Will the Spark fly?
HAVING wowed motorshow crowds with its hydrogen fuel cell-powered Volt, Chevrolet's attempt to grab a piece of the citycar action is called the Spark.
Don't expect too much by way of groundbreaking design or next generation propulsion systems though. The Spark is far more traditional in its approach than its electrically charged colleague, the key advantage it does have being that you can actually buy one.
Spark customers don't get any pricey diesel options but they do have a couple of small petrol engines to choose from. The 1.0-litre unit develops 67bhp and for more urgent performance, there's an 80bhp 1.2-litre.
These are modern powerplants with alloy cylinder heads, double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.
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A multi-port fuel injection system works to optimise the combustion process, getting the maximum for each drop of unleaded. A five-speed manual gearbox comes as standard on all the Spark models.
The Spark is 3,640mm long and 1,597mm wide, so it's less dinky than committed citycars like the smart fortwo or Toyota iQ but on a par with other models like the Ford Ka and Citroen C1 which still attempt to offer a realistic four person capacity with a usable boot.
There's a definite MPV aspect to the Spark's shape, with its flat sides and high roofline helping to make even more of the space available.
It's far from frumpy though, with huge headlights, a narrow glass area and a deep front bumper that curves around the car's nose blending with the bulbous wheelarches.
A jagged 'lightening bolt' line cut into the flank is the signature styling feature.
The cabin area has some engaging features like the instrument cluster that sits on top of the steering column which takes its design inspiration from that of a motorcycle.
All of the controls are illuminated in a fetching electric blue when the headlights are turned on and there's the usual array of storage features including a centre console with cup holders and a pot for MP3 players or mobile phones.
Top class safety credentials are a difficult thing to achieve in a small car but the Spark's designers used a number of clever methods to get the results they were looking for.
To marry the needs for impact protection and light weight, the Spark is built from high strength steel of varying stiffness.
The structures are robust where they need to be and less so in other areas to channel impact forces away from the occupants.
Running costs are obviously crucial in any citycar and the Spark's compact petrol engines should deliver the goods. Emissions of the 1.0-litre car are pegged at 119g/km and combined cycle economy is 55mpg.
There are more economical small cars out there but the Spark holds its own and its reliance on petrol power keeps upfront costs down.
Small and economical looks like being the prevailing mantra for the car market in the foreseeable future.
There's a lot of interesting and innovative stuff happening with citycars and small MPV type vehicles as manufacturers respond to demand for shrinkage in the cost, emissions and dimensions of what we drive. The Chevrolet Spark is another contender in this market.
There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about it but with sharp looks, low costs and decent safety credentials, it should be in with a shout.