GENEVA--Formerly known for its big SUVs, GM now thinks small cars are a great idea and is planning three models that slot below the Malibu in its lineup over the next three years. The all-new Chevrolet Spark comes out in 2011, a redesigned Aveo in 2012, and the Cruze--replacing the current Cobalt--later this year. GM gave us a chance to drive the Chevrolet Spark in Switzerland after the Geneva auto show.
GM already launched the Spark in Europe last year, where it serves as an ambassador for the Chevrolet badge. Not many Europeans have experience driving Chevrolets, and the tiny Spark should create a positive impression, given European automotive predilections. We drove a European-spec Spark, which has a less powerful engine than what will be offered in the U.S.
The Spark is a funky-looking little car, with dimensions reminiscent of the Honda Fit. The headlight casings look over-sized and are set into the fenders of the snub-nosed front-end. The grille carries the now-standard cross-bar bearing the Chevrolet bow-tie and an aggressive-looking air scoop sits in the lower fascia.
With rear wheels pushed to the far back corners, the doors take up the sides of the vehicle, with hidden C-pillar door handles giving the Spark a futuristic look. Front side windows dip down into the fenders, accentuating a generally busy design. Given the small palette, the busyness of the design may be intentional to from the size of the car.
All of these style elements make the Spark stand out in a way that will probably be polarizing to Americans. As such, Chevrolet maintains modest projections for sales in the U.S. According to GM, it hopes that the Spark achieves cult popularity, similar to the Scion xB.
Despite its size, the Spark didn't feel cheap when we got into it. Sure, the dashboard and door panels were made of hard plastics, but Chevrolet used a fine, cross-hatched texture that looks much better than the pebbled surfaces of old. The glossy panel around the radio has a subtle carbon fiber design, and the steering column-mounted instrument cluster is comprised of a traditional speedometer and digital display. … Read more