Tooling Around Town - 2013 Chevrolet Spark - First Drive

While we here at "Drive...He Said" prefer the Indian market name of "Beat" and aren't looking forward to compact disc withdrawal, on a recent afternoon we "tooled around the Windy City" in Chevrolet's entrant into the city car race, the 2013 Chevrolet Spark.

A zesty Jalapeno Green launch color, which extended to the interior dash and door trim, had us anxious to see if the Chevy Spark was more than just another hum-drum Asian A-category destined for overseas airport rental lots.

Though the Chevrolet Spark is made overseas [by Korean arm, Daewoo]  it's suited for wide American bodies and pitifully narrow and divot-filled American city streets. Sure, 84 hp and 83 lb-ft of twist from a 1.25-liter four-cylinder gas engine won't shred tires off this bantamweight. But short final drives fitted to either the five-speed manual or optional four speed automatic gearboxes permitted merging onto Lake Shore Drive without frantic arm waving.

Aiming our volunteer Chevy Spark 2LT at some asphalt craters yielded minimal shudder and no noticeable hop from the torsion rear suspension. Another revelation is the isolation from external noise. Raise the power windows in the Spark, rev up the engine, and hushed conversations are possible.

Dedicated to the "Save the Manuals" crowd, the clutch action in the Chevy Spark is light, though the shifter action is less direct. Since ease of sawing the steering wheel is a priority during parallel parking battles, the Spark's low effort  is commendable. Not so the lack of precise steering feel. Running out of fingers to count the times we were cut-off in our trot around town, the brake boost assist of the Spark's front vented disc, rear drum ABS combo came in handy.

A less-upright shape would have improved the "middling" 34 miles per gallon of projected combined fuel economy for the diminutive Spark. Instead, the two 6+ foot companions, who can fit in the back seat, will thank you.

Chevrolet predicts that the youthful appeal of the Spark won't  be lost on Millennials who flock to congested city neighborhoods.  Starting at $12,995, the base Spark LS manual includes such decadence as power windows, ten airbags, a cabin air filter, a motorcycle-themed analog speedometer with attached LED gauge cluster, tilt steering wheel, a driver's arm-rest, hill-start assist and 15" alloy wheels.

A reasonable $1500 move up to the Spark 1LT notably buys the "MyLink" 7" touch info-tainment control / video playback screen. Some "smart" devices look intuitive but aren't. My-Link looks simple and is. Featuring just three soft buttons, you can skip the user's guide. As the first GM vehicle to courageously dispense with the CD player, Pandora and Stitcher streaming music is included. Smart-phone users can download a multitude of favorite "apps" via Bluetooth. Capping off the MyLink cool and convenience factor is the BringGo smart phone navigation app, set to be released for the Chevy Spark by year's-end.

Could it be that the city car is finally destined for "some respect" on our shores?

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