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Funky new Spark driven

2010-07-27 07:28
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Chevrolet
Model Spark
Engine 1.2-litre 16-valve
Power 60 kW @ 6 400 r/min
Torque 108 Nm @ 4 800 r/min
Transmission Five-speed manual
Steering Power steering
ABS Yes
Price Spark L - R 115 495; Spark LS R 125 495

Author: Hailey Philander

 
The all-new Chevrolet Spark is cute, stylish and a breath of fresh air in a cluttered and bustling entry-level segment of the South African car market.

The new Spark’s design is eye-catching with its doe-eyed headlamp cluster, split grille with a horizontal bar bearing the signature Bowtie. The profile shows off striking creasework around the rear wheelarches, while the disproportionately large, round rear lights mirror the large headlamps.

Rather than being an attention-grabber, the tailgate spoiler serves an aerodynamic function, the manufacturer claims, while the concealed rear door handles give the Spark the flattering appearance of a three-door.

Driving the new Spark is a rather pleasant experience. A single powerplant is offered across the range, and the 1.2-litre 16-valve seemed perfectly at ease on the mix of suburban and city streets it was faced with on the launch route.

It generates 60 kW at 6 400 r/min and 108 Nm of torque 4 800 r/min although the four-cylinder powerplant is a hard work, chugging along to inputs made via the five-speed manual transmission. Packaged within a lightweight and extremely contact body, the engine made light work of tugging the Spark out of even the most taxing inclines.

Not surprising though, considering the Spark’s dimensions of 3 620 mm (length), 1 522 mm (height) and 1 597 mm (width). So, the car is hardly a barge, but you’d struggle to see that from the cabin.

The interior belies the Spark’s compact stature – the car sits on a wheelbase that is 2 375 mm long and the cabin’s packaging results in little-car space that feels a lot roomier than it probably is.

Rather than inadvertently nudging your passenger in the ribs, you’re a lot more likely to gently brush his or her knee, instead. Other than that, the clearly defined driver and front passenger spaces ensure there’s not too much mixing of the air up front.

Chevrolet claims the space has been “optimised” to handle the demands of five occupants. As long as there’s no need to pile their goods into the boot, of course. It’s tiny!

Luckily, its 170-litre capacity is the worst of it. The rear seats split 60/40 when extra space is required and there are several storage spaces littered across the cabin, including cup holders, storage bins for smaller items and seatback pockets for those seated in the rear.  

Two specification levels – L and LS – are used again on offer, with the lower-specced L coming standard with colour-coded bumpers, power steering, air conditioning, rear windscreen demister and wiper, intermittent windscreen wipers, a tinted front windscreen, airbags for driver and passenger and a swanky radio.

The LS adds colour-coded door handles, heated power windows, ABS and EBD and autolocking doors, amongst other goodies.
An interesting feature in both models is the motorcycle-inspired instrument pod located on the top of the steering column and the digital device provides important information while a “regular” analogue speedometer is attached.

GMSA wants to spark a revolution with the all-new Spark, with group marketing manager Brian Olsson saying the local subsidiary now believes it has the “right vehicle for the South African market”.

Somewhat cheap and definitely cheerful, the new car faces stiff competition as it prepares to enter the local market from August 1. I’ve yet to drive it, but by accounts, Ford certainly has set the cat amongst the pigeons (although, admittedly the Spark is slightly smaller but all-new). Chevrolet, however, sees Toyota’s Yaris as the Spark’s top rival. We’ll have to sit on our hands to see how this little tussle plays out.

Prices: 
Spark L - R 115 495
Spark LS R 125 495


As an aside, the previous generation Spark continues in the GMSA profile as the Spark Lite to contest the important sub-R100 000 segment.


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