Chevrolet pulled the covers off its new 2016 Spark – twice, in fact, with simultaneous debuts at the auto shows in both New York and Seoul.
The Korean-made minicar has been defying recent trends that have seen sales of small passenger cars slump in light of the drop in fuel prices. Demand for the Chevrolet Spark has risen by nearly a third so far this year after a 14.7% jump in 2014.And with the overall minicar segment expected to grow by 30% by 2018, GM sees even greater opportunities.
Though the 2016 Spark retains its basic, tall hatchback shape, GM has adopted a “sleeker, more aerodynamic profile and a progressive take” on the outgoing model’s basic design cues. That fits into efforts to win over young urban buyers who want something small but not necessarily a basic econobox.
“The new Spark’s design has evolved and grown up with the segment,” said Michael Simcoe, GM International vice president of Design. “The youthful whimsy of the original Spark is still in its genes, but it is conveyed in more traditional proportions that reinforce the customer’s refined expectations.”
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The 2016 Chevrolet Spark replaces its anemic little 1.2-liter engine with a new, aluminum 1.4-liter package mated to either a 5-speed manual or CVT. It makes 98 horsepower, and while it may not sound like much that 16% bump is a lot for a car not much bigger than a Smart car. Chevy estimates the 2016 Spark will deliver around 40 mpg on the highway.
The new model rides on a more rigid chassis and Chevy suggests that will yield both a stiffer and quieter ride.
The new minicar also gets a more refined interior, with improved materials and a number of new tech features, including the latest version of the MyLink infotainment system which now features a seven-inch touchscreen – and new physical buttons for volume and other controls.
There also are a number of new safety features. The rearview camera is now standard, while buyers can opt for forward collision alert, lane-keeping assist and blind spot detection.
(For our complete coverage of the 2016 NY Auto Show, Click Here.)
The Spark is the smallest car Chevrolet has ever sold in the United States, and its introduction came after a number of years of debate. It originally was launched in Korea in 1998 by what was then known as Daewoo Motors, and sold as the Matriz. GM took over the failing Korean carmaker in 2002 and an updated version of the city car followed three years later.
It was soon exported to a number of markets around the world – a list that initially excluded the U.S. But in 2007, GM unveiled three concept versions, the Beat, Trax and Groove, hoping to test American interest. A pre-production version, renamed the Chevrolet Spark, was unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The production model debuted at the Geneva Motor Show two months later.
Today, it is available in 71 different markets, and the U.S. lags only South Korea in terms of annual sales. Since late 2001, Chevy has sold more than 1.1 million of the minicars.
That includes 1,144 Chevrolet Spark EVs sold in all of 2014. That was the first pure battery-electric vehicle GM has offered since the demise of the old EV1 two decades ago.
The maker has not confirmed plans for an EV version of the next-generation Chevy Spark. It has been focusing attention lately on another battery-based model it is planning to launch next year, the Chevrolet Bolt which is promised to deliver about 200 miles per charge, more than double that of the current Spark EV.
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