Used 2016 Chevrolet Spark Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2016 Chevrolet Spark is a solid choice for first-time buyers and city dwellers, thanks to its low price, diminutive size and plentiful amenities and safety equipment.
What's new for 2016
Subcompact cars arrived with force three decades ago. And while tiny cars have never gone away, their stars faded in the days of cheap gas and SUVs. Today, the pendulum has swung back to these extra-small, low-priced models that offer effortless maneuverability, easy parking and sensible entries into car ownership. The 2016 Chevrolet Spark, with newly available safety features and personal technology, is one of the more compelling choices in this group.
For 2016, the Spark sits atop a new chassis, which shrinks the car about 1.5 inches from bumper to bumper. Now 16 inches shorter than Chevy's next-largest car, the Sonic, the Spark takes downsizing seriously. The redesigned Spark actually loses a couple of inches of rear legroom, which is bad news only for the occasional passengers you might carry back there. The Spark also loses some height for a sleeker look, although this hasn't affected front or rear headroom; it still feels plenty spacious inside.
But Chevy also giveth where it taketh away. Instead of the preceding Spark's anemic engine, the new model features a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 14 more horsepower. While this doesn't translate into much better acceleration, it does give the Spark a little more zip around town.
Built in South Korea, the Spark is one of the least expensive cars you can buy. Yet it offers an attractive list of standard features like alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, and even in-car WiFi on the lowest-priced version. Higher trim levels offer even more useful features such as remote keyless entry, steering-wheel-mounted controls and heated seats.
The base version of the Spark costs far less than similar-size minicars like the Fiat 500 or Smart Fortwo, and its four-door design offers more practicality. Then again, the Spark lacks the Fiat's style or the Smart's maneuverability. Prices for better-equipped Spark trim levels start closing in on those for larger, more desirable cars that offer more room and feel more substantial from behind the wheel. We suggest also looking at the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Kia Rio. But if the Spark fits your taste and budget, it's certainly one of the best overall picks among minicars.
Fully redesigned for 2016, the Chevrolet Spark is the brand's most affordable car.
Trim levels & features
The 2016 Chevrolet Spark is a four-door, four-passenger, subcompact hatchback offered in three trims: LS, 1LT and 2LT. An all-electric version, the Spark EV, is also available and is reviewed separately.
In addition to the safety features listed below, standard features on the LS trim include 15-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, automatic headlamps, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt steering wheel, a trip computer, outside temperature display, Chevy's OnStar telematics system with 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, and the MyLink infotainment system.
MyLink includes a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a USB port, smartphone app integration, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a four-speaker audio system with an auxiliary jack.
Opting for the 1LT trim adds foglights, power-adjustable mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, carpeted floor mats, steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls, a theft deterrent system, and MyLink infotainment system with satellite radio and a six-speaker audio system.
Moving up to the top-of-the-line 2LT adds leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, heated power mirrors, roof rails, rear parking sensors, and several exterior-styling enhancements, such as machine-finished gray wheels, sporty front and rear fascia treatments and chrome trim.
Options for LT models include a sunroof, forward collision alert and lane departure warning.
A slightly smaller exterior size makes the Spark even easier to park, although rear-seat passenger space is even tighter than before.
Performance & mpg
The 2016 Chevrolet Spark uses a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque. It comes with either a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT (continuously variable transmission). This CVT features a unique design that can regulate engine power through one of two settings, rather than the single output design of most CVTs. One setting simulates lower gears when the driver demands quicker acceleration, while the other mimics higher gears for open-road cruising. All Spark models are front-wheel drive.
A Spark equipped with the manual transmission returns an EPA-estimated 34 mpg in combined driving (30 city/41 highway). Equipped with the CVT, those numbers rise to 35 mpg combined (31 city/41 highway).
In Edmunds testing, a CVT-equipped Spark accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 11.3 seconds, making it one of the slower cars in its class.
Standard safety features on the 2016 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. The OnStar service also provides automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance and stolen-vehicle assistance. For 2016, the Spark offers forward collision alert and lane departure warning as options on 2LT models.
In government crash tests, the Spark received four stars overall out of a possible five, which is based on a four-star rating for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side crash protection. In safety tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Spark earned the top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap front-offset impact collision test as well as a "Good" score for the side-impact, roof-strength and head restraints/seats (whiplash protection) tests.
In the IIHS's small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Spark earned a second-best "Acceptable" rating. Most other competing cars haven't done as well in this test as the Spark.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Spark LT stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet, which is average for the class.
The clean design of the interior makes the Spark feel more spacious than you might think.
As with its diminutive dimensions, the Spark's small four-cylinder engine is best suited for around-town use. A CVT-equipped Spark takes a bit more than 11 seconds to reach 60 mph (from a standstill) so highway on-ramp runs require some advance planning. As of this writing, we haven't tested a Spark with a manual transmission lashed to the new, larger engine. In theory, the CVT makes the Spark faster, so our expectations for improved performance from the five-speed are muted.
The 2016 Spark features a lower roofline than before, but a still-tallish body fosters the impression of a European cargo van left too long in the clothes dryer. Thankfully, the Spark doesn't drive like a van. Although far from a sport sedan, this small Chevy remains surprisingly agile around turns and delivers a well-mannered ride overall. There's noticeable road and wind noise, but no more intrusive than in other cars at this price point.
Up front, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark surrounds you with a simple, clean and modern interior, but it's hard to overlook the vast expanse of painted plastic bits, a common sight on cars in this price range.
The color-accented dash and door panels, well-textured trim pieces and chic sculpting help you overlook some of the hard plastic surfaces common to affordable hatchbacks. Sporty gauges featuring both a traditional speedometer and a digital multifunction display add visual appeal.
The MyLink touchscreen infotainment system — which lets you connect your smartphone to the audio system via Bluetooth, a USB port or an auxiliary input — adds to the Spark's modern vibe. It has intuitive menus, sharp graphics and a 7-inch touchscreen that supports smartphonelike gestures like pinching and swiping. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are new integrated features for 2016; the former lets you run your iPhone from the touchscreen in a familiar manner, while the latter does the same for smartphones using the Google-based operating system.
Considering its small size, the Spark provides spacious seating for most adults to get comfortable, even on longer drives. Still, the upright position of the front seats gives the impression that you're sitting on the chairs rather than in them, and there's no real lateral support. While the Spark's rear seats are larger than many in the subcompact segment, they're still best suited to smaller passengers. Average-size adults will likely complain about the low seat cushions and headrests.
The Chevrolet Spark is one of the least expensive cars on the market to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Behind the rear seats is a meager 11.1 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding down both sides of the versatile 60/40-split seatback provides a fairly flat cargo floor and a more accommodating 27.2 cubes of capacity. It's here where the new Spark is most noticeably downsized from before. With a shorter overall length and lower roofline, the 2016 Spark is down nearly 4 cubic feet of cargo capacity compared to the previous model. That shouldn't be a deal-breaker, as neither Spark features exceptionally generous cargo capacity, but it is something to consider when shopping this group of minicars.
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.