second time now, I have been given a vehicle corresponding exactly the car category that I rented on line.

I had seen the Chevy Spark around before.  I had even seen them at dealerships and I've sat in them at auto shows.  The most noticeable thing about the Spark is how small it is and that the wheelbase is short.  And that there is very little overhang beyond the real wheels.  In this way, it is very much like European econoboxes made by Peugeot, Fiat, and other similar brands.  

This perception transfers right over to the driving experience.  It drives very much like entry level European econoboxes.  The biggest difference, however, is that it has a 4 cylinder engine (1.4 liters), while some of the ones overseas are down to 3 cylinders, and has a CVT unit instead of the automated DSG found overseas, which have a set number of gears, usually 6 or 7.  The engine is a small Ecotec 4 cylinder, most of the car's parts are sourced outside the U.S., and final assembly is also outside the U.S.  Fuel economy is good; however, the small econoboxes overseas return closer to 50 mpg.  The Spark comes in at closer to 40 mpg, which is still respectable.

The Spark doesn't provide much in the way of isolation.  The driver knows what the engine is doing and what the tires are doing at any given time.  As with any CVT, there is less "feel" as to what the transmission is doing.  For the size of car that it is, the engine is capable enough and seems willing.  The engine produces just shy of 100 hp but, back in the day, 4 liters worth of engine with a little over 100 hp would lug around 4,000 pound cars and live to tell about it.  The Spark's 1.4 liter 4 is not overly noisy, but the throttle and some talk back from the engine compartment are part and parcel of the driving experience.  The handling is fairly nimble and, with such a small size, the Spark inspires confidence in taking it into crowded city traffic, tight parking lots, and narrow residential streets.  (On the contrary, one who isn't too familiar with their rented land yacht wouldn't be so willing to do that.)  The ride is not that refined and anything but the most freshly paved of highways will transmit road and wind noise into the cabin, along with occasional jolts from road imperfections. At speeds over 65 mph, this becomes more noticeable.

The Spark's interior is sensibly laid out.  That's more true of GM products than a lot of other marques.  There's a standard GM kit of parts that's seen in the instrumental panel, on door switches, and the like.  The main cluster has a few bezels and an info box, if you will.  There is a speedometer, a tachometer, and a fuel gauge.  The info box has the odometer and some other key information.  What's lacking is a temperature gauge.  I've seen less of these in entry level cars in the last decade.  Personally, I don't like waiting for an idiot light to come on to tell me that the engine is running hot.  The infotainment screen is similar to those on other GM cars, but smaller.  It's easy to use.  So is the climate control panel.  The seating is upholstered in cloth, seems to come in one color - black, and there is a fold down armrest (which may be an option), but no console per se' with a storage bin.  The seats are rather flat and don't have much definition.  Legroom up front is sufficient but, depending on the adjustment of the seats up front, rear seat legroom can vary from acceptable for shorter people to feeling cramped.  This car is probably more ideal for shorter commutes and running errands.  The comfort and support from the seats is not amenable to longer, relaxing jaunts on the interstate.

In terms of price point and content, the Spark is probably in the same league as Nissan's Versa, which is their entry level vehicle.  While the Versa appears to be a little longer, has more overhang beyond the rear wheels, and has a more spacious trunk, the driving experience and the feel inside the cabin is a little nicer in the Spark.  However, in my opinion, the Spark falls a little short on these criteria compared to the minimally more expensive Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.

The Spark has a reasonable price in the mid-teens (of thousands of dollars).  It even comes with a manual transmission, though most found on dealers' lots aren't equipped that way.  Like many Chevy products, there are LS and LT models.  In recent years, the Spark has been one of the few cars that could be had with manual windows.  The Spark comes with power steering and brakes.  And the rented one had power windows and power door locks, as well as an adjustable steering wheel.  A power seat is not available.  

The Spark is not that bad looking for its genre.  There is nothing quirky about it, except maybe a few colors such as Passion Fruit and Toasted Marshmallow!  It has a simple and pleasant front fascia and rear tail lamp assembly, along with some character lines in the sheet metal through the doors.  Many Sparks have wheel covers instead of fancier alloy wheels.  And, like so many GM cars, the engine compartment of the Spark is more tidily laid out than many of its competitors.

Overall, this is one very utilitarian and simple car.  It's priced right.  But the best thing about the Spark is that it can make you feel like a teen on a budget that's darting from one place to another and pinching pennies while doing it.  In one day, I managed to keep the mileage I put on the rented Spark to less than 100 miles.  However, that was enough to know that this car is not one that would be particularly exciting to anyone, but it would definitely serve its purpose and might even be a little fun to drive.

- - - - -

Photos forthcoming

Edited by trinacriabob
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  • trinacriabob changed the title to 2020 Chevy Spark - review of one day behind the wheel - via rental

Photo Gallery

EXTERIOR

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View of the Spark with the Minnesota State Capitol in the background

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View of the Spark at the MSP viewing area - this unit had alloy wheels, but many do not

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Doesn't this take one back to the door handle for W-body coupes from 1988 to 1996?  This is how the rear door handles are set up.

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The Spark is not very wide

INTERIOR

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Overall view of the dashboard

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Angled view of dashboard, console, and gear selector

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Spark main instrument cluster - (from left to right) fuel gauge, tach, speedo, and info box, with warning lights for other functions

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This is the center stack; the vents are slightly low if air conditioning was being sought

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Here are the ubiquitous GM climate control dials, be it for this Spark or their upline vehicles.  Maybe making so many of them and putting them into so many cars makes them more reliable?

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Here is the typical GM hardware for power windows, power door locks, and power adjustable outside mirrors

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This system of having both a shelf and a glove box is useful

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Cloth seating is black is standard in the Spark; this vehicle had an armrest, but note that there is no console with a storage bin

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This demonstrates rear legroom in this small 5-door hatchback and a trippy cup holder and other recessed area between the seating spaces; the seats on this one were 60-40 and can fold down to augment trunk space

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While it's a little chunky, visibility was adequate, partially because of the more upright rear back lite ... this is actually better than some rear pillars I've seen in many late model cars

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The trunk is on the smaller side and has the much needed cover.  Suitcases can be put in on their sides to maximize space.  Again, here you see the 60-40 split of the rear seats.  KIMG1630.thumb.JPG.7e57ffd1f96046e66f518e044704dfa2.JPG

GM got this right, and I like having that slot to insert one's hand to bring down the trunk or hatch door.  It's even included on this entry level car.

MECHANICAL

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We've known the Ecotec branding of (4 cylinder) GM engines for about 2 decades plus, if I'm not mistaken

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GM engine compartments are among the more cleanly and clearly laid out ones and, of course, a shroud over the top of the spark plugs and the manifold and intake area helps make them look that way

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END OF PHOTOS

Edited by trinacriabob
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Interesting auto, decent first auto for a young person. Thank you for reviewing it.

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Thank you, David.  I didn't know if I'd like it but, aside from its not having a temperature gauge, it was sort of enjoyable to putt around in this little car.

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3 minutes ago, trinacriabob said:

Thank you, David.  I didn't know if I'd like it but, aside from its not having a temperature gauge, it was sort of enjoyable to putt around in this little car.

I see it as a very economical commuter auto / inner city living type auto. GM needs to get an equal in price and size EV for the dense cities as I think it will do well. The Bolt is too expensive for people who are looking for this kind of auto.

The future is going to be very interesting.

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13 hours ago, regfootball said:

One of the best GM vehicles IMO.  The interior is nicer than it should be for this cheap of car.

I agree, actually. 

 

On 11/16/2020 at 8:54 PM, trinacriabob said:

Thank you, David.  I didn't know if I'd like it but, aside from its not having a temperature gauge, it was sort of enjoyable to putt around in this little car.

I like having my Aveo as a cheap urban commuter car, could see buying something like this actually. 

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