Road Test: 2013 Chevrolet Spark 2LT
Siri is my co-pilot. The Chevrolet Spark leveraged my iPhone 4S to make Apple's virtual assistant my driving buddy and pack the minicar with features that vehicles costing far more can't match.
The inexpensive and fuel-efficient Spark is the first vehicle to truly integrate a smartphone's functions so drivers can use them without being dangerously distracted from the road.
Spark prices start at $12,185. The four-door, four-passenger hatchback has an 84-horsepower 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine. The base model comes with a five-speed manual transmission.
The Spark competes with small cars like the Fiat 500, Scion iQ and Smart Fortwo.
Chevrolet developed Siri Eyes Free with Apple to let the driver use Siri safely for phone calls, text messages, Internet services like Pandora and TuneIn radio. To prevent distracted driving, features requiring the driver to look at the phone are automatically disabled when the car is moving.
When I told the Spark to call a local restaurant, it searched the contacts list on my phone, didn't find the name, asked if I wanted it to search the Web, found the restaurant and called it in about 30 seconds. The system also works with some phones that use the Android operating system.
A number of other automakers are working with Apple, but Chevrolet is the first to get Siri Eyes Free on the road.
Telecommunication revolution aside, the Spark is a pretty good little car. It's a good value with plenty of passenger room, eye-catching looks and good fuel economy. The passenger compartment is roomy and comfortable. Its 11.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat provides room for a few grocery bags. That's more space than the 500 and iQ, slightly less than the two-seat Fortwo.
The interior uses lots of hard plastic but offsets its budgetary limitations with bright colors and an attractive design. The gauges borrow from the look of some high-performance motorcycles.
The ride is a bit bumpy, but the Spark is very maneuverable in parking lots and fast traffic.
The five-speed manual transmission of the car I tested struggled to wring good acceleration from the small engine. The Spark has less power than the 500 and iQ, but a transmission with more gears could offset that.
If the Spark's mechanical systems can reach the same level of excellence as its electronics, Chevy's mini car will leave the competition in its dust.
2013 CHEVROLET SPARK 2LT
Base price: $12,185
Price as tested: $15,085
Engine: 1.2-liter direct-injected turbocharged DOHC variable-timing 16-valve four-cylinder
Power: 84 horsepower at 6,400 rpm; 83 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm
EPA fuel economy: 32 mpg city/38 highway
Wheelbase: 93.5 inches
Length: 144.7 inches
Width: 62.9 inches
Height: 61.0 inches
Curb weight: 2,237 pounds
Bottom line: A good little car