Fresh Sparks fly at Chev launch
FULLY KITTED SPARK LT: It's the top model with black alloy rims, remodelled front and rear skirts, metal body trim - and glorious leather upholstery. Image: LES STEPHENSON
Author: LES STEPHENSON
Chevrolet's little Spark, the spunky 1.2 hatch that's zoomed into the South African auto market over the past couple of years, is now not only being assembled here (in Port Elizabeth) but has also morphed into some new models.
There are now five ranging in price from R101 500 for the Pronto Van to R136 500 for the top-end, leather-upholstered, air-conned and metal-trimmed LT Sport with its full house of luxury features that, Chev claims, its competitors just can't match at the price.
LATEST GLOBAL STYLING
The five were introduced by six (fairly) well-known stars of Safrican stage, screen and TV in a running dialogue of a show at the Wave House in uMhlanga, near Durban, that eventually stripped the black cloth cover off each of the five new models.
GM SA has for the 2013 model year Spark adopted its latest global styling treatment but combined with that some local enhancements for interior and exterior trim and an extension of the model range upwards to include the top-level Chevrolet Spark LT specification and downwards (in a nice way!) to add “a unique urban delivery solution”, the Spark Pronto.
The result is a range of five budget-priced but very well specced small cars with an unmistakeable profile almost identical to their predecessors.
“Cosmetic improvements and enhanced specification aside,” GM adds, “the Spark continues to offer advanced vehicle dynamics with taut and responsive handling. At its heart is a body structure with a high level of torsional rigidity that provides a platform to mount the drive-line and suspension in a way that allows handling, stability and comfort to be optimised.”
GOOD OLD CAST-IRON
And talking of drive-lines, the engine in the 2013 cars – all of them – is still the quad-valve, 60kW/108Nm fuel-injected four that that’s done the business in the Spark since 2010 though it’s now called S-TEC II and GM claims 4.5 litres/100km is possible, seven/100 more reasonable around town.
The block is good old cast-iron, the cylinder-head is an aluminium home for its high-tech trimmings and the whole lot drives through a five-on-the-floor manual transmission that, on the LT Sport I drove, had a very nice action indeed.
So, the underpinnings, anti-lock brakes, steering, chassis and basic body are common to each model though the head and tail lights have been re-styled and there’s a comprehensive mix of steels up front to cushion any on-road unpleasantries. Two or four air bags are supplied, depending on model.
GM happily admits to a 13.3sec stroll to 100km/h (at the coast) and a top speed of 164km/h with CO2 emissions at 129g/km, nine above the tax threshold. Frankly, I’d prefer higher gearing through the cogs – but then I suppose GM is catering for the mass-market that hums around like bees in a pot-holed hive up in Gauteng.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Gauties and the Coasties could have a choice...?
WHAT THEY'VE GOT...
So, that’s what the Fabulous Five have in common; what’s the difference between the models inside their 3.64m long, 1.597m wide and 1.522m tall shells? Well...
Starting with the Pronto van, (R101 500) the rear seats have been removed, protection and security bars fitted across the rear windows and behind the two seats, and the resulting space lined. The drive train is the same as the other four models, aircon and anti-lock brakes are standard, but you’ll need to hook up your own radio (or have the dealer do it for you). No power windows or other luxuries but you can have the Pronto for only R89 000 if you’re registered for VAT business benefits.
The Spark Campus (R106 100) is the basic four-passenger model at R106 100 and is minus rear wiper, roof rails and radio; like the Pronto it runs on 14” steel rims shod with 165/65 rubber (only the LT Sport has 15” alloy rims and 165/60 tyres).
The standard Spark (R113 600) adds central locking and an alarm as well as a radio and CD front-loader with MP3/aux/RDS/USB.
The Spark LS (R123 000) adds alloy rims, front fog lights, read LED lights and rear red reflectors, remote-controlled central locking, adjustable steering wheel, power (and heatable) external mirrors, power front windows, steering-wheel radio controls and a digital data display right of the steering wheel.
The Spark LT (R136 500 and a local development) is perhaps the best deal of the lot at the price: with it come rear power windows, rear parking radar, side air bags, single trapezoidal exhaust poking through a stylish skirt, black alloy rims, mirror turn repeaters, black panels on the roof and bonnet, metal trim around the front fog lights and a redesigned front bumper assembly with a deeper lip.
Oh yes, and three different combinations of really cool leather and cabin finishes. Does that make for a smart small car, or what?
The LT Sport pack adds four air bags and the black roof and boot decals at a cost of R3100.
2013 Chevrolet Spark models/prices
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 Campus - R106 100
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 - R113 600
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 LS - R123 000
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 LT - R136 500
Chevrolet Spark Pronto van - R101 500 (R89 035 ex-VAT)
All prices include VAT and CO2 Tax.
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 and 1.2 LS: Change standard 14” steel wheel to 15” alloy – R1800
Chevrolet Spark LT: Sport decal package - R3021.
Chevrolet Spark LT: 15” black painted wheel – R800
Warranty on all models five years or 120 000km.