By on August 24, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Spark LS locks overlay, Image: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

General Motors’ 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS does not have power locks.

Correction: as shown in the high-production-quality video embedded below, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS has a mysterious power lock, singular.

For an advertised Canadian base price of $9,995, or $11,595 with destination charges, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark is at once both very well equipped and decidedly spartan. This is not the Ford Festiva you inherited from your ex-girlfriend’s uncle. “The bumper and hood are no good,” he told you, having recently run into a deer. “But she runs pretty good.”

No, in the base 2016 Spark, there’s a backup camera, for example, and antilock brakes, a bundle of air bags, decent seats, Bluetooth, and WiFi availability.

There’s also a bit of magic.

Magic aside, there are similarities between the Spark and econoboxes of yesteryear. The 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS requires a reach across to the right-side A-pillar to adjust the passenger-side mirror. There are no power mirrors.

Approaching a drive-thru window? You must manually crank a lever with your left hand so your left arm can reach through the aperture to claim your goods. There are no power windows.

Nor is there an air conditioning unit. When the wind begins to severely decrease your two-year-old’s level of highway contentment, you must reach around the passenger seat and crank his window up. Or pull over. But the Spark is tiny; it’s not that far of a reach.

The 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS also lacks power locks, known in the Chevrolet spec sheet and manual as “automatic locks.” On 1LT and 2LT Sparks, automatic locks are standard equipment.

Says the glovebox manual:

Automatic Door Locks

If equipped, the vehicle is programmed so that when the doors are closed, the ignition is on, and the shift lever is moved out of P (Park) for automatic transmissions, or the vehicle speed is above 13 km/h (8 mph) for manual transmissions, the doors and the liftgate will lock.

If equipped? Or if not.

Once our Spark tester reaches 8 miles per hour, the driver’s door locks. There is no lock button on the driver’s door armrest to press. Then, having reached your destination, you turn the Spark off, remove the key, and magically, the driver’s side door unlocks.

All of this happens without driver intervention.

None of this pertains to the other doors.

What is going on? Is a power door lock actuator wearing a disguise in this establishment?

We have asked GM representatives on both sides of the border for comment, but our inquiries have fallen on deaf ears so far.

[Images: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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76 Comments on “This 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS With Manual Locks Has Hidden Power Locks...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s likely cheaper to put the same locking mechanism in all Sparks.

    That said, it may be cheaper to not include power-door-lock switches, which is why the doors have to be manually locked, but can lock themselves. It may also be cheaper to not supply a powered keyfob and/or RF receiver.

    At this margin level, pennies count.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Even if it costs more to build the Losers Special with manual locks, crank window, it’s what sells the upgrade models. And some buyers want to feel they’re suffering just a bit, or their hourly staff, or they paid too much.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Whats’s with these English? I could barely make myself type that arrangement of letters.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The Audi 5000 had power locks but no buttons, you had to move the thing by hand (impossible to do in the winter with gloves on).

    And usually (like this Spark here), only one would go up or down anyway because vacuum leaks. Sometimes two would lock, then in the morning you’d find the other two had joined suit. Just took a little time for it to gather some more vacuum, that’s all.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The less that is said about the Audi 5000 locks and door hardware, the better.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        How bout them trigger handles! They’re so robust (especially in winter).

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The less said about the 5000 *in general*, the better.

        My dad had an ’85 5000 wagon, and it had the same exterior door handles as my ’81 Rabbit. Not surprisingly, they came apart, just like they did in the Rabbit. As an added bonus, the leather on the side of the seat began to wear off in around 4,000 miles. And the naturally aspirated version was a dog, particularly with the A/C on. Imagine a luxury performance sedan that you have to turn the A/C off to get decent power out of (like my ’81 Rabbit, not coincidentally).

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Au Contraire, mon frere. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops, lest some newbie globally-sourced engineer 30 years from now thinks that this is a great idea.

      • 0 avatar
        p161911

        My dad’s Audi 5000 had to have the door handle replaced with a junkyard handle. By either severe wear or dumb luck, his original key unlocked the junkyard handle!

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      At least the GM-sourced climate control was always on call to warm your hands right up!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It would work reliably, if you jiggled the wires under the dash for a little bit first.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Heat would always work. Sometimes I’d have to turn it on in the summer to keep my 5000 from overheating.

        The A/C never worked though. The Audi/VW compressor was butt.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Disagree, the A/C worked perfectly…if you wanted to slow the car down dramatically.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Now mine had AC, which was muggy a bit because the drain tube to the outside was clogged. Every once in a while, a sharp left would get the passenger foot well wet, and fix that issue.

            And Freed is right, it pulled so heavily on the engine. Those 115 HP had a hard time moving that much car with AC and automatic, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Speaking of A/C, I realize this is moot but I learned something interesting recently. When R134a first came out the issue with R12 conversion mostly involved the oil (I think in the compressor). However at some point in the last few years the current strain of R134a is in fact compatible with R12 oil. The issue today apparently is the other parts of the HVAC system are simply old and can fail whose replacement/labor is not economically viable on 20yo+ cars.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “The issue today apparently is the other parts of the HVAC system are simply old and can fail whose replacement/labor is not economically viable on 20yo+ cars.”

            Yep, compressor being a main one. I didn’t know about the compatibility – but you would have to change the fittings still, and -some- R12 compressors don’t like the higher pressure of the R134. I’ve heard different opinions on that last part though, like most HVAC discussions.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Hahaha. I had the Turbo Quattro version. Since my A/C never worked, I cannot say if it would have slowed the vehicle down or not.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @CoreyDL

            The fitting for R12 is different but there is an extender hose you can get which has an R12 fitting on one and and R134 on the other, plus its coming with more length. My guys opinion is, give it a charge and see if the systems just work (or somewhat work). Otherwise you can be 2 grand into a 2K car real quick trying to diagnose and fix the whole system. In your case, I can’t remember if anyone just tried giving it a charge but if the GM compressor doesn’t like it you would have just ended up putting the bypass belt on in any event. Incidentally Volvo switched to a GM sourced compressor for the 850 and 940 around MY93, which I believe my 240 also uses (but its buried on those and I can’t see it without taking stuff off so F it). I read on Volvo forums a fix of those really into 700s and early 900s is to remove this compressor from a junkyard 940/960 and fit it on the earlier models.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think mine had just not been run in a very long time, so it was all seized up in there when I acquired the R12a from Canadia. Still the worst sound I’ve ever heard a car make.

            If I just hadn’t bothered, I’d have saved $300! But no, I had to “MESS WITH IT,” as my grandpa would have pointed out if he were there.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Did you use up the whole can?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Two! And it took it all easily/quickly. Also put in the oil and seal/dye whatever other can that was there.

            Prior to doing any work, the SERVICE AC light had come on, and switched it back to econ mode immediately. After the addition, the system was recognizing it was within parameters to run, so tried kicking it on… letting me discover how locked up it was.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            My guy specifically warned me to not get the R134A “with oil” (which I guess is indicated on the can). The reasoning was, if you get the one with oil and put more oil into the system without removing what is already there, you can jack it up good. I do wonder if this is what happened to you.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It’s possible I suppose. There were 2 cans refrigerant, and one can leak stop. The kit came with an oil tester, but nothing would come out of the line to test – just dry.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Did you just dump everything in or did you do a can of refrigerant first, than test it, than a second can, then test it, etc?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            One can + seal stuff. Test.

            Level too low, Service AC light still on.

            Second can added.

            Level too low, Service AC light on. Figured it had to circulate a while. Leave it, drive home. (Planned to order one more can refrigerant, as system specs online indicated it would need three if empty.)

            Two-ish days later, try AC.

            AC kicks on, no light this time. Horrible grinding from compressor.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Sounds like the correct way to go about it. When I refilled the Volvo, the results were almost instantaneous. It took a whole can of 20oz and was still a little short of the 34psi I was told to fill it too. I’m not sure how much of a PITA it is on the 4.9, but I would have fitted a new compressor (I realize you don’t DIY yours). After that if say the condenser was bust, I’d give up XXX dollars later.

          • 0 avatar
            never_follow

            That’s why you got the mighty V8!

            I will say, even my parts car that had been sitting for 5+ years before being moved (because nobody owns a single C3, you need a second to keep the first on the road) had ice cold A/C in the middle of August despite being an utter shitbucket otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I seem to remember parking garages in Boston refusing to allow Audi 5000s because a few caught fire. It that the GM sourced system you mentioned?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Old RWD Volvos were like this too, you could lock/unlock the whole car just by turning your key in the drivers door lock, didn’t even need a stinkin button!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The 5000 in this way would not allow you to lock your keys in the car. Open driver’s door and get out, push locks down…

        BFFFFFTTT

        Back up they come. Audi says no! Do it the right way you lazy American!

        • 0 avatar
          scwmcan

          If it truly like the Volvo system if you held the handle up ( or in) the door would lock, it was only if you let go of the handle it would unlock.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Just like the locks on my Grandmother’s ’67 ‘Stang, back in the day! Had to hold the pushbutton in to lock, or up it popped!

            Blew my five year-old mind to smithereens!

  • avatar
    Wade.Moeller

    Anyone want to bet that somewhere out there is a red Spark 1LT or 2LT with power door locks on every door but the driver’s?

  • avatar
    shaker

    Anti-carjacking feature? It doesn’t seem to have any other purpose; it’s not like the driver is going to decide to bail out (unless the car is on fire, or goes into the canal for some reason). Odd.

    Edit: There’s no “unlock” button near/on the center console?

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    It’s probably because of OnStar. It’d be awkward if you called them because you locked yourself out, and the service rep said “Tough luck, cheapskate. Should’ve gotten the LT.”

  • avatar
    ant

    OMG, do I hate this auto locking garbage.

    The latest round of cars that I’ve bought have the option to turn this feature off. I ask the salesman to do it before I take delivery, and leave it off.

    Good riddance.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      Is it really that big of a deal? It’s all in the name of safety.. I don’t mind if I put a vehicle in drive and it locks the doors, or whenever I get to 8 miles an hour and it locks and so on. Especially if once you put it back in park and pull the door handle it’ll unlock and let you out-even with the engine on, or just unlocks all the doors, I hardly even notice the system is there.

      Now on the other hand- I just bought a Focus for $1100 to hold me over once I sell my Wrangler so I don’t have to drive a work truck everywhere until I buy something better.. and that locking system.. dear god. It locks the doors as soon as you put the key to run-that’s annoying, nothing like going to check something while it’s running closing the door and locking yourself out of your running car. Ugh, already done it once, probably could happen again pretty easily on accident. Idk what the designers of a system like that could’ve possibly been thinking, I can only imagine how many people locked themselves out of their focus’s as soon as car warm up season comes the first years they had them.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        It gets worse. Just spent the day in my dad’s F150, and the fracking horn beeps at you every time you get out of the vehicle with the engine running! I’m sure there is a way to turn that off buried in the menus somewhere (I didn’t look for that – it took me 15 minutes reading the operator’s manual to get the turbo boost gauge to appear in the cluster).

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      ^ This!

      Questionable area of town, you get bumped.

      Drop car into “Park,” locks pop..and before you know it, you’re thrown out of your own car by some ne’er-do-well, and they and their accomplices are off before you realize what happened!

      First thing I did on delivery of my car was to disable auto-lock and unlock! Have even done so on rentals and service loaners, if the option was available in a setup menu (and not via a procedure involving twists of the key and lock activation, or other such nonsense).

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    The 02 Accent has all 4 doors tied into the position of the toggle on the drivers door. This works well enough where by when you unlock the drivers door with the key, all 4 open. From the inside, lock the drivers door, all lock, and so on. Of course if the drivers door is say locked, you can then individually unlock any other door.

    For a lower cost solution it works quite well.

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      our 95 Ford Escort used the same system, simple cheap and easily comprehended, unlike a 99 Pontiac rental which had a power locking system whose logic was harder to grok than OSPF routing.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My sister avoided a carjacking in a parking garage by manually unlocking only the driver’s door. The other doors remained locked. A guy crouching on the passenger side popped up as she unlocked the driver’s door and she quickly got in and locked the door.

      The Guy tried to get in the front passenger door, and she calmly started the car, put it in gear and drove away. She had a keyfob that opened all the doors, but stopped using it when she heard of another carjacking like the one that almost happened to her.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Hmmm…reviews/articles of the Mirage G4, the Spark and the Fit. Are we seeing a resurgence of interest in cheap?

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Are we seeing a resurgence of interest in cheap?”

      You’d better believe it! How else are you going to entice TTAC’ers to buy something new for a change!

      Actually, you’d most likely WANT to buy one of these new, because I can only imagine just how clapped-out a used one would be. Interestingly, I’ve yet to notice used ones on lots…

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “advertised Canadian base price of $9,995, or $11,595 with destination charges”

    $1,600 for delivery? Do they haul the cars over the frozen tundra with teams of sled dogs?

    IIRC the auto-locking thing gets you an extra star on the IIHS rating or something like that.

    Does the base Spark have heated seats in Canada? The Mirage does.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe Btfsplk

      You should be able to buy one in Canada for $9,000 U.S. (with exchange included)… right?

    • 0 avatar
      theonlydt

      We get hosed on delivery north of the border. Chevrolet is $1600 for a Spark, $1650 for an Impala, $1695 for a Suburban.

      Honda charges twice the delivery on the Civic north of the border than they do south – despite the Civic being made in Canada. $1623 in Ontario, $835 in the US.

      So sick of Canada being shit on by the manufacturers.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Does it have a magic key? GM had a couple other tricks in the mid-Noughts. My Uglibu (before the recall repair broke my BCM) had a magic key that allowed for automatically locking and unlocking the other door locks by repeatedly turning the cylinder. I found the same feature on a 2008 Impala LS Enterprise special. First turn operated like a regular lock; second turn caused the action just applied to the driver’s door to be applied to all doors.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Does GM charge a $1,600 dest. charge on all their cars in the Great White North, or just those coincidentally MSRP-ing for $5 less than a nice round number?

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Technically the car has 4-40 “air”.

    4 windows, 40 MPH….or KPH for you funny metric people. Good luck reaching around to roll all of them down from the drivers seat though.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    In the US, the Spark LS comes with a/c, which is why this isn’t an apples-to-apples price comparison.

    I’m pretty sure 60+% of Spark LS sales are to rental-car agencies, anyhow.

    • 0 avatar
      theonlydt

      Not in the frozen north – all rental cars have AC, and honestly I’ve not seen one of the East Coast smaller than the Sonic, although maybe they use the Spark elsewhere.

      • 0 avatar
        eggsalad

        Sorry, I combined two different thoughts.

        In the US, the Spark LS comes with a/c. Yes, the Canada-spec model is cheaper, but once you add air, it isn’t.

        ====
        Separate thought. Most Sparks I see in the US have rental-car barcodes.

  • avatar
    ppxhbqt

    Someone got close with the IIHS comment, but it doesn’t get you any additional “stars”, which the IIHS doesn’t assign anyway. But for the answer, look at the first crash test of the current generation Kia Sedona. The door came open because the option to override the automatic locking existed and the IIHS overrode, as is their policy, and something hit the handle and opened the door, greatly reducing the Sedona’s score. Kia reprogrammed the software to only let you choose between speed or going out of park and they retested and the score was fine. So that’s the reason: to make sure the door is locked during the IIHS test, because if the car doesn’t automatically lock it every time, the IIHS makes sure it’s not locked when the test is run and the results can be disastrous.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Hit inside or out?

      If inside, with seemingly all cars going the way of older Fords in front, where the inside handle unlocks and opens the doors with one pull, you’d potentially end up in the same boat if something hits the handle just so.

      • 0 avatar
        ppxhbqt

        After reviewing the test again, it looks like I didn’t remember correctly. They just said the door came open. H-K products are like the old Fords up front; I assume GM continues to require the door to be unlocked manually, but I’m guessing you’ve seen the follow-up now that says it’s for OnStar.

  • avatar
    mik101

    The first gen Wave/Aveo had power locks that you either had to use the keyless entry fob or pull the lock stocks on the doors to actuate from the inside just like that one pictured on the driver’s door of the spark. No switches to be found.
    People have short memories.

    As to why it’s only on the driver’s door: Left hand drive car + IIHS crash testing policy of leaving them unlocked if they can be. basically Chevy shouldn’t be cheap and just do it on both sides.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I wasn’t aware that speed sensors worked with the car’s power “ON” without an ignition signal from the ECU. Since the fluids are drained before the cars are sacrificed, does IIHS rig a false ignition signal to the CAN-bus? One wonders. (After having just spent time going over their test protocol for the small-offset test, that answer is unclear.)

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