For today’s review, I wanted to accomplish two things; first, find the cheapest car available at a dealership around me and two, find the least powerful car currently on sale. So, after searching through all the domestic and import manufacturer websites on Friday night, the cheapest and the least powerful car I could find was the 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS with an automatic transmission. On Chevy’s website, the 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS automatic has a starting MSRP of $13,580, but, the least expensive 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS with an automatic I was able to find had a sticker price of $14,405. Now, the logical question is “what do you get in a car for such a low price?” Well, the answer is, as many of you may have already guessed is, “not a lot”. With that being said, it is time to find out exactly what do you get in a car with such a low starting price. So, lets get started, shall we?
What’s New for 2015
The Chevrolet Spark receives no changes for the 2015 model year because an all-new 2016 Chevy Spark is set to go on sale starting in January 2016. To be completely honest, even if there were any minor changes made to the 2015 model, I wouldn’t have noticed it because in order to meet my set goals mentioned above, I decided to drive the most basic 2015 Chevrolet Spark model available in my area.
The 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS automatic I drove over the past weekend was the most basic model available in my area. However, because we Wisconsinites are prone to suffer with muddy footwear during the fall, winter and spring months, my “most basic” Chevrolet Spark LS was optioned with a set of all-weather floor mats ($130). Aside from this, my car had little to talk about. But hey, at this ridiculously low starting price, did you really expect to find a lot of optional features and accessories to begin with?
Engine Features and Fuel Mileage
All 2015 Chevrolet Spark models are fitted with a 1.2L ECOTEC, DOHC 4-cylinder engine with (Variable Valve Timing) VVT and (Multiport Fuel Injection) MFI. The engine is powerful enough to produce 84 horsepower and 83 lb.ft. of torque. All of the power from the engine is routed to the front wheels via a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). When combined, the drivetrain pulls this 2368 pound hatchback to 60 mph from 0 in a very relaxing 11.0 seconds and reaches its max velocity at 103 miles per hour.
The EPA certifies the 2015 Chevrolet Spark with an automatic at 30 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. Unfortunately, the best fuel mileage rating I was able to achieve on my combined city and highway test drive was a disappointing 27 miles per gallon. But, I reckon the reason why I achieved such a low mpg rating was because I was literally flooring the car to keep up with rest of the traffic on the highway and to add insult to the injury, the base 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS does not offer cruise control (which is available on the higher trim models). So, if you want to achieve fuel efficiency ratings in the low to mid 30’s, then I would recommend that you either buy a model with cruise control or avoid the highways altogether. However, if you do get on the highway, don’t expect to go long distances between fill-ups because the fuel tank in the 2015 Chevrolet Spark can only hold 9.2 gallons of regular unleaded fuel.
My 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS with an automatic felt fine while I was driving around town at speeds in the 30-40 mph range. But, when I hit the highway during my test drive, things started to get really interesting and unstable as the speed crept up to the 55-60 mph range. While I do enjoy driving fast in the left lane, I decided not to risk it with the Spark and stayed in the right most lane and was constantly looking for an exit to get back onto city streets and eventually back to the dealership.
The suspension of the Chevrolet Spark is the most basic setup you will find in today’s auto industry. Up front, you will find the usual MacPherson struts. But out back, the suspension is comprised of a compound crank unit, which is even worse than a torsion beam unit when it comes to absorbing road imperfections. On smooth road surfaces, the suspension units do a good job of keeping the car planted to the ground. But, on slightly worn out roads with small potholes, you will feel every single road imperfection as the suspension struggles to cope with the road conditions.
The brakes in the 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS with the CVT are power assisted with front discs and rear drum units. At low speeds, the response from the brake pedal is acceptable, but on the highway, make sure to leave ample amount of space between you and the driver up front because these brakes won’t stop this sub-2500 pound compact hatchback on a dime.
The standard wheels available on the 2015 Chevrolet Spark LS are 15 inch, 5-multispoke silver-painted aluminum rims, which are wrapped with P185/55 R15 all-season rubbers on all four corners.
Overall, at low speeds in the city, the Spark is a very stable and competent vehicle. The steering unit is electronic and provides good feedback from the front wheels to the steering wheel.
The Chevrolet Spark was designed with city driving in mind and has an acceptable amount of oomph for an occasional, short journeys on the highways. Though the driving dynamics and drivetrain responses are less than desirable, I highly doubt it that other people will be pushing their Chevy Sparks to the limit as I did to see how it measures with other cars in this price range which have more power and overall stability.
If you live in a crowded city with very small parking space, then the 2015 Chevrolet Spark is the right vehicle for you. However, I will highly recommend that you do avoid the base model that I drove for this review. Yes, $13,580 sounds like a very good price for a car, but trust me, this car is not worth it. But, if you are hellbent on purchasing an inexpensive, small hatchback with good fuel efficiency ratings and want something from a domestic manufacturer, then I would recommend that you either look at the Spark in a higher trim level or even its slightly more expensive brother, the Chevrolet Sonic (which is available in both sedan and hatchback forms).