2016 Chevrolet Spark First Look
Chevy thinks smaller: 2016 Spark is lower and longer
The all-new 2016 Chevrolet Spark has bigger plans than the stage in New York City. It's a truly global pint-sized Chevy that will be sold in more than 40 countries around the world.
Its debut in America brings the 2016 Spark center stage in a U.S. market where Chevy sold 39,000 units last year. Perhaps America really isn't ready for a surge in subcompacts and microcars. The rest of the world, however, appears to want more of them. Since the Spark's initial launch in 2010, Chevy has sold 1 million of them around the world. That may not be catching fire enough for Katniss Everdeen, but it should certainly quiet any mockingjays.
The second-generation Spark does show some significant signs of improvement. It's longer, lower, and more powerful. Although final specs have not been released, the bowtie brand says the new Spark has a longer wheelbase and is 1.6 inches lower than the outgoing model. The lower roof may have caused some problems for people in the second row, but designers also lowered the passenger hip point. The longer wheelbase and stiffer new frame should enhance the Spark's ride and handling.
More important, Chevrolet has added a new 1.4-liter Ecotech four-cylinder engine that will create 98 hp -- a 16 percent increase over the outgoing 84 hp, 1.2-liter engine. Power was an issue with the previous model, especially if you wanted to cruise on the highway or just drive up a hill. The new engine will be mated to either a five-speed manual transmission or a CVT. If Chevy's claims of additional efficiency are true, then the new Spark should top the outgoing model's 31/39 mpg city/highway fuel economy numbers.
The exterior design continues to keep that Spark shape with elongated headlamps and body that resembles a 20-sided die from Dungeon & Dragons. Now, however, the sides are smoother and refined.
The interior continues to feel spacious with lots of room and a very open cockpit. Chevy designers say they added higher-grade materials that should improve the quality and durability of the Spark's interior. The instrument panel was replaced with a more sophisticated-looking one and the most recent version of the Chevrolet's MyLink radio with capacitive touch display.
Because extra-small cars tend to overcompensate to alleviate Americans' claustrophobic anxiety of crashing in a tiny vehicle, the Spark comes loaded with passive and active safety features. It has 10 standard airbags, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert. It also comes standard with a rear camera and rear park assist. (Though do you really need assistance when parking a car that is slightly larger than a hot dog vendor's cart?)
What the Spark lacks in size it certainly makes up for in improvements. Its more mature design, better choice of materials, and performance enhancements should turn what was a decent contender before into one that's much better in the future.