By on January 28, 2014

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior

Outside North America, this little blue pill of an A-segment car is known as the Daewoo Matiz Creative. It may look an obsolete computer peripheral (or a pregnant roller skate), but GM claims that the Chevrolet Spark has more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia. As a self-described technology lover, and card-carrying resident of the Left Coast, I had to check it out.

 YouTube Preview Image

The Spark EV starts its life in Changwon, South Korea where gasoline and electric sparks are built by GM Korea, which was once known as Daewoo. But the heart of the Spark comes from America. GM is building the permanent magnet motors in Maryland, and instead of LG batteries made in Korea (like the Volt) GM is using American-made batteries courtesy of B456 (formerly A123. I’m not making this up). For reasons we don’t understand, GM isn’t “doing a CODA” and shipping cars sans-drivetran to America for assembly. The plant in Maryland ships the batteries and drivetrain to Korea, GM Korea inserts it in the car and ships the completed unit back to the USA.

The Spark EV exists because of my home state of California. The California Air Resources Board has mandated that Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, GM and Chrysler make a total of 7,500 zero emissions vehicles available for sale by 2014 and 25,000 by 2017. By 2025, this number is expected to rise tenfold.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-006

Exterior

Overall length slots the Chevy between the two-door Fiat 500e and the four-door Honda Fit EV but the small Chevy is narrower than both by a decent amount. Like the Fiat and other small cars, there’s something “cartoonish” about the Spark that is endearing. It’s all about proportions. The headlamps, tail lamps and grille are all fairly standard in size, but they are large in relation to the overall vehicle. The Spark isn’t alone in this, the same thing can be said of the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and Fiat 500L.

Because small cars tend to value practicality in design, the Spark has a tall roofline and the wheels have been pushed as close to the four corners as possible. This mechanical necessity pays dividends in handling and interior space but causes the Spark to look unusually tall when viewed head-on.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-005

Interior

As with the gasoline version, the front seats are flat, firmly padded and offer little lumbar support. The hard plastics on the doors make for an uncomfortable place to rest your elbow, but there is a padded armrest in the center for the driver only. This isn’t unusual for compact cars, but electrification makes for strange bedfellows and the Leaf, Focus EV and Fiat 500e are direct competition that all offer more driver and passenger comfort.

Because of the Spark’s narrow width, the Chevy is a strict four-seater putting it on par with the 500e but one passenger behind the Fit, Leaf and Focus. It was surprisingly easy to put four tall adults in the Spark, a task that is more difficult in the considerably larger Focus because of its sloping roof-line. Still, passengers will be more comfortable in the Honda Fit which offers a bit more room for four, seating for five and more headroom all the way around. Despite the Leaf’s rear seat numbers being average, because of the way the seating position in the Leaf most people will find the Nissan roomier.

As with most gas to EV conversions, the Spark loses a bit of cargo volume in the process dropping 2 cubes to 9.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s slightly larger than the 500e, but a long way from the Leaf’s spacious 24 cubic foot booty. Unlike the Fiat 500e however, GM chose not sacrifice passenger footwell space for battery storage.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV MyLink-001

Infotainment

All Spark EVs get the same touchscreen head unit that is optional in the gasoline car. The system’s layout is simple, attractive and intuitive. Along the bottom of the screen sits a row of touch buttons for power, volume and a home button. After a week with Chevy’s entry-level system I was left wondering why every GM car can’t have this software. The system isn’t the height of modernity compared to uConnect or SYNC. It does not offer integrated voice commands, integrated navigation software or snazzy animations. This system’s claim to fame is in its simplicity and its integration with your smartphone.

Once you have an Android or iPhone paired with MyLink you can voice command your phone, your tunes, and anything on your device with the voice command button on the steering wheel. This means the mobile services provided my MyLink are limited to the app selection on your device. GM has taken another step that other manufacturers would do well to copy: integrated smartphone navigation. For $5 you can download the BringGo navigation app to your smartphone and the MyLink system will use the app as the processing engine and the car’s display as the user interface. This gives you a large, bright map with controls that look like a standard integrated navigation system coupled with the ability to pre-program addresses using the app before you get into the car.

In the Spark EV the MyLink system also handles vehicle charging control. You can choose to charge immediately, at a specific time, or you can program your electrical rates into the system and have the car charge when it is most economical. We of course get the typical power flow meter which is getting a little silly in the 21st century and a display that shows what percentage of your battery was used for driving, cabin heating/cooling and battery conditioning. Driving your Spark, or any EV, in a “polar vortex” will reduce battery life due to both cabin heating and battery heating.
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Drivetrain

Drivetrain

As with most EVs on the road power is delivered by a 3-phase AC motor connected to a fixed-speed reduction gear. EV’s don’t have a transmission in the traditional sense in order to reduce weight. If you want to go in reverse you spin the motor backwards and if you need neutral you simply disconnect the motor from the electrical path. Power output is rated at 140 horsepower and torque comes in at a whopping 400 lb-ft. (Most EV makers choose to electronically limit torque to reduce torque steer and improve battery life.)

Power is supplied by a 560lb, 21.3 kWh lithium battery pack located where the gas tank is in the gasoline Spark. As with the Chevy Volt, GM is taking the cautious path to battery preservation equipping the pack with an active heating and cooling system. That’s a stark contrast to the Nissan Leaf which uses a passive cooling system. Thanks to the lightest curb weight in the group (2,989lbs), the Spark scores 82 miles of EPA range and the highest efficiency rating of any EV to date. Depending on the weight of my right foot, my real world range varied from 70-100 miles.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Charging Port

For any battery, heat is the enemy. Especially when charging or discharging rapidly or when charging in hot desert climates. As a result I would anticipate that all things being equal, the Spark, 500e and Focus should suffer less capacity loss and battery degradation over time than the passively cooled Nissan Leaf.

The big news for 2014 is the world’s first implementation of the new SAE DC fast charging connector. I’m a bit torn on this twist in EV development. While I agree that the DC “combo connector” is more logical and compact than the competing CHAdeMO connector found on the Nissan Leaf and most EVs in Japan, there are already several hundred CHAdeMO stations in the USA and right now there is one SAE station. I’m told there is unlikely to be an adapter so this makes three charging standards on offer in the USA. One for Nissan and Mitsubishi, one for Tesla and one for GM and BMW (the i3 will use it as well.)

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Wheels

Drive

The biggest thing people forget about an EV isn’t charging related, it’s heat related. When you want to heat the cabin in a gasoline car you are using “waste” energy to do it. If you didn’t have the heater on, that heat would just end up dissipating via the engine’s radiator. Electric cars produce little heat when running and rely on resistive heating elements to heat the cabin and an electric air conditioning to cool the cabin. Heat pumps would be more efficient because they “move” heat rather than “creating” heat but so far the Nissan Leaf (SV and higher) are the only production cars to adopt this tech. In 50 degree weather on a 60 mile journey nearly 15% of the energy consumed went into heating the Spark’s cabin, while on my way home when it was 80 degrees only 8% of the energy was used to cool the cabin.

Thanks to a better weight balance vs the gasoline model and staggered tires, 185/55 front 195/55 rear, the Spark handles surprisingly well. Many have posited that this is simply a band-aid measure due to the weight shift in the car but all sources point to the Spark EV still being heavier in the front. This means the tire selection was likely done for handling reasons, which makes sense because the Spark beats the 500e in fun-to-corner metrics. The extra weight has also improved the ride in the small hatchback which, although still choppy on the freeway like many small hatches, it much smoother in EV trim. Steering is numb but accurate, a common complaint with EVs.

With 140 horsepower and 400lb0ft of twist routed through the front wheels, the Spark is probably the 2014 torque steer king. Is that bad? Not in my book. I found the effect amusing and perhaps even a challenge to control on winding mountain roads. The competition limits their torque output to reduce torque steer but in doing so they reduce the fun-factor as well as performance, something that really shows in the Spark’s 7.08 second run to 60, notably faster than the competition.

When it is time to stop the Spark comes up short. Stopping distances and fade aren’t the issue, it’s feel. The brake pedal is softer than average and the transition between regenerative and friction braking is probably the poorest, excluding the current generation Honda Civic Hybrid. When the system is entirely in friction braking mode (if the battery is full and you are going down hill) the brakes get even more vague, requiring more travel than when the system is regenerating to get the same effect.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-010

Pricing

At $26,685, the least expensive EV on the market excluding the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. For $27,010 the 2LT trim swaps cloth seats for “leatherette” and adds a leather wrapped steering wheel. That’s about the fastest and cheapest model walk in the industry. GM tells us that the DC quick charge port is an independent $750 option and it cannot be retrofitted to a Spark shipped without it. The Spark undercuts Nissan’s Leaf by nearly $2,000 and the Fiat by more than $5,000. While I might argue that the Nissan Leaf is more practical than the Spark, GM’s aggressive pricing screams value at every turn, especially if you lease. At the time of our loan GM was offering a $199 lease deal on the Spark with $1,000 down plus the usual miscellaneous fees.

The Spark’s main sales proposition for many is as a commuter car. When you factor in everything the Spark is the cheapest way to drive in California’s carpool lanes (you know, other than actually carpooling.) Despite not being less attractive than a Fiat 500e, less practical than a Nissan Leaf and less luxurious than a Focus EV, I’d probably pick the Spark.

 

GM provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.72 Seconds

0-60: 7.08 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 15.78 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average observed economy: 4.3 miles/kWh

Sound level at 50 MPH: 70dB

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88 Comments on “Review: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (With Video)...”


  • avatar
    vvk

    What really kills me is seeing that huge, heavy lead-acid battery under the hood. It is obvious that they took a conventional car and adapted electric powertrain to it. It is probably full of compromises and cost cutting measures like that.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My Leaf also has a 12V battery under the hood. It operates the accessories, and is necessary to ‘start’ the car. It also permits the car to be jumped if the lead-acid battery dies, or to jump other cars if needed. This battery is charged by the lithium-ion pack.

      I think all EVs have such an arrangement, so while surprising, it isn’t really a compromise.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Yeah, the Model S has a 12v battery, and I believe it’s been a source of problems for them. I’m a bit surprised they actually use a lead-acid lump instead of a more modern Li-Ion 12V: they’re lighter, store better, don’t offgas, and more compact.

        • 0 avatar
          E46M3_333

          And they have no capacity at -20°C.

          • 0 avatar
            Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

            Neither do lead-acid batteries, when their cases crack.

            http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/discharging_at_high_and_low_temperatures

            “The performance of all battery chemistries drops drastically at low temperatures. At –20°C (–4°F) most nickel-, lead- and lithium-based batteries stop functioning. Although NiCd can go down to –40°C (-40°F), the permissible discharge is only 0.2C (5-hour rate). Specially built Li- ion brings the operating temperature down to –40°C, but only on discharge and at a reduced discharge. With lead acid we have the danger of the electrolyte freezing, which can crack the enclosure. Lead acid freezes more easily with a low charge when the specific gravity of the electrolyte is more like water.”

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I don’t think they’re trying to HIDE the fact that the Chevy Spark EV is based on the conventional Chevy Spark. They have the same name and bodywork and such..

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        But adapting a gas car body makes it harder to optimize the EV design. At least that’s a common opinion among EV enthusiasts, and it has a lot going for it as far as hypotheses go.

    • 0 avatar

      As noted by SCE to AUX, the lead acid battery is common in electric cars.
      The Chevy Spark was designed from the beginning to be electrified, not just a lame conversion.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a FMVSS requirement, I believe. Vehicles are required to maintain lighting and brakes for a certain period of time in the event of traction battery failure. So you can’t just use a DC/DC converter to provide 12V power to accessories.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Thanks, Alex, for a balanced review.

    It is extremely unfortunate, for the EV manufacturers, to actually have fragmented a niche market further with three different charging plugs….didn’t these guys learn anything from other format wars?

    It weakens EVERYONE. The car manufacturers, the car users, the charger hardware manufacturers, the charging station business. It is beyond stupid.

  • avatar
    mjz

    The Spark is the only minicar to get an acceptable rating in the latest gov crash tests.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Interesting note about braking feel, but IMO in an EV if you’re touching the brakes unless absolutely necessary you’re doing it wrong. The idea is to drive one-pedal as much as possible, think ahead and let max regen slow you down, and only brake for safety or to come to a full stop.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Strangely enough, planning ahead and laying off the brakes as much as possible is the most economical way to drive an ICE car, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Indeed, since braking is just turning money into heat and dust.. However, with the strength of regen you get with an EV, it’s a bit more practical. The ICE equivalent would be to downshift and engine brake, but that adds wear and tear to the engine + trans.

        I’ve been told that the blending of regen and braking on the Volt isn’t bad, but I can’t really say since I drive it at all times in “L”, so by the time I’m engaging the actual brakes I don’t really care much about the feel.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    How did GM provide “one tank of gas for this review”? In a can next to the parking spot?

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    So, the ‘half-ass compliance car’ is actually a rather capable machine. And by GM of all folks. My internal GM Fanboy is beaming with pride.

    Wish these were rolled out nationwide. These would be immensely popular in parts of Florida, especially the Keys, the beaches, and high-income enclaves like the Villages where it would be a compelling alternative for wealthy retired residents who can already spend into the mid-teens on a fully-kitted street-legal customized electric Club Car.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      They probably lose money on them. FIAT supposedly loses $10,000 per 500e, that’s why they are limited to California right now.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Won’t happen while they can get CARB credits for ‘em. Which is a shame.

      I am not in the market for a Spark EV, but put 2 of its motors on the rear wheels of a mid-or-larger-CUV and at least 50 usable kWh of battery under the floor, and I’d be trading my Volt in as soon as they had one in black.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    How the hell do you play the video full screen?

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    Am I reading this right, an a-segment car weights ~3000 lbs? I get that EVs will be heavier with the battery but that seems huge. Pretty sure my Pontiac Vibe is more like 2700 and it’s gigantic by comparison.

    Thanks for the review, I think the EV market will get much more intriguing as the price continues to trend downward. The Leaf has already dropped a ton and seems like it will eventually get into direct competition with compacts. At $27k the Spark isn’t attractive. At <$20k it might start to get interesting.

  • avatar

    ALEX:

    Really enjoyed your video review. I watched it two days ago after driving the Cadillac ELR for a day.

    I still see no reason whatsoever to desire an EV without a gasoline generator backup.

    For the money, I’d have a nav/moonroof equipped Dart or Elantra GT.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      The 2014 Dart Limited is $22,995 and that baby is LOADED with equipment, heated leather seats/steering wheel, sunroof, etc. Plus it comes with the 2.4 now, so it can get out of its own way. Wish Alex would do a test review of one. Hey Alex…

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      An EV without a gasoline generator backup can be desirable in a 2+ car household. I would purchase an EV if it had the following qualities:

      The cargo capacity of my C-Max
      200+ mile range
      Big enough to carry a family of 4
      Under $30K (forget tax credits, I don’t care)

      One day these things will all happen and I will buy an EV. Until then, I wait patiently.

      • 0 avatar

        It doesn’t make ANY SENSE WHATSOEVER.

        What’s your goal? Saving money during the up-front financing or saving money over a long period of time by simply driving shorter distances???

        If you’re willing to accept such a poorly equipped vehicle, why not buy a Sonata or Dart GT – which will save you $8000 or more – that you could spend on gas and maintenance for 3 years?

        If a vehicle tells me its EV max range is “40 miles” I could only see driving it around Manhattan. For some people a pure EV is OK, but I won’t even look in that direction till range is closer to 500 miles per full charge. And YES – I do drive long range every now and then – in situations I can’t afford to stop for a supercharger.

        The ELR makes more sense as a Hybrid but the cost is INSANE. I can get a W221 Sclass for far less than $80,000. I could get a W222 with that kind of payment.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good review, Alex.

    Having lived with an EV for the last 16 months (2012 Leaf), here’s $0.02:

    The Spark has better instrumentation (so does the 500e).

    The Spark has better navigation (that cell phone app is cool). No nav could be worse than the Leaf’s.

    My Leaf is fitted with the CHAdeMO charging port, but on my car it will never be used. The closest CHAdeMO charger to me is 550 miles away; they seem to be clustered around certain cities. Tesla has done a much better job with their implementation. Like schmitt trigger said, the EV DC charging format war is self-defeating.

    The Leaf’s brakes are outstanding. GM should have done likewise.

    The Leaf may resemble a frog, but I prefer its looks, comfort, and roominess over the Spark. I’ve never liked “EV blue”, or those science project “EV” decals that seem to appear on every EV test car. But the low price of the Spark is attractive, putting squarely in the fight as an economical commuter car.

    One item to make clear: The Spark EV is only available in California and Oregon in limited quantities, which is a shame, because it could compete well against other EVs nationwide.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    A charger would be rated in kilowatts, not kilowatt-hours.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I’m surprised that no mfr has found a way to use propane to heat the passenger compartment instead of using up precious battery power. I used to have a small camping heater that used disposable propane bottles, and it seems that something like that would make EV operation in cold weather more feasible.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      As one who has to use propane to heat their house; you will only be adding “propane anxiety” to “range anxiety.” Seems we always run out in the middle of the night.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Considering your idea, I’m estimating I’d consume about 15 lbs of propane a month, given the cold weather and heating consumption of my Leaf during the worst part of winter.

      While such a scheme would improve battery range, it introduces a host of engineering, packaging, safety, and cost issues that make it untenable for an EV. It would also cost much more to operate than just using the battery, and the ‘dual-fuel’ nature of the vehicle would make it a pain for most consumers.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        These past 3 weeks in Pittsburgh were probably a good test of your Leaf’s heating system – how did it work for you?

        When I was buying my ’13 Malibu, a young lady and her family took purchase of a ’13 Spark; a goofy-looking, lime green roller skate – but the girl was giddy with excitement as they announced her purchase over the outside loudspeaker, and her family piled into the little clown-car.

        Had that been a Spark EV, I may very well have been their second customer that day…

        I’ve always had the thought that a properly-designed ethanol heater would be a good idea in the very coldest of weather as a “supplement” to the heat pump – but you’d need reasonably-priced fuel; liquor store prices are a bit high ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      As a former EV owner I have to add my EV heater story: I had a 1981 Jet Electrica 007 that had a gasoline-fired Espar (the brand name) heater mounted on the firewall. There was a 3-gallon plastic tank for the gas in place of the regular full-sized tank, fed from the standard filler neck location.

      When I got the car, it came with a repair estimate of over $1K just to fix the heater. I got in touch with the former owners, and they told me that in the winter, the car got about 20mpg when that heater was in operation!!!

      I never fixed the heater BTW. Ended up selling the car when I got laid off from my job 3 miles away and the new job was beyond the range of that car (20-50 miles depending upon battery temperature and terrain).

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Here’s another EV heating technology being developed by MIT:

      http://www.technologyreview.com/news/513466/novel-heating-system-could-improve-electric-cars-range/

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Already been done. The 1976 Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar used a propane heater, with the bottle (Bernz-O-Matic torch size) by the passenger’s feet.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Do EVs use a heat pump or resistance heater?

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      An EV with propane heat wouldn’t be a “zero emission” vehicle which would kill its appeal with a lot of EV fans (IMO)

  • avatar
    segfault

    Do I see three coolant tanks under the hood? Weird, I guess they have something to do with the active cooling for the battery.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “The Spark EV starts its life in Changwon, South Korea where gasoline and electric sparks are built by GM Korea, which was once known as Daewoo.”

    THANK YOU ALEX. There are still some people on this site who insist on continuing to call GM Korea Daewoo. Apparently these are the same people who continue to call Exxon “Jersey Standard.”, and Istanbul “Byzantium.”

    • 0 avatar
      BigOlds

      I find it hard to believe that anyone in this day and age would do that. I mean really, who doesn’t know it’s called Constantinople?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Probably around the same time people stop saying “its Bush’s fault” so round about, never.

      Seriously though you are correct but I suspect when they stop acting like Daewoo people will stop referring to GM Korea as such. This Spark while having some merits looks completely ridiculous and “Daewoo”, the model was even sold as the Daewoo Matiz until 2011 until GM decided Daewoo models were Chevrolets, which is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. Future GM Korea offerings may dispel the stigma but if Chevrolet continues to offer 21st century equivalents to “Geos”, I’ll have no choice to call it as I see it.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Like I said, there *appear* to be at least 4 “MyLink”/”IntelliLink” systems:

    1. The not-particularly-nice system in the Acadia, Enclave and Traverse (Lambdas). These vehicles were given nothing so much as a heavy facelift for MY2013, and since their electronics architecture wasn’t replaced with the new Global-A system, they cannot support the *real* MyLink/IntelliLink setups, so they make do with a modular head unit similar to the previous one in the 2007-2012 Lambdas.

    2. The system in the Spark and Sonic, mentioned here.

    3. What I would consider to be the *original* MyLink/IntelliLink, this is the one with the shiny, rectangular icons. It’s seen on the Cruze, Camaro, Equinox, Terrain, Malibu, SS, Verano and Encore…and probably something else, too.

    4. The CUE-based system with the circular or rounded-square icons. It looks like this one wears separate skins between brands and even models, but it’s been seen in the Silverado, Sierra, Impala, LaCrosse (2014), Regal (2014), and maybe the Corvette. I hear this one, being a derivative of CUE, is kind of glitchy…

    What’s nice about system number 2, the one in the Spark, is that it is actually the most current in terms of design. We see that interfaces are going to flatter designs with bold colors, such as Microsoft’s “Metro” or Apple’s iOS. Yet auto manufacturers continue to fly in the face of that by offering chintzy, chromed-out skeuomorphic interfaces to go with their chintzy interiors ane exteriors. Chrysler Group’s Uconnect and BMW’s iDrive actually do an excellent job with the now-old-school skeuomorphic look, but everyone else fails at it…tremendously. That’s why I like the fact that the Spark and Sonic MyLink fully embraces the new school of design. It also features large text, and appears to be the only GM infotainment system that can interact with iOS Siri. Best of all, you can download an app for navigation that uses your phone’s internet. I don’t know how much that costs, but surely it’s cheaper than paying $750-$1000 for a hard upgrade to navigation.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Thanks so much for the “word of the day”, “skeuomorphic”. I never knew of a word that covered those “retro” touches that give familiarity to new designs. So, faux wood-grain dashes and wire wheel covers could be covered by the term, as well as the “steampunk” movement.

      Another thing about computer interfaces and “skeuomorphism” is that those shiny buttons and perceived inward movement when you touch them actually take a toll on the speed of the system, as they require extra processor and memory overhead to implement, delaying any actual function they’re supposed to implement.

  • avatar
    TrenchFoot

    It’s a real shame GM refuses to sell this ‘compliance car’ outside of CA and OR. I asked my local (WA) dealer to get a straight answer from the GM rep on when/if they’d sell these in WA, the answer was ‘not soon’.

    At the time I was comparing the Spark against the Leaf and Focus. Desperate to make a decision, I ended up driving one while on a trip through Oregon and was very impressed. This car is quick (Clarkson would say “properly quick”). You feel the torque pull and pull until you need to slow from 80 at the end of the highway onramp just to merge into traffic. It handles well and is fun overall.

    At $199/mo leased, this car makes a lot of sense as a commuter or second car. But not for me, GM dealers are prohibited from selling/leasing one to someone from outside CA or OR. In the end the Focus was a cheaper monthly lease than the Leaf. The fact that the Focus looks better and doesn’t scream “ZERO EMISSIONS!” like a Leaf balances the compromise in cargo space. Neither are especially quick or fun to drive, it was a choice of economics.

    But I would have preferred this rollerskate with no cargo space. It is FUN to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      j_slez

      Several have been purchased by people outside of CA/OR. They purchased from a participating dealer and had the car shipped to them. GM isn’t thrilled about it because they don’t get their CARB credits, but so far they haven’t declared that they won’t honor the warranty. Since the drivetrain is heavily based on the Volt and the rest of the car is the gas Spark, any Chevy dealer should be able to handle it. Scheduled maintenance is tire rotations, and they’re covered for two years. I got a reminder from the dealer to come in for an oil change. I wonder what they’d do if I showed up?

    • 0 avatar
      Tifighter

      I don’t blame them for not selling it outside those states. Total profit vacuum.

  • avatar
    April

    I noticed the radio/entertainment center does not include a Compact Disk player.

    I’m afraid that would be a deal breaker for me.

  • avatar

    My EV catch-22: if I had a long enough commute to motivate an EV purchase, it wouldn’t have the range to get it done. (unless I could charge at work).

    …well, that and the fact that I’d rather use something for interesting to solve the problem (used CRX Si or the like).

    • 0 avatar
      j_slez

      A college friend had a CRX Si. I’d never thought of it before, but the Spark EV is the closest I’ve been to that ride since. A very small, quick car with a quite firm but not punishing ride. The steering feel isn’t even close, and it’s much quieter, but otherwise it’s remarkably similar.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Seriously though why does the clown car have appropriate size wheels and nothing else does?

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    It should be noted that the Spark EV trundles along with GM’s super-pokey 15A 240V on-board charger (3.3kW). Most other EVs on the market today have 6.6kW (Most Leafs, Focus EV, Fit EV, Fiat 500e), 7.2kW (BMW i3, Accord PHV), or 10kW (Model S, RAV4EV) charging equipment. Even the newspaper special stripper leaf has a 16A 3.6kW 240V charger.

    Pop home for an hour in a Spark EV and you’ll pick up 12 miles of range. In the rest of the competition you’ll pick up twice that or better. Same at a public L2 station.

    This alone takes the Spark off the consideration list for me.

  • avatar
    natebrau

    I know this will get buried but…

    Yay, a review of my car!

    I leased a Spark EV right after they came out. I live in sunny Los Angeles, CA, am a super-commuter (just drove 70 miles today, round-trip to and from work). The car itself is great, I will be buying another one once my lease is up. GM got the engineering right on this.

    Benefits:
    1) Stop-and-go traffic is merely really bad instead of utterly appalling. There’s no engine vibration when stopped. The regenerative braking means I actually get better energy efficiency in stop and go than at 70 mph. Also, it means that I use the brakes that much less, I simply let off the gas pedal (I need new vocabulary!), and the aggressive regen slows me down nicely. Plus, the brake lights automatically turn on when the regen is aggressive.

    2) Oddly enough, because I charge every night, the car’s always ready to go in the morning with a full charge. It’s like going to the gas station every night, but I never go to the gas station. So I never suffer from “range anxiety” except when I’m driving the minivan, and the gas tank gauge is getting low… strange but true.

    3) The solar panels are going up shortly. I’m putting in a 5.5kW grid, which will more than cover my normal household electricity use, plus the car’s use. So I’ve converted a variable cost into a single capital cost (cost of car plus solar panels), and my gas bill has gone down from about $300/mo to $0, and now my house electricity bill will go down to around $0 most months. My wild estimate is that this will “earn” me about $500/mo in un-spent expenses, meaning the time to payoff for both car and panels will be about 5-6 years. If the car lasts longer than 6 years, it begins paying me for the privilege of driving it. Quite remarkable.

    Anyway, there’s plenty more, but this post won’t be read by anyone anyway, so I may as well quit while I’m ahead. I like my Spark EV so much, I’m sorry I leased instead of bought- instead, I’ll buy new when it’s time to turn this one back in.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      natebrau: It’s always good to hear from an actual owner. Despite some disadvantages, there’s a lot to like about EVs. I’m thinking about adding an EV to my collection, but I’m not going to buy it to save money or the planet. I want one because I’m a fan of electric drive-trains. Screw the disadvantages – I really don’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      As with most questions in life, the answer can be found in The Simpsons. Mr. Burns referred to the gas pedal as the “velocitator.” Works for me.

    • 0 avatar

      I concur about the benefits of starting with a full energy supply each day.

      I used to commute to work on a 50 mpg GS500, 25-50 miles each day. 4 gallon tank w/ 1 gallon reserve meant that I would fill up 1-2/week .. and finding a station that carried ethanol-free gas meant that refueling “cost” me ~20 minutes per week.

      It’s a small hassle that I didn’t mind until it disappeared, when I bought a Zero motorcycle for commuting. Charge time for the Zero is effectively 20 seconds per day: 10 seconds to plug in, 10 seconds to unplug in the morning.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Useful check in. I’m excited to hear of your new grid, and wish our Nazi HOA allowed them.

      After hearing these actual owners’ stories, my chest swelling for going from 16 mpg to 26 mpg has suddenly decreased…

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I’m a bit jealous of your situation – I love the idea of going off-grid, having an EV that I could drive “for free”, etc.

      But, living in sunny Pittsburrrgh, and having to put more money aside for my looming retirement/obsolescence has put the kibosh on those dreams.

      Good luck – hope your example catches on.

  • avatar
    z9

    The lack of vibration in traffic is a huge unexpected benefit of EVs as well as many hybrids. But car reviews rarely talk about what it’s like to drive a car in a traffic jam.

    I spend a lot more time in traffic than on the track. Sure I’d be happier if it were the reverse, but I don’t expect that situation to change any time soon.

    If you want this benefit without the pure EV lifestyle, the Ford hybrid system works very smoothly to deliver a largely vibration-free traffic jam experience.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Even though it’s cheaper than the competitors, it LOOKS cheaper too. I like how the headrest adjuster grommet/latch isn’t even remotely flush or attached to the seat fabric. And the rest of the interior looks on par with some Soviet Bloc car from the early 80s.

    The other options at least have a little cache with them. This has zero. And it looks like a mangled Pokemon.

    Leaf or Focus all day long. Probably Focus.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The Chevy Volt/ELR battery is now made in Michigan, BTW.

    A significant factor left out of this article is that the improved efficiency/range of the Spark EV compared to others is precisely the GM-developed motor. Motors of other EVs were developed from existing on-the-shelf industrial units. Most industrial motors in this range of power output are fixed-speed and not optimized for use in a variable speed application. GM’s motor was designed from a blank slate to be used in cars and hence, are more efficient in that role.


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