Used 2013 Chevrolet Spark Review

Edmunds expert review

The diminutive 2013 Chevrolet Spark is a solid choice for first-time buyers and city dwellers thanks to all-around economy, plentiful features and youthful spirit.




What's new for 2013

The 2013 Chevrolet Spark is an all-new model.

Vehicle overview

These days, more and more automakers are offering small, fuel-sipping cars that are affordable and ideal for urban use. General Motors has entered the game with the all-new 2013 Chevrolet Spark.

Built in South Korea, the new Chevy Spark is one of the least expensive cars on the market. It's also one of the smallest. The Spark is 14 inches shorter than the Chevrolet Sonic, the next smallest car in Chevy's lineup. And while the Spark might look peculiar with its relatively big body and small wheels, it packs enough personality and available features to fend off any perception as an econo-pod. As a fun palette of unconventional exterior colors suggests, the Spark is cheap but cheerful.

Inside its cabin, the Spark displays a simple, clean design with enough chic sculpting and color flourishes that help you overlook the hard plastic surfaces. And while the base model is somewhat spartan, it comes standard with power windows, air-conditioning and a radio. Higher trim levels offer additional electronics and convenience niceties, although they come at price points that are within striking distance of more desirable hatchbacks.

In price and personality, the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is one of the best subcompact choices. The base model costs far less than the Fiat 500 and Scion iQ, and the Spark's four-door body style adds a bit of extra practicality. It lacks the Fiat's style and the Scion's parking ease, however. We'd also suggest looking at more traditional hatchbacks, since the Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio are more substantial and appealing to drive. But the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is tops at the bottom line and refined enough to make you proud of your new ride.




Trim levels & features

The 2013 Chevrolet Spark is a small, four-door hatchback offered in LS, 1LT and 2LT trims. Features from the upper trims are not available as options on supporting models.

Standard LS features include 15-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, power windows, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a trip computer, OnStar telematics and a four-speaker radio with an auxiliary audio jack.

Opting for the 1LT trim adds power-adjustable mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, floor mats, the MyLink touchscreen interface, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls, a six-speaker audio system with USB/iPod integration, satellite radio and Internet radio from integrated smartphones.

The 2LT top trim adds foglights, roof rails, sporty front and rear fascia treatments, chrome exterior trim, faux leather upholstery, front heated seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.



Performance & mpg

Powering the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is a 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 84 horsepower and 83 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission.

Chevrolet estimates a Spark with a manual transmission will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds. We tested an expectedly slower automatic version, which took 12.2 seconds. Compared to average subcompacts, the Spark trails them to 60 mph by 1-2 seconds. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 32 city/38 highway and 34 mpg combined for the manual and 28/37/32 mpg for the automatic.

Safety

Standard safety features on the 2013 Chevy Spark include four-wheel antilock brakes (front discs, rear drums), hill-hold assist, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat knee airbags. 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 Edmunds brake testing, a Spark 2LT stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, about an average distance for this class of car.

Driving

With only 84 hp -- less than many motorcycles -- it's clear that the 2013 Chevrolet Spark is not intended to excite or inspire. To its credit, there's adequate acceleration for merging onto freeways when the manual transmission is in place. The shift throws are unusually long in order to reduce effort, yet the well-spaced gates make for precise gearchanges. Given its expected fuel economy-minded programming (meaning early upshifts and reluctant downshifts), the automatic Spark can feel lazy unless you have a heavy foot. In fairness, though, the automatic's gearchanges are very smooth and it steps down fairly quickly provided you floor it.

On appearance alone, the Spark's somewhat tall body gives the impression of a European cargo van left too long in the clothes dryer. Thankfully, it doesn't drive like one, as it's fairly agile around corners given its economy car role. Although the Spark is far from a sport sedan, this small Chevy still manages to deliver well-mannered driving characteristics overall. Road and wind noise are noticeable, but no more intrusive than in other cars at this price point.

Interior

The 2013 Chevrolet Spark features a simple, modern interior accented by color-accented dash and door panels. Hard plastic surfaces are about what you'd expect in an affordable hatchback, but the Spark offers some well-textured elements that suggest otherwise. Sporty gauges add further visual interest, featuring both a traditional speedometer and a digital multifunction display.

The available MyLink touchscreen also adds to the Spark's modern vibe with sharp graphics and intuitive menus, although it's not without faults. The screen sometimes fails to register inputs and requires repeated taps, but it's far better than the MyFordTouch interface. The hollow, flat sound quality from either the base or MyLink audio systems leaves much to be desired.

The upright position of the front seats might foster the impression that you're sitting on the car rather than in it. The seats also lack any worthwhile lateral support, although most body types will find them comfortable enough for long stretches of time. The rear seats are better suited to smaller passengers, however, as low seat cushions and headrests will likely draw complaints from average-sized adults.

Behind the rear seats, 11.4 cubic feet of cargo can be crammed into the narrow space. Folding down the rear seats isn't a simple affair, as the seat cushions must be flipped forward and the headrests removed before plopping down the seatbacks. After doing so, however, a fairly flat cargo floor and a more accommodating 31.2 cubes are provided. For larger items, the 2LT trim provides a functional roof rack.

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.