The Chevrolet Spark is fine for pootling round town, but its limits become more obvious as speeds rise
Feels a bit cheap and base models miss out on steering wheel adjustment
Six airbags but Euro NCAP crash test results fall short of most rivals'
Feels solid enough but poorly rated in JD Power owner survey
More practical and comfortable than many rivals
You have to opt for the more expensive trims for decent kit
The Spark is pleasant enough to drive. It feels smoother on urban roads than some city cars do, although it does tend to lurch a bit if you drive it too quickly round sharper corners. The steering is is well weighted at low speeds but it becomes heavier than it should do when parking. Neither of the two engines is particularly quick but they have enough gusto to keep up with city traffic, and they cope okay with motorway driving if you're prepared to rev them hard to get up to speed. This does make them rather noisy, but they're fine once they settle down. However, the steering becomes light at speed, which makes the Spark feel nervous on faster roads, and there's a dead zone around the straight-head position which means there's no response at all until you make bigger moves with the steering wheel. While wind and road noise are noticeable at speed, generally the Spark is no less refined than its rivals.
Forward and rear visibility are good and the Spark's seats are supportive, though limited adjustment for driver's seat and steering wheel means some people may still struggle to get comfortable here. The cabin is smartly styled and very user-friendly but too many hard plastics affirm the fact that this is a budget car. The front seats are roomy enough but the rear seats are short on space, making them more suitable for children or small adults. The boot is pretty small, too, and there's an awkward high lip you have to lift your stuff over, but you can fold the rear seats to expand the load area if necessary and there are some useful stowage areas in the cabin. Entry-level LS cars cover the basics, including front electric windows, a CD player and a USB point, and key-operated central locking, but you need to upgrade to LT trim for four electric windows, remote central locking and air-con. LTZ trim adds electric rear windows, alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, two more speakers, audio controls on the steering wheel and electric door mirrors.
The lightweight interior plastics make the cabin feel rather flimsy, so it's not hugely surprising that owners reported the Spark's interior as 'below average' in the 2013 JD Power ownership satisfaction survey; the car didn't rate any higher for mechanical reliability, and both the Spark and Chevrolet came bottom in the whole survey. However, the Spark does come with a five-year warranty that includes servicing, roadside assistance and MoT test cover. There are six airbags with every model (including curtain 'bags for the rear), plus Isofix points on the outer rear seats, but only top-spec cars get stability control as standard and the Spark achieved only four out of five stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP, which is below par compared to newer rivals.
The Spark is okay as an urban runabout but it's short of space in the rear and in the boot, so its practicality is limited. What's more, the better equipped models look pricey compared to rivals such as the VW Up/Seat Mii/Skoda Citigo trio, and they're better in most other ways, too. That said, there should be discounts available from Chevrolet dealers, and the Spark should be cheap to insure, though 55.4mpg is hardly class-leading and re-sale values aren't anything special, either. The fact that the Spark finished last out of 116 cars in the 2013 JD Power owner satisfaction survey is also a major cause for concern.