2016 Chevrolet Spark EV Hatchback Review

Stout performance and competitive pricing make the 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV an intriguing option for an urban runabout, but you need to plan around its long recharging times.




what's new

Unlike the standard Chevrolet Spark, which received a complete redesign for 2016, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV carries over unchanged. Additional availability in Maryland is the only difference.

vehicle overview

Electric car ownership is no longer the wild frontier it once was when Toyota introduced the first RAV4 EV nearly 20 years ago, or when Tesla offered its proof-of-concept roadster almost a decade ago, or even when Nissan introduced the Leaf just six years ago. Today, EVs are a viable alternative to gasoline-powered cars, available in flavors ranging from full-size luxury (Tesla Model S) to urban minicar, like the 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV.

One of the chief concerns of any EV shopper is the car's range. Will it get me there? Will it leave me stranded? Where can I replenish it with enough charge to get me to Point B, and how long will that take? The Spark EV offers 82 miles of electric range, about the same as other compact/subcompact EVs, and about enough for most round-trip suburban commutes.

Topping up the battery is another matter, though. The Spark EV isn't exactly swift when it comes to replenishing its batteries. Charging from a standard 110-volt outlet can take up to 20 hours, while sipping from a 240-volt outlet requires about seven hours. The latter is still within the window of most overnight home-charging scenarios, but it's still something to consider. The Spark EV uses a 3.3-kilowatt onboard charger while most competitors offer faster 6.6-kW chargers. Fortunately the Spark EV offers a DC fast-charge option, which can replenish 80 percent of the battery in about 20 minutes, but finding the correct charging port can be difficult.

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV did not receive the same styling updates as the standard Spark models.

The Spark EV is swifter in its performance, however. It's one of the quicker electric cars we've tested, needing just 7.5 seconds to reach 60 mph. Its size and weight distribution also make it surprisingly adept when the road twists and turns.

Note that while the gas-powered Chevrolet Spark offers an all-new design for 2016 (new look, different dimensions), the Spark EV retains its predecessor's design. It's also still in limited release as it's sold in only three states: California, Oregon and, for 2016, Maryland (where the Spark EV's motor and drive unit are manufactured, incidentally).

If you live in other states, the Nissan Leaf is well worth checking out. It's slower, but offers a roomier cabin, similar range and well-established reliability. We also recommend the sporty Ford Focus Electric, the Volkswagen e-Golf or, for those in California, the Fiat 500e. Overall, though, we think the Edmunds.com "B-rated" Spark EV is worthy of a look if it's available to you.

trim levels & features

The 2016 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 and entry, remote start, cruise control, air-conditioning, power windows/side mirrors/door locks, a height-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats, a 60/40-split folding rear seat and a tilt-only steering wheel. Electronic features include a 7-inch touchscreen, OnStar telematics, in-car WiFi (4G LTE), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, smartphone app integration, Siri Eyes Free voice-recognition capability and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod interface.

The 2LT trim adds leatherette premium vinyl upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

A DC quick charger is optional for either trim level. Connected to the proper power source, a Spark EV fitted with this option can recharge its batteries to 80 percent of capacity in 20 minutes, Chevy says.

The Spark EV may be small, but it feels roomy inside thanks to the tall roof.

performance & mpg

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV is an electric vehicle powered by a 105-kilowatt electric motor (140 horsepower and 327 pound-feet of torque). Power for the motor comes from an 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. 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 and a full charge in 45 minutes) but only if you have easy access to a faster DC charger.

The EPA rates the 2016 Spark EV for 82 miles of driving range on the combined city/highway driving cycle. This is just a few miles shy of the range estimates on the Fiat 500e and the Nissan Leaf. The EPA also rates the Spark EV's energy consumption at 28 kWh used per 100 miles (the lower the kWh number here, the better), which is slightly more frugal than most rivals.

We last tested a 2014 Spark EV, and it accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 7.5 seconds against Chevrolet's estimate of 7.2 seconds.

safety

Standard safety features for the 2016 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. OnStar's services include automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance.

In Edmunds testing, a 2014 Spark EV stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet, which is a shorter-than-average distance for an electric car.

The Spark EV gets a unique interior to complement the pure electric drivetrain.

driving

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV's quick acceleration is one of the first things that stands out. Most EVs can feel snappy around town thanks to the nature of their electric powertrains, but other than some luxury-branded EVs, you're not going to find anything much quicker than this Chevy.

With its compact wheelbase and a low center of gravity from its battery pack, the Spark EV feels solid and composed going around turns. Its highway ride is also very civil — unusual for a car with such a small footprint — with minimal choppiness and road noise over seams and ruts. The Spark's regenerative braking system is also more receptive to range-extending driving techniques, like cruising with your foot off the accelerator pedal, than some competitor systems.

interior

The interior of the 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV is minimalist at best, but there's a refreshing simplicity to the dashboard's clean lines, the unique instrument cluster and the large central touchscreen.

The Spark EV's gauges differ from the conventional Spark's to better suit the data unique to electric propulsion. Simple graphics illustrate the battery pack's state of charge and remaining driving range, for example. The standard MyLink touchscreen infotainment system features sharp graphics, intuitive menus and strong smartphone app integration that includes Internet radio, text message translation, voice commands and available navigation. Like similar systems, however, the screen sometimes fails to register touch inputs, which can be frustrating.

Thanks to the Spark's tall roof, the cabin feels spacious and roomy, especially for those up front. The front seats are comfortable enough to sit through 82 miles of range with the lack of a telescoping steering wheel the only real drawback.

Those in the two-passenger rear seat also enjoy a refreshing amount of headroom, but there isn't an abundance of legroom or hiproom. The rear seatbacks offer a 60/40 split, but because of battery packaging, 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 total capacity.

One of the Spark's biggest drawbacks is its slow charging rate. Some other EVs charge twice as fast off a 240-volt plug.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.