2014 Chevrolet Spark EV 4dr Hatchback 2LT (Electric 1-speed Direct Drive)
Driven On 9/10/2013
The Spark EV is an inexpensive electric car that's smooth, quiet and composed, with enough sauce to get up to speed nicely. It's 3.3 kilowatt on-board charger (most competitors have 6.6 kW) gives us pause because it doubles charge time and effectively doubles charge cost at public stations that charge by the hour.
PerformanceOne of the most spritely EVs on the market. It's quick, turns eagerly and glides down the road like a more expensive car. Yes, the steering is a bit remote, but that's about the only downside here.
Except for the Tesla, which is in another league, the Spark EV's 7.5 seconds to 60 mph is the quickest in the segment. Most are in the 9 to 10 second range. No downside here.
Use the shifter's "L" mode for lift-throttle magnetic braking for maximum range. If you do use the brake pedal, it feels fairly normal. Decent 122-foot panic stop from 60 mph.
Good response to inputs, and the effort isn't overly heavy when turning. But the feel is artificial. The driver gets little sense of which way the tires are pointed.
Tire grip is modest, but relatively low weight (2,941 pounds) and good front/rear weight balance make the Spark quite nimble. Posted a better slalom number than any EV except Tesla.
Like other EVs, the electric Spark is utterly smooth due to the seamless nature of its one-speed direct-drive "transmission" and the immense drive-away torque of its electric motor.
ComfortEV quietness, of course, but it also has surprising poise for such a small car. The low placement of the battery helps impart a bigger-car feel. Seats do the job without much fanfare.
The front seats are fairly simple, but we stayed comfortable throughout our 3.5-hour test loop, which is far longer than anyone is likely to sit in this car during any single trip.
Not as choppy as the stubby wheelbase suggests. Feels much more settled and poised than you'd expect. The weight of the battery seems to have settled the ride.
Smooth and silent, even at highway speeds. The EV leash will keep this city car off deserted highways, so you're more likely to hear noises from other cars than your own.
InteriorYes, it's small, but the layout is functional. That high roof gives it decent room, access and visibility, too. Cargo space is tight with four aboard but plentiful with the rear seat folded.
Good basic layout, and the narrow cabin means that nothing is very far away. Climate controls make sense, the MyLink touchscreen is intuitive and the instrument panel serves up lots of information.
Tall roof makes for easy going when climibing in or out up front. The rear is a bit tighter, but still reasonable.
The Spark's chunky shape allows for front seats with good head- and legroom, but there's no denying the cabin is narrow. Rear seat only holds two for this very reason, and is short on legroom.
Lots of glass and not much car makes for good all-around visibility. And the outside mirrors are decent-sized, too.
There's minimal cargo room with the rear seat in use, but fold it down and there's more than enough storage for the sorts of local errands that suit electric runabouts best.
ValueThe most inexpensive EV on the market by a couple thousand dollars, the Spark EV is priced alongside popular compacts after you factor in the Federal tax credit. Its 3.3 kW charger, however, is slow and will cost you at pay-per-hour charge stations.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Except for some upgraded premium equipment mentioned below, this Spark is built like any other. Not too far out of line once you mentally factor in the tax credit, though.
Aside from the EV powertrain you get automatic climate control, a 7-inch touch screen media interface, adjustable lumbar, heated mirrors and a few other things the gasoline Spark doesn't have.
The Spark EV LT2 costs $28,630 before you factor in the $7,500 Federal tax credit. Total outlay is down near the purchase price of a gasoline-powered compact. A gasoline Spark LT2 costs $17,210.
Light weight helps this EV to a decent 82-mile range, and it's easy to better that with prudent driving. We made it 105.5 miles on one charge and passed 90 miles a couple of other times.
Basic warranty is 3 yrs/36,000 miles, but the powertrain is covered for 100,000 miles, which is a good long time for an electric vehicle that can't make cross-country trips.
The Spark's big flaw is its 3.3 kilowatt on-board charger, half of competing EVs. So it recharges in 7 hours instead of 3.5 on 240V; you'll pay double at public stations that charge by the hour.
Fun To DriveIt's no sports car, but the light and nimble Spark EV is a bit of a kick to drive, even if you're holding back and trying to maximize range.
The Spark EV has enough oomph to get going easily, and it feels eager in turns. Mix in the utter smoothness of electric drive and you've got a nice runabout.
It's tiny, cute and bug-eyed, which makes it a sort of rolling cat video. But, let's face it: Some of the people smirking in the next lane are not laughing with you.