Thursday, April 25, 2024

We Drove a 2015 Chevrolet Spark Halfway Across The Country

2015 Chevrolet Spark road trip

I've long had a soft spot for the Chevrolet Spark. When I reviewed the 2013 Spark 2LT  over 11 years ago I said, "... it’s an impressive inexpensive car with lots of personality. In fact, I’m quite smitten with the Spark." A couple years later, my mother-in-law purchased a 2015 Spark LS, aka Sparky. Things have changed since then and she no longer needs it. So, we recently drove it back from Wisconsin to our home in Oregon, some 2,170 miles, and will sell it. So what's it like to drive an A-segment car halfway across the U.S.?

Tiny Highway Hauler

Chevrolet Spark at gas station

The Spark with its 1.2-liter 84 horsepower engine isn't a rocket ship, but it only weighs about 2,300 lbs. My mother-in-law's is an LS model and equipped with the CVT. We started out getting 37 MPG right out of the gate. However, we encountered fierce 35-40 MPH headwinds across southwestern Minnesota and South Dakota. This dropped our mileage to about 29 MPG going about 70 MPH.

Surprisingly, the car cruises quite happily at 70 MPH (even into a headwind). It's not too bad at 75 either, but above that, you feel like you're wringing it out. 

Luggage in Chevrolet Spark

We had a fair bit of luggage, as we had flown from a camping event in Texas, so we had two roller bags, a large Ortlieb bag with camp gear, camera equipment, and computers. The Spark's hatchback configuration allowed us to get all this stuff in it. We stacked things on the back seat and that worked well; we also had some gear in the tiny rear cargo area. Despite everything, it was a pretty light load. 

Life in the slow lane isn't anything new to me, so we held our speeds to 70 or 75, even when the speed limits climbed to 80. This also helped with the fuel economy. More on that in a second. 

More Comfortable Than Expected, Sorta

Driving the Chevrolet Spark

The Spark has always felt more substantial than the Mitsubishi Mirage. We should know; we owned one. Part of that is due to the Spark's much larger 185/55/15 rubber vs. the Mirage's puny 165/65/14 Dunlop Enasaves. The highway ride was never terribly punishing either. The caveat? After 10+ hours of driving, both our butts were pretty sore. The seats were, however, more accommodating than our old Mirage's, which became uncomfortable after about 30 min. So after being in the Spark for multiple hours, big dips in the road would send shockwaves through our derriers.

We both found the Spark's interior to be minimal, versatile, and fun. The LS trim doesn't have a USB port but it does have an aux jack (which we didn't use). There are lots of cubbies and places to stash phones, sunglasses, and beverages. 

Overall, the Spark did far better on the highway than I expected. It was actually a great little road-tripper. 

Frugal Fuel Economy

The Chevrolet Spark getting fuel

After getting MPGs in the high 20s across South Dakota and Wyoming, I didn't think we'd hit the upper 30s again. However, I was wrong. Once we lost the headwind, our fuel economy skyrocketed. In fact, at one point we nabbed a tailwind. This took our MPGs into the low 40s. We were able to get as high as 42 MPG on a couple of tanks and even reached 50 MPG rolling through Spokane, WA. I employed a little hypermiling technique and got behind semi trucks and pickups pulling big trailers. I wasn't up close, but close enough to reap fuel economy benefits. 

This spark has a tiny 9.2-gallon fuel tank. This meant fueling up was not only cheap but fast. We never put more than 8.2 gallons into Sparky, by the way. We were able to get more than 300 miles of range, which was also excellent. Frankly, Sparky was making me miss owning a true subcompact vehicle. 

A Subcompact Corner Carver

Driving the Chevrolet Spark in the corners

Sparks from this era were surprisingly fun to drive in the corners. The 185mm-wide tires and quick steering make this a rather entertaining "slow car fast" experience. The only time we really got to experience this was coming down mountain passes in Montana and Idaho. While we'd get passed by many other cars and trucks going up the hills, we could catch them in the corners going down. There was a lot of grip and good steering feel. It would've been more fun with a manual transmission, but so be it: it still handled well.

Soon To Be Sold

2015 Chevrolet Spark hatchback

As endearing as Sparky was on our subcompact culture cross-country road trip, the car is destined for a new owner. We don't need the car at this point. It only has a tick over 25,000 miles; it's the quintessential "old lady" car. My mother-in-law only drove it around her town in Wisconsin to get groceries, visit friends, or go to church. It's got nearly new General tires, a fresh oil change, and was recently inspected by the dealership. We had zero problems with it over our 2,170-mile trip, and Sparky is going to be a great car for someone else. 

Our time with this little car reminded me how much I enjoy small cars, even if I don't own a true subcompact car anymore. If I were in the market for one, I might just take a look at the used Spark market and get one with the five-speed manual. In 2013 I said I was smitten with the spark, and 11 years later, that still holds true. 

The Chevrolet Spark is small

No comments: