Chevrolet is slowly launching the Spark subcompact in select markets across the United States, with more MTV/Viacom-derived “millenial focused” ad campaigns. But Chevrolet is being cagey, if not evasive, regarding projected sales.
Chevrolet’s Spark minicar will go on sale in July starting at a price point below the Sonic’s $14,600 (destination included). The Korean-built minicar competes in the “A-segment”, alongside the Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Scion iQ.
For most Americans, the term “small car” typically refers to a C-segment sedan like the Honda Civic or Ford Focus, cars that now qualify as midsizers in many key metrics. Subcompact, or B-segment cars are generally considered the smallest of the small, as their name implies… but ask an American to describe a car smaller than a subcompact, and they’ll likely look at you quizzically before hesitantly suggesting “Smart car?” Yes, the A-Segment, known in Europe as the “City Car” or Microcar” class, is such a rarity in the US that it’s basically synonymous with the one car “competing” in it (Fiat’s 500 hasn’t quite broken into the public consciousness yet).
But, with Chevy execs confirming once and for all that the on-again-off-again (for the US) Chevy Spark (a.k.a. Daewoo Matiz Creative) will in fact be sold in the US (likely as a 2013 model) early next year, the American A-segment is about to get a whole lot of attention. But the question is this: does the fact that America’s first new A-segment car in a decade is a Chevy help or hurt the segment’s chances (consider that previous US A-segment cars like the 500 and Smart are positioned as premium offerings)? Is this car, with its 80 HP/82 lb-ft, 1.2 liter engine a pioneering game-changer that will introduce America to a whole new world of tiny cars, or is it just CAFE compliance fodder? One thing is for certain: everyone from Hyundai to Ford (which have the i10 and Ka waiting in the wings) is going to be watching the Spark with great interest.
I have driven a Spark around Michigan and have had some (GM executives) out for Saturday afternoon driving. We’ve cruised Woodward. North America has been an on-and-off thing for (the Spark). At the present time, though, it is very much on. Most of the world’s minicars were not designed for North America. The safety and repairability standards are different for side, rear, front crash and rollovers, as are emission standards and other things. They are difficult to meet if they weren’t planned for in the original engineering build. We can meet the U.S. standards. We can even package the Spark for Big Gulp cupholders
GM’s Jack Keaton [via Wards Auto] on the Chevrolet Spark (neé Daewoo Matiz Creative) and the many modifications needed to ready the 1.0/1.2-liter A-segment hatchback for the US market. Including making the cupholders large enough to hold a soft drink cup that’s nearly double the displacement of the Spark’s engine. The 6′ 4″ Keaton swears the Spark’s front seat is comfortable for him, and that he “didn’t mind” the back seat on a recent 35 mile drive.