Sunday, December 29, 2013
2013 Subcompact Culture Car of the Year: Chevrolet Spark
Yes, 2014 is right around the corner, and I got to thinking: What small MY2013 car impressed me most, and what if Subcompact Culture had a car of the year award? If we did, what vehicle would win? It would have to be something important. Something that changes things. It would have to be something that has gone against the norm and embraces the spirit of Subcompact Culture: That means the vehicle isn't afraid of being small and going big. So, for this first-annual Subcompact Culture Car of the Year, I'm selecting the 2013 Chevrolet Spark.
We reviewed the Spark in January of 2013, and found that it is a vehicle that is small and proud. The '13 model had one powerplant—a 1.2-liter four cylinder making 84 hp and 84 lbs./ft. of torque. And while it isn't fast, it makes the most of its double-digit power. It never feels gutless (at least with the manual transmission), has surprisingly good highway manners for being such a little thing, and is fun to drive. Inside the Spark, you'll find a modern, attractive design. From the motorcycle-inspired gauges, to the touch-screen infotainment system, the Spark is a modern yet affordable vehicle for certain. It blends new technology and low-cost frugality better than any other subcompact offer for sale in the U.S. during 2013. Plus, it doesn't look like a bargain-basement vehicle inside or out.
The Spark has proved that Americans will buy an A-segment car as long as it's practical and priced right. The Spark is a four door where all other A-segments on the U.S. market are two doors. The Spark runs on regular fuel, whereas the Smart ForTwo and Fiat 500 drink premium. There aren't any gimmicks to the Spark. There's no retro styling, no funky seating configurations, and no wonky driveline. It can seat four adults and has a door for each person. It's the return of the affordable micro five-door,and it has exceeded General Motors' sales expectations. The Spark even caught The New York Times eye (and yes I was quoted there), and they wrote a story about how the vehicle has been "a surprisingly strong seller."
It isn't perfect. We dinged the car for certain cheap-feelnig bits, such as the ignition cylinder, the rudimentary folding rear seats, a substandard sounding stereo system, and somewhat thin feeling underpinnings. But its pros far outweigh its cons, and Chevrolet has proved that an American company can market and sell a small subcompact with less than 100 horsepower, and sell a lot of 'em. We understand why. The combination of styling, affordability, frugality, practicality, and size are appealing for a lot of buyers.
So for these reasons, I am naming the 2013 Chevrolet Spark the Subcompact Culture Car of the Year. And while I have no trophy, no plaque, and no certificate, I think it's important that someone recognizes the achievements and strides being made in the small car world. So, congratulations Chevrolet Spark—you're the first Subcompact Culture Car of the Year.