Inexpensive and cheerful in its personality, the 2019 Chevrolet Spark has been redesigned slightly for the new model year. The four-door hatchback has automatic emergency braking as a new option on 2LT versions. Some versions wear a new grille, headlights, and fascia and get new wheels. New daytime running lights appear on 1LT and 2LT versions. Chevrolet’s new infotainment system, with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, is standard along with two USB ports.
The Spark comes in base LS, mid-level 1LT, and top-rung 2LT trim levels. Also available is the Spark Activ, sporting unique body cladding and slightly taller ride height, but otherwise differing little from its mates.
All versions have front-wheel drive, propelled by a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 98 horsepower. A 5-speed manual gearbox that shifts neatly is standard. Most buyers are likely to choose the alternative, which is a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
A surprising amount of advanced active-safety technology is available â€“ considerably more than expected in this class. All collision-avoidance features are optional rather than standard fare, but at least they exist. Rear parking sensors are included with the 2LT trim.
Crash-testing has been limited. The NHTSA has not tested the current Spark. The IIHS gave the 2019 Spark a â€œGoodâ€ rating for its moderate-overlap frontal test and for side-impact, but that insurance-funded agency has not conducted any further testing.
Prices do not include $875 destination charge.
The Spark LS ($13,220), the base-model hatchback, has roll-up windows, manual door locks, and hubcaps on 15-inch steel wheels. Yet, standard features include GM’s OnStar, 4G LTE wi-fi, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto compatibility. Cloth upholstery and a 5-speed manual transmission are standard.
1LT ($15,120) adds power windows and locks, heated mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry and 15-inch alloy wheels.
2LT ($16,620) includes rear parking sensors, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and keyless ignition. It’s the only Spark available with automatic emergency braking, bundled into a Driver Confidence Package with forward-collision warnings and lane-departure warnings.
Spark Activ ($16,220) builds upon the 1LT version, with a taller suspension for slightly elevated ride height. Standard equipment includes heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rack, unique grille, foglights, and automatic headlights.
A continuously variable transmission (CVT) adds $1,100 to the Spark price.
The Spark looks pert and perky with its short hood and tail. The slightly more rugged Activ edition, sitting nearly an inch higher than other Sparks, adds a bit of visual flair. Without all-wheel drive, that model won’t be tackling many off-road trails.
Viewed from the side, the Spark’s abbreviated tail and short overhangs are familiar city-car elements. Even though it measures only 143 inches overall, the Spark’s 94-inch wheelbase is actually rather long for its class. That differential helps improve its proportions.
Roomier inside than its exterior size suggests, the Spark provides surprisingly good space for four passengers. Chevrolet’s smallest model makes good use of its compact cabin, and outward views are good.
The Spark feels well-constructed, but could use a bit more space. When four riders are aboard, those in back are likely to sit close. With only 33 inches of back-seat legroom, adult passengers probably won’t clamor for a long-distance journey. At least, wide-opening rear doors ease entry/exit.
Though basic, the cabin cannot be called gloomy. Depending on trim level, firm seats may be upholstered in a variety of joyful fabrics and patterns, or with synthetic leather. Painted plastic trim fits right in.
All versions have a big 7.0-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, which sits high on the dashboard and functions well.
Cargo capacity is slim. With rear seatbacks upright, the hatch opens to reveal 11 cubic feet of cargo volume. Folding those seats expands space to 27.2 cubic feet. That’s about the amount of space available in a typical compact hatchback with seatbacks unfolded.
The 2019 Chevy Spark feels more mature than its minuscule proportions might suggest. Even so, it’s more suitable for around-town driving than for extended highway treks.
Performance is tepid from the small 4-cylinder engine. The little engine works hard, which cuts into fuel economy. The CVT keeps the engine in its powerband, but that amplifies powertrain noise in the cabin.
That doesn’t mean a Spark is dull to drive. In fact, it can be a delight when whipping around town.
Quick steering helps provide a lively experience when rolling through curves, though it might start to feel more like a go-kart than an automobile. A Spark also feels surprisingly refined â€“ not a common trait among minicars. Because of minimal dimensions, it can squeeze into parking spots that some other small cars cannot manage.
Easy urban maneuverability is among its merits, which is typical of pint-size cars. Ride comfort falls somewhat short, conveying a “busy” sensation on rough pavement.
Gas mileage is good, but not the best among Chevy’s new cars. With the CVT, the 2019 Spark is EPA-rated at 30/38 mpg City/Highway, or 33 mpg Combined. The standard 5-speed manual gearbox is EPA-rated similarly, at 29/39/33 mpg.
The 2019 Chevrolet Spark can be a great urban minicar that’s easy to park and maneuvers adeptly. The base (LS) model is indisputably basic, while a Spark can become rather costly with options added. A Spark 1LT with a manual transmission is an inexpensive, practical compromise tailor-made for city dwellers with few parking options.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.