The 2015 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.
For 2015, the Chevrolet Spark now comes standard with an enhanced version of OnStar with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that provides Internet connectivity for up to seven mobile devices. Otherwise, the Spark is unchanged from last year.
As more subcompact cars have arrived in the United States, a handful of extra-small, lower-priced models have emerged that offer effortless maneuverability and easy parking. The 2015 Chevrolet Spark, which is about 14 inches shorter than Chevrolet's subcompact Sonic, is one of the more inviting models in this group.
The Spark, which is built in South Korea, is one of the least expensive cars you can buy. Yet it offers an attractive list of standard features. Power windows, alloy wheels and air-conditioning are standard on even the lowest-priced version. And higher trim levels provide some pretty useful features such as remote keyless entry, steering-wheel-mounted controls and an infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and voice recognition. Even in-car Wi-Fi is available.
As is to be expected in this class, the Spark's interior is pretty basic, but for this kind of car it's actually rather roomy and well-dressed. Much of that room is meant for passengers, so luggage space behind the rear seat is minimal, but the seat folds in a handy 60/40-split configuration. Under the hood you'll find a diminutive 1.2-liter engine that provides adequate acceleration.
The base version of the Spark costs far less than similar-sized minicars like the 2015 Fiat 500 or 2015 Scion iQ, and its four-door design offers more practicality. On the other hand, the Chevy lacks the Fiat's fab styling and the supreme parking ease of the even smaller Scion. Prices for the higher, better-equipped Spark trim levels, however, edge closer to those of larger, more desirable cars that offer more room and feel more substantial from behind the wheel. For these reasons, we suggest that you also look at the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Kia Rio. But if the Spark fits you and your budget just right, rest assured that, based on pricing and practicality, it's one of the best overall choices for a minicar.
trim levels & features
The 2015 Chevrolet Spark is a four-door, four-passenger, subcompact hatchback that's offered in three trims: LS, 1LT and 2LT. Also available is an all-electric version, the Spark EV, which we reviewed separately.
In addition to the safety features listed below, key standard features in the LS version include 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, air-conditioning, power windows, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a trip computer, Chevy's OnStar telematics system (including this year's new 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot features) and a four-speaker audio system with an auxiliary jack.
Opting for the 1LT trim adds power-adjustable mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power door locks, carpeted floor mats, steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls, an outside temperature display, a theft deterrent system, and the MyLink infotainment system, which includes a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice recognition, a USB port, smartphone app integration, satellite radio and six speakers.
Moving up to the top-of-the-line 2LT adds leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, heated front seats, foglights, heated power mirrors, roof rails and several exterior-styling enhancements, such as machine-finished gray wheels, sporty front and rear fascia treatments and chrome trim.
performance & mpg
The 2015 Chevrolet Spark is powered by a 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 84 horsepower and 83 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) optional. The Spark is front-wheel drive.
According to Chevrolet, a Spark with a manual transmission will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds. This is about a second slower than the average subcompact car. According to EPA fuel economy estimates, a Spark with a manual transmission gets 34 mpg combined (31 city/39 highway). With a CVT, it also gets 34 combined but 1 mpg less in city driving (30 city/39 highway).
Standard safety features on the 2015 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.
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' 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 2LT stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is average for this class of car.
From behind the wheel, the 2015 Chevrolet Spark surrounds you with a simple, clean and modern interior. It's dressed with color-accented dash and door panels, well-textured trim pieces and enough chic sculpting to help you overlook the hard plastic surfaces that are common in an affordable hatchback. Adding to the visual appeal are sporty gauges that feature both a traditional speedometer and a digital multifunction display.
The available MyLink touchscreen infotainment system -- which lets you connect your smartphone to the audio system via Bluetooth or a USB port or auxiliary input -- adds to the Spark's modern vibe with sharp graphics and intuitive menus. Apple iPhone users can use the voice-recognition system in Siri Eyes Free mode to make hands-free calls, play songs in the iTunes library and listen to, compose and send hands-free text messages. Available apps also let you stream Internet radio and provide full navigation functions and live traffic updates. Still, like a lot of similar systems, it's not compatible with all smartphones, and the touchscreen sometimes fails to register touch inputs, which can be frustrating.
Considering its small size, the Spark provides relatively spacious seating that most adults will find comfortable enough, 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 larger than many in the subcompact segment, the rear seats are best suited to smaller passengers. Average-sized adults will likely complain about the low seat cushions and headrests.
Behind the rear seats is a narrow, 11.4 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 31.2 cubes of capacity. But that's not a simple affair, as the seat cushions must be flipped forward and the headrests removed before plopping down the seatbacks.
As with its diminutive dimensions, the Spark's small 84-hp engine is intended mainly for urban or around-town use. That said, with the five-speed manual transmission, it still delivers adequate acceleration for merging onto freeways as well as good fuel economy. The shift throws of the manual transmission are unusually long to reduce effort, yet the well-spaced gates make for precise gearchanges. As of this writing, we've yet to test a Spark with the CVT.
The Spark's somewhat tall body fosters the impression of a European cargo van that's been left in the clothes dryer too long. Thankfully, the Spark doesn't drive like a van. Although it's far from a sport sedan, this small Chevy is remarkably agile around turns and manages to deliver well-mannered driving characteristics overall. There is noticeable road and wind noise, but it's no more intrusive than in other cars at this price point.