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2014 Chevrolet Spark Pros and Cons at TrueDelta: Sparkin' interest in the Spark! by tishpitt1

Tishpit

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Introduction

I love small cars. I had three Chevy Metros, two Miata's, two VW's, and a slew of other small cars of yore. They have their plusses and minuses, as do all cars. But if you are looking for an inexpensive small car that is pretty fun to drive, gets MPG better than the EPA estimates, does everything pretty darn well, is roomy and comfortable and has enough technology to keep a teenager engaged, go drive a Chevy Spark! If you like a quiet, smooth riding, luxurious car... you are reading the wrong review!

Reviewed: 2014 Chevrolet Spark

4dr Hatch 84-horsepower 1.2L I4 CVT FWD

Why the 2014 Chevrolet Spark?

Price or payments

Though I've only had my Spark for about a month, I did some research and drove several other small hatchbacks, including the Sonic (turbo and non), Yaris, Cube, Mazda2, Fiat 500, and hands down, the Spark was the best value and most fun to drive. Though some of the others had larger discounts, the price of the Spark still beat them and had more equipment (LT1). For about $15,000 I have the touchscreen infotainment system, OnStar, 10 airbags, auto headlights, comfortable height-adjustable driver's seat (and I have bad back problems and find these very comfortable and supportive), great looking dash that illuminates a frosty blue at night, and worked into the deal fog lights that the dealership installed and work great. Bought the car at Bob Taylor Chevrolet in Naples, FL and they did an outstanding job in making the transaction painless. Since I took delivery late in the day, and they had to order the fog lights and wiring harness, I returned a few weeks later and the fogs were installed expertly, the car detailed, and they even put on my front license plate holder and provided a free rental car for the day. Great service! For the dollar, I don't believe you can find a better deal on a new car. But, that being said, you must be happy with a SMALL car! If you like driving an Impala, you will probably not appreciate the subtle charm of a mini-car.

Fuel economy

The mileage is well above the EPA rating: I'm getting in a mix of city, suburb and little highway driving 39.5 MPG with the CVT. I've had it up to over 40 MPG with a very light foot and more non-stop driving. That is outstanding! I like that I'm getting mileage similar to some hybrid cars and saving about $10,000 on the purchase price, plus not having any concerns about hybrid ideosyncricies. This car is easy to work on, drives like a "normal" car, and doesn't look like a billion other cars on the road. The stock tires appear to be regular tires, so wondering if the MPG could be bumped up with low resistance tires? Maybe will try that eventually when the current tires become worn.

Powertrain performance

O.k., so this is not a pocket-rocket, and if you want a car with quick off the line jump, look elsewhere. The Spark was designed as an economical, fuel efficient, people mover. And that is exactly what it does... and does well. The performance is adequate as long as you keep a few things in mind, especially with the CVT automatic transmission. The CVT in this car is a bit quirky. I've had a Sentra and a Suzuki SX4 with CVT's and theirs ran a bit different. The Spark is a bit hurky-jerky when coasting at slow speeds. And sometimes, upon gentle acceleration, it feels like an automated manual transmission... kinda in between shifts. Of course the CVT doesn't actually "shift," but it gives the impression it wants to! But it's no where as jumpy as, say, a Smart Fortwo or Ford Focus, but to me, perhaps due to the "honeymoon factor"that still grips me in regards to this car, it is not bothersome. Actually, I think it gives the little car some personality. Maybe I'm as quirky as the CVT!

Handling

The handling is tight and a bit sporty (WAY better than the Yaris or Cube), and very little lean in corners, even with small tires. It's no Miata (had 2 of those... most fun cars I've ever driven!), but it's not meant to be a sport's car. I liked its handling better than the Fiat and about on par with the Mazda2. One little thing to remember is this is a tall, light weight car. That means, in cross winds, you will feel some buffeting. That is to be expected. It just irritates me when people whine and complain about how such a car is pushed by winds while driving on the highway. Well, of course that will happen. It's not a 4,000 pound sedan or low slung Camaro... it's a Spark. And that means you have more interior space and comfort, but yes, when it is windy and you drive in an open area, like a highway, you are going to feel that wind slapping your car. What does that mean? It means keep your hands on the wheel and correct as needed. It also means time to get off your cell phone or put down your cup of coffee and steer the car and know that you are getting over 40 MPG even with the wind buffeting. So smile... you could have a similar effect in a tall SUV and be getting 17 MPG! At idle, this is the smoothest small 4 cyl. engine I've ever experienced... amazing. Back seat flips and folds flat... a rarity in modern cars and allows you to load a LOT of equipment and a few large dogs! Visibility is great, though there are a few minor blind spots in regards to the rear pillars, but with such a small car, it is easy to just move your head and see out well. Forward visibility is much better than my old 2010 Suzuki SX4 that had dangerous blind spots due to thick, dual A-pillars.

Interior styling

The interior is fashioned in a very contemporary manner and the ergonomics are very good overall. The guages are nicely lit, though they are missing a water temperature gauge, something I would like to have (along with an oil pressure gauge). Call me old fashioned. The right gauge, with the MPG and odometer and tach, appear a bit cluttered. The irridescently glowing climate control knobs are just awesome at night... no need for running LED interior lights in this car! The steering wheel tilts, but does not telescope... not a big deal as I find it comfortable, but some people may wish for that extra ability to pull the wheel closer. Another small gripe; the driver's arm rest should be a few inches higher or be adjustable. I find having to rest my arm in a lower position less comfortable that on some other cars with similar armrests. And yes, the passenger should be provided with the same amenity. The seats themselves are suprisingly comfortable for such an inexpensive car; very supportive with good lumbar support and especially nice side bolsters. Kinda like getting a hug everytime you sit down. The back seat is roomy for two, and no, you cannot fit three. Chevy was clever to insert a cup holder and other "stuff" compartment in between the rear seating area as to say, ONLY TWO! The Sonic though brags three can fit in the back... well... I doubt it unless they are small children. The Spark's back seat cushion flips forward to allow the rear split seat backs to fold flat for a nice cargo hauling area. One of the few new cars that offer flat-folding seats (see that Mazda, Cube, Yaris, etc.)!!! The seat fabric is o.k., but I would like a bit more color, such as inserts to match exterior color. Dash and door trim is nice... good fit and finish and the shiny plastic inserts in the dash (mine is gray) add a bit of flair. It's not a luxurious interior or even as sturdy-stylish as the Kia Rio, but it has a hip vibe to it and a fun attitude. Fun trumps luxury in my book! But it does appear sturdy and practical, aligning with the essence of this little car. The exterior is... well... not the most gorgeous or sporty looking car. But it reminds me of that odd looking kid in school, he may look a bit weird, but after getting to know him, he's one cool dude!

Why Not the 2014 Chevrolet Spark?

Powertrain performance

The CVT has this quirky characteristic where, at just coasting at slow speeds or slowly accelerating, it feels like an automated manual transmission. Has this bit of herky-jerky feel to it. Nothing drastic, but to me, it just adds to the character of the car. However, that attitude may change further down the road, but for now, the honeymoon is still ongoing and my admiration for all the other attributes of this little charmer is causing some admitted "love blindness."

Interior styling

Though the interior is roomy, airy, and comfortable, I would recommend that Chevy take a look at the following: add the water temperature and oil pressure gauges back into their cars, make the armrest adjustable or higher and add one for the lowly passenger, maybe offer some different interior fabrics that could have color accents to match the color of the car (similar to the red/black interior only available on the LT2 model). Oh yeah... how about a nice sky-roof (opening one of course, not those lame slabs of roof glass that can roast a chicken in the back seat)? I already told my salesman, if Chevy comes out with a convertible Spark...put me on the waiting list!!!

Conclusion

If you want a cool, fun, practical, cheap little car... BUY ONE!
If you want a sleek, luxurious, smooth riding, quiet, cruiser... LOOK ELSEWHERE!
Be realistic and judge the car for what it is... an economy car. And a darn nice one to boot!

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Response from Tishpit

6:47 pm March 14, 2015

At 22,000 miles... here is the update on my Spark. When I wrote the above original review, I was indeed on the "new car honeymoon." Since then, the rose colored shades have been shed and a more down-to-earth view has developed. Here is my current opinion on this vehicle.

First, I am over the "cutesy herky-jerky" movements. The lurching at very slow, parking lot speeds, has lost all charm and is now annoying. The car has also shown a habit of hestitating when pulling out, and at times, the RPM's reel upward without any increase in speed. The dealership service guru said he has had others complain of similar issues... but, no ideas on how to remedy these issues. So far, the car has been in for three recalls. This meant 6 trips to the dealership... Chevy service departments have been an exercise in frustration overall, at least in my area. But that is not the car's fault.

The pluses are: MPG are still impressive and averaging 39.9 in mixed driving on level terrain and in cool to warm south Florida fall/winter driving. Some a/c, but not much lately, though the a/c is another issue (had the recall servicing, but going back in since it did not remedy the problem). The seating is comfortable overall, though a bit firm. It has been overall reliable and starts every time and gets me from point A to point B. It still looks cute and nothing has fallen off, so build quality is good.

But the powertrain is really missing the boat. Engine does the funky RPM flares (described above), and acceleration varies from spunky to downright dangerous with periodic hesitation that can make sprinting into traffic a white-knuckle event. This, along with the lurching at low speeds, may be a CVT issue? I am no mechanic, so I will not act all-wise about such things. All I know is that I have not had any other vehicle behave in such a manner, with or without a CVT tranny. I did notice an improvement with mid-grade gas during fall and winter, but now have the same demon re-appearing with the 90 degree weather. Is it weather related? Is it gas? Is it fuel injectors? Does it need an exorcist? I will update after next trip to yet another Chevy dealer. Oh yeah, since the most recent oil change/tire rotation, the front wheel is now making a new noise and can feel it in the floor. So, if this dealership doesn't help, I may consider a divorce!

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