Cars - Chevrolet

Road tests and reviews of the latest Chevrolet models available in South Africa

We look at whats new in Chevrolet's 2016 Spark model range

2016 Chevrolet Spark

By Franky Johnson

Chevrolet introduced a redesigned version of its Spark city car at the 2015 New York Auto Show . Updated to Chevy’s revised design language, the 2016 Spark is now more aerodynamic, more powerful and better equipped, thanks to a range of extensive updates inside and out.

The Spark started life in 1998 as a Korean-designed city car (anyone still remember the now defunct Daewoo?) powered by a 0.8-liter, three-pot and assembled in nine countries. Launched as the Daewoo Matiz, it was sold under different names globally, including as the Chevrolet Matiz, Chevrolet Spark or Pontiac G2. Revised in 2003, the subcompact retained most of its styling features and drivetrain components until 2007, when a brand-new model was developed on GM’s Gamma platform.

As one of Chevrolet’s most global vehicles, the 2016 Spark will be offered in more than 40 markets around the world including South Africa.

“Chevrolet is fast becoming one of the world’s most important mini- and small car manufacturers, offering customers around the globe a new road to the refinement, efficiency and connectivity features that resonate with them,” said Alan Batey, president, GM North America and Global Chevrolet.

“The redesigned 2016 Spark builds on a strong legacy and takes the segment to a higher level with features and technologies not typically offered.”

The new Spark has a sleeker appearance, thanks to a slightly longer wheelbase, and an overall height about 1.6 inches (40 mm) lower than the current model. The lower profile reduces aerodynamic drag to help improve efficiency and interior changes maintain the Spark’s traditionally generous headroom.

It is also built on an all-new, more robust architecture that serves as the foundation for its more sophisticated driving experience. The stronger body structure enabled engineers to tune ride and handling more precisely, for greater feelings of control and refinement, while fostering a quieter ride.

The new Spark has pretty big shoes to fill, as its predecessor has been a massive success, with more than 1.1 million units sold globally since 2009. With the new model, Chevrolet hopes to draw young and first-time car buyers into its South African dealerships.

The most obvious exterior change is the new front fascia, which updates the Spark to Chevrolet’s current styling language. Gone are the massive headlamps that stretched from the upper edge of the lower grille all the way to the A-pillars, replaced by sleeker, horizontal units. The trademark "dual-port" grille has been restyled into a sportier element with chrome surrounds. The lower piece stretches lower into the apron, replacing the previous thin air dam. The fog lamps retained their positions at the sides of the bumper, but received redesigned surrounds.

Rear fascia changes are equally dramatic, starting with a completely redesigned hatch that now has a smaller glass area and more angular taillights. The bumper no longer features the diffuser-like element of the previous car, but sports a trapezoidal character line and a small splitter underneath.

On the sides, the city car gained a new character line across the front door and handle, while the rear-door crease defining the shoulders is more prominent and it extends into the taillights. The biggest news here, however, is that Chevy lowered the Spark’s height by 1.6 inches, which resulted in reduced aerodynamic drag and improved fuel efficiency, on top of making the hatch look a lot sleeker. I definitely prefer this new body over the previous box-on-wheels design.

The Spark also received three new "bold colors" with the new styling: Toasted Marshmallow, Kalamata, and Splash.

Chevrolet says the cabin features "upgraded materials and greater attention to detail, including everything from the higher-quality fabrics to higher-density seat foam that enhance comfort and durability, add sophistication." The all-new instrument panel includes an advanced LCD display, while the center stack, likely as tiny as in the previous model, incorporates an upgraded infotainment system and climate system controls. The round air outlets have been replaced by trapezoidal ones for a more dynamic appearance.

The 2016 Spark also got a new MyLink radio with a capacitive-touch display that allows smartphone-like swiping, pinching, and other gestures for easier operation. The already familiar OnStar with 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi hotspot can be had as an option.

Despite lowering the roof, Chevy claims it managed to maintain the ample headroom of the previous model and comparable roominess front and rear.

A range of new safety features are also offered, including Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Spot Alert, a rear-view camera system and rear park assist (optional).

Under the hood, the 2016 Spark comes with a new Ecotec, 1.4-liter, inline-four rated at 98 horsepower (torque figure isn’t yet available). The 1.4 replaces the previous 1.2-liter four-banger with 84 horses and 83 pound-feet of twist. With the added power and revised internals, the Spark should now be able to hit 60 mph in about 10 seconds, a half-second quicker than last year’s model.

Transmission options include a five-speed manual and a CVT.

With a spacious interior and available high-tech features, the previous Chevy Spark was quite the deal for a subcompact. It was inexpensive without feeling cheap and its 1.2-liter delivered excellent fuel economy. That didn’t make it perfect though, as the styling wasn’t exactly appealing and the engine was rather underpowered compared to the Fiesta’s. For 2016, Chevy not only improved the Spark inside and out, but also added a new engine that’s both more powerful and fuel efficient than its predecessor. Yeah, it’s still slower than its competitors, but the lower starting price should balance the lack of performance.

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