Photo by Mike Antich.
Despite lower fuel prices, fleet managers are continuing to examine vehicle downsizing options. For those looking to downsize from a compact to smaller vehicle segment, one option is the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Spark, which was unveiled at the 2015 New York Auto Show.
I had an opportunity to drive the first-generation Spark and can make a first-hand comparison between it and the second-generation 2016 model, which are dramatic.
First, the all-new 2016 Spark is completely redesigned, with new available safety features and a lighter, more efficient powertrain.
The second-generation 2016 Spark is longer, lower, and more powerful than its predecessor. It has a longer wheelbase and is 1.6-inches lower than the outgoing model, giving it a sleeker exterior appearance. The lower profile reduces aerodynamic drag to help improve fuel efficiency.
To compensate for the 1.6-inch height reduction, the new Spark maintains the same headroom as its predecessor model by lowering the seats. Sitting in the driver’s seat of the 2016 model, the interior feels spacious.
Another benefit to the longer wheelbase and stiffer new frame is that it has enhanced the Spark’s ride and handling. The new stronger body structure has allowed engineers to tune ride and handling more precisely, for greater feeling of control and refinement. This was readily apparent after spending the first day driving the Spark in urban traffic.
Photo by Mike Antich.
The 2016 Spark is powered by an all-new 1.4L engine that is part of GM’s new, global family of Ecotec small-displacement engines.
The bigger 1.4L Ecotec four-cylinder engine produces 98 hp, which is 14 more horsepower than the outgoing 84 hp, 1.2L engine. While not a huge amount of horsepower, it provides a noticeable improvement in acceleration over the previous model’s powertrain.
The new engine is built with an aluminum cylinder block and head, which helps reduce the vehicle’s overall mass to enhance performance and efficiency. The cylinder head also incorporates an integrated exhaust manifold, which further reduces weight – an attribute that contributes to increased vehicle efficiency and a more favorable front-to-rear weight balance, for a more responsive driving experience.
A 5-speed manual transmission is standard and a dual-range continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available with the new 1.4L.
The EPA ratings for the 2016 Spark is 31 mpg city/41 mpg highway, with a combined fuel economy rating of 35 mpg.
The Spark comes loaded with passive and active safety features. It has 10 standard air bags, a rear camera, and rear park assist. Also offered are blind-spot detection, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, side blind zone alert, and a rollover sensing and protection system.
In summary, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark has a lot going for it – new available safety features, an all-new, more efficient powertrain, and additional technology typically not offered in its segment.