Full 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV is a new, all-electric version of the Spark hatchback.
The variety of electric vehicles is mushrooming and the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV is a good example of why: The compromises required to liberate yourself from gasoline are becoming a lot easier to swallow. The battery-powered version of Chevy's subcompact Spark mixes "real car" performance and driving dynamics with a high-utility hatchback package ? and all at a price that makes it relatively affordable to get into a full-fledged electric car.
Indeed, when you factor in a federal tax credit of $7,500 and additional state tax credits from California and Oregon (the only states in which the 2014 Spark EV is currently sold), the net purchase price of a new Spark EV can actually dip below $20,000.
So why not automatically buy the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV over the conventional, gasoline-powered Spark, or other similarly priced small cars? Limited driving range is the familiar refrain, as the Spark EV is rated to deliver only 82 miles of range. This is actually more range than some other EVs offer, but if you have a long commute, the Spark EV, like most other battery-electric vehicles, probably won't fill the bill. Still, the main knock against the electric Chevy Spark is its lengthy recharging time. Even at 240 volts, it takes 7 hours to regain a full charge, and if you plug it into a 110-volt household outlet, you're looking at 20 hours.
Apart from these practical considerations, the electric Spark is in many measures a better-performing car than its gasoline counterpart. The Spark EV accelerates more quickly and effortlessly handles the pace of urban traffic. As we noted in our 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV rating, this is easily the best-driving EV in this price range.
The options for city-oriented electric vehicles are expanding, and the 2014 Spark EV is one of several models to consider if you want an EV. The Fiat 500e has less interior room and utility but has its own unique style and is quite satisfying to drive. Larger all-electric models such as the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV and Nissan Leaf provide more room for passengers, but cost more and aren't as enjoyable to drive. However, all of these cars recharge more quickly at 240 volts, which, depending on your driving habits, could make them more convenient to own than the electric Chevy Spark.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV is an all-electric, subcompact, four-door hatchback with seating for four. There are two trim levels, 1LT and 2LT, differentiated only by minor upgrades in interior trim.
Standard equipment for the 1LT includes 15-inch alloy wheels; EV-specific aerodynamic bodywork; keyless ignition/entry; cruise control; air-conditioning; power accessories; a height-adjustable driver seat; heated front seats; a tilt steering wheel with audio and phone controls; an AM/FM six-speaker audio system; Chevrolet's MyLink interface with a 7-inch touchscreen, smartphone app integration and Siri Eyes Free voice-recognition capability; Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity; USB and auxiliary inputs; satellite radio; OnStar telematics; and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat.
The 2LT trim adds leatherette premium vinyl upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
A DC quick-charger (late availability) is optional for any Spark EV. Connected to the proper power source, the DC quick-charger can recharge the Spark EV's batteries to 80 percent of capacity in 20 minutes.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV is an electric vehicle motivated by a 105-kilowatt electric motor (140 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque). Power for the motor comes from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack with 21 kilowatt-hours of capacity. It takes the Spark EV seven hours to recharge at 240 volts, which is considerably longer than other similarly priced EVs. If you're only able to plug into a 110-volt outlet, the process could take as long as 20 hours. An optional SAE combo charger promises quicker turnaround times (up to 80 percent charge in 20 minutes) but only if you have easy access to a faster DC charger.
The EPA rates the 2014 Spark EV for 82 miles of driving range on the combined city/highway driving cycle. This is on par with the Honda Fit EV and surpasses the range estimates on the Focus Electric and Leaf. The EPA also rates the Spark EV's energy consumption at 28 kWh used per 100 miles (the lower the number here, the better), which is slightly more frugal than most rivals. This translates into MPGe figures of 119 mpg combined (128 city/109 highway).
In Edmunds testing, a Spark EV made the dash to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, an excellent time for a subcompact car. By comparison, a conventional gasoline-engine Spark with an automatic transmission took 12.2 seconds to hit 60 mph, while a Nissan Leaf required 10.2 seconds.
Standard safety features for the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, rear-seat side airbags and front-seat knee airbags. Six months of OnStar is also standard and includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
In track testing, Edmunds.com got the Spark EV stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet, which is an outstanding distance for an electric car, as they typically weigh considerably more than similarly sized gasoline cars.
Interior Design and Special Features
The minimalist design of the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV's interior isn't a bit luxurious, but there's a refreshing simplicity to the dashboard's simple lines, the motorcycle-like instrument cluster and the large central touchscreen.
The Spark EV's gauges are altered from the conventional Spark's in order to better provide the data unique to electric propulsion: Simple graphics keep you up to speed on the battery pack's state of charge and remaining driving range. The standard MyLink touchscreen infotainment system features sharp graphics and intuitive menus. It also boasts strong smartphone app integration, including Internet radio, text message translation, voice commands and available navigation. Still, like a lot of similar systems, it's not compatible with all smartphones, and the screen sometimes fails to register touch inputs, which can be frustrating.
Thanks to the Spark's tall roof, there's also a general impression of roominess, particularly for those up front. The front seats are comfortable enough for the distance you're able to travel in one sitting and the only real negative is the lack of a telescoping steering wheel.
Those in the two-passenger rear seat also enjoy a refreshing amount of headroom, but there isn't an abundance of leg- and hiproom. The rear seatbacks offer a 60/40 split, but because of battery packaging constraints, the seats don't fold fully flat. The Spark EV offers 9.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, and folding them provides 23.4 cubic feet of capacity -- down from 31.2 in the gasoline Spark.
Compared to the gasoline-powered Spark (or any other conventional subcompact car), the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV accelerates quite briskly. Cut-and-thrust maneuvers through suburban traffic are no problem at all, given the car's immense low-end torque.
The Spark is rated for 82 miles of range, but in our testing, we've found this estimate conservative. With little effort, we were able to achieve ranges that varied from the mid-90s to the low triple digits. The Spark's regenerative braking system is also more receptive than most rivals' systems to range-increasing driving techniques like cruising with your foot off the accelerator pedal.
The electric power steering responds quickly, even if its light effort guarantees there isn't much in the way of feedback. The Spark EV feels nicely planted when going around turns, and unusual for a car with such a small footprint, it has a relatively composed highway ride with minimal choppiness over seams and ruts.