By on August 29, 2016

Spark Power Lock Math

We told you — yea, we even showed you — that the most basic 2016 Chevrolet Spark you can buy has manual locks, but also a power lock.

Fascinated? We were. After driving around in a car with manual locks that automatically locked its driver’s door at 8 miles per hour and unlocked its driver’s door when the key was removed from ignition, we were spooked and amazed and perplexed. We asked GM for comment but initially did not hear back.

Now we have.

The Spark LS’s manual locks are in fact manual locks, but only on the three passenger doors. The driver’s door of the base LS model features a power lock actuator that, according to GM Canada spokesperson George Saratlic, “is there to facilitate our OnStar Lock-Out Service.”

Essentially, it’s a safety issue then.

“This service can unlock the driver door remotely with satellite signal,” Saratlic told TTAC. “It is available to customers with active OnStar subscription, and also enables customers to unlock their car remotely from their smart phone with the MyChevrolet/RemoteLink app.”

In other words, the buyer of an ultra-basic Spark — there are no power windows or mirrors, either, and no air conditioning — receives one quasi-power lock in order to facilitate a subscriber safety service. There’s no key fob to unlock the driver’s door from a distance, no proximity access to negate the need of removing the key fob from your pocket, not even a button on the driver’s door to lock the Spark. If you want to lock the driver’s door, just like any of the other Spark’s doors, you must depress the actual lock or insert the key on the outside of the car, and twist.

In the 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS, there is one power lock that’s completely controlled by the Spark and its corporate overlords. It exists to enable two functions — emergency unlock service and remote unlock via your phone — that will only exist if the owner of a $13,875 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS pays an additional $19.99 per month for OnStar.

In Canada, the $11,595 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS requires at least $24.99/month for OnStar.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, 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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31 Comments on “The 2016 Chevrolet Spark With Manual Locks Has One Power Lock For OnStar...”

  • avatar

    So the car has an inbuilt onstar mobile wireless connection which is basically a sub $25 part now… a single solenoid to pop the door and included wiring…. but they cant afford to give you a single electronic keyfob to fire off central locking… a feature that’s been around 25yrs plus.

    I cant fathom a car without central locking. The last car I drove like that was 25yrs ago. And it has carburetors… and drum brakes… and ran on leaded gasoline…

    You can buy the cheapest donkey sub sub sub compact from India or China here and it has at least the accoutrement of a modern car… ie. electric windows, aircon, central lock and a basic ABS TC DSC airbag package.

    • 0 avatar

      How OLD was this car you were driving 25 years ago?? I wasn’t alive, but as I understand it, most cars required unleaded gas by ’75.

      • 0 avatar

        May have been in Europe? Our family’s 1989 Austin Metro ran on leaded gasoline, with a manual choke and a carburettor. Also a 4 speed manual where the gearbox sat in the oil sump (the old A-Series).

        It couldn’t be cheaply converted to unleaded, so its days were always numbered. Also by the rust, oh the rust! And the emissions; every year they tinkered with the carb for ages to scrape it through the testing, for a month it’d have terrible mpg as a result, then the carb would revert to its nautral state and mpg would improve (the exhaust would stink on startup though).

    • 0 avatar

      My last car without central locking was a ’94.

      (I’ve since owned a ’76 with central locking, which worked tolerably after replacing all the vacuum elements. Not a huge win, honestly.)

      Also, the “cheapest Indian car” doesn’t have all of that.

      (The Tata Nano [] doesn’t have any of that in the base model, as far as I can tell – they don’t mention window technology, but no ABS, no airbags, no A/C, no central locks, no power steering.

      Same thing with the Renault KWID [] – in both cases you have to add about half again to the price to get all that stuff – or at least a driver’s airbag, central power locks, power windows, and still no ABS.

      Cheap Indian cars are not what you think they are.

      “Here” you’re getting the *top end models* of the “cheap Indian cars”, with all the additions *foreigners* demand before they’ll consider a Tata.)

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      You would be surprised at how little it costs automakers to put extra parts in cars. Blind-spot monitoring, for all its sensors and wiring, is probably less than $100 to them in parts and installation costs. But when they can force you into a $1,500 package or a higher trim level to get the blind-spot monitoring, why wouldn’t they.

      And so it is with cheap supermini cars. A lot of people like cars with virtually power-nothing, but (especially here in the U.S.) those cars also serve to push people into higher-priced models, while still allowing the automaker to claim a low price of entry. “Yes, the Penalty Box XT does start at $9,997. But you don’t want one unless you’re a masochist. And good luck finding one on anybody’s lot.”

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Chery, Maruti (Suzuki) Celerion, Nissan Micra, they all have aircon and remote central locking in Australia (so does the Spark for that matter).

      Even the Proton Savvy and the Jumbuck had it. The Great Wall utes also have leather seats.

      I suppose aircon would be as useful as t*ts on a bull in upstate NY and electric windows are a gimmick but who buys a new car without being able to zap the doors locked ? May as well drive an old Datsun….

  • avatar

    At this price point, just having OnStar available as a service is a feature. I can see this being popular with parents who buy their kids super cheap first cars, or with pensioners who like the idea of OnStar crash response.

  • avatar

    I see this as just another corporate gimmick for more cash.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I find myself thinking good on them for planning ahead.

    They are offering the least expensive car possible (for GM) but maintaining a nod to safety and security. Nicely done.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure why this story is worth this much digital ink.

    • 0 avatar

      This is the third article on the Spark in a week’s time. Reminds me of a few months back when every other article on TTAC seemed to be about the CR-Z, a car literally no one cares about.

      I suppose next week we’ll be treated to six or seven random articles about the Canada-only Kia Rondo, none of which will be an actual review of the car?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Has it occurred to anyone that not everyone wants a key fob? I have a 99 S-10 which has manual locks and I use a duplicate key that cost me $1.99. If you have a key fob and have either lost it or want a duplicate it will cost you a lot more. I have in the past made copies of all my car keys and kept the originals as masters. On the vehicles which I have that have key fobs I have not done this. For me a key fob on an inexpensive vehicle is not a deal breaker.

    • 0 avatar

      You can make metal duplicates of remotes, you know. I had one made of my 2005 Dakota. Of course, it’s sometimes aggravating to unlock with the key because this generation only has a lock on the driver’s door.

    • 0 avatar

      Key fob does not necessarily mean chipped key, and lack of key fob does not mean that the key isn’t chipped. I would bet that the Spark still needs a relatively expensive chipped key even though it lacks central locking.

      My old LR Disco is the other way around – even though it has central locking and remotes, no chip, so I was able to get duplicate keys at the local hardware store for $2/ea. Sweet! But one year newer and it is $100 at the dealer for a key that looks the same.

      My gripe with this whole topic is that it is just sooo reeking of cheap. You can buy a complete central locking kit with four actuators, brain, harness and fobs for all of $20 on eBay. So the cost to an OEM is peanuts. It would probably be cheaper for them to just put it in all of them, but of course then they don’t have a hook to get you to spend $1K more for the fancier trim level. I would almost not be surprised if the other three actuators are still in the doors…

      • 0 avatar

        On the other hand, while chipped keys are expensive, they’re there because the car has a keyed immobilizer.

        Which means it’s a lot harder to hotwire and steal.

        Which means thieves are a lot less likely to even try, which is nice on your window/lock repair budget, if you ever live or park anywhere that might be an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Yes. A friend of mine has a 2013 Kia Soul with the flip key, and it is not chipped. I sure hope our 2014 Kia Soul (which has a different key) *is* chipped.

  • avatar

    The last-generation Escort had a keyless entry that only opened the driver’s door, and like this Spark only the driver’s door contained a solenoid so if you had passengers you had to unlock their doors manually. Definitely far more useful than this, though.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    A metal duplicate key does not work with remotes that have a chip in them. I currently have a 2008 Isuzu and 2013 CRV which will not start with a duplicate key. Many late model vehicles with remotes are that way.

    • 0 avatar

      Late to the party — had a “practice key” made for my “keyless” Accord to allow for venting the windows when parking in the summer, and locking the running car manually to let it warm in winter. Normal key, except it’s on my ring, and I don’t have to take apart the fob to use it.

      Dealer did it gratis.

  • avatar

    Ah yes. I remember driving a company car on morning an decided to pull over to the side of my narrow residential street to further clean off ice, letting it continue to warm up. The car promptly locked me out. A helpful cop and local mechanic were both unable to help, the company sent a co-worker down with key.

  • avatar

    OnStar upsell – go figure.

  • avatar

    I wonder how hard it would be to wire in a relay and simple RF receiver to actuate the one door lock. I be you could cannibalize the parts out of a kind broken RC toy and a pair of relays from Mouser.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah it wouldn’t be hard to make it work with a remote. Kits with everything needed including 2 fobs can be found for ~$20. As long as you don’t have to rip the car too far apart to get to the right wires it is an easy install.

  • avatar

    Ha! Called it.

  • avatar

    Just a note. The Onstar app is free, and so are the basic services from the app, at least in Canada. My 15 Silverado allows me to lock/unlock and remote start, and I don’t have an Onstar subscription. I think it’s free for the first 5 years..

  • avatar

    …In the 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS, there is one power lock that’s completely controlled by the Spark and its corporate overlords. It exists to enable two functions — emergency unlock service and remote unlock via your phone — that will only exist if the owner of a $13,875 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS pays an additional $19.99 per month for OnStar…

    There is a third function.

    GM can continue to claim the baseline of OnStar functionality on all GM vehicles sold in the US and Canada. If this wasn’t there, a lot of product positioning, messaging, and marketing collateral would have to be changed. Class action law suits would follow, and lawyers would be paid $103,000,346.73 for bringing to light the false advertising, and the group of adversely impacted Spark LS owners would get a $100 credit toward the purchase of a new GM vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Like I said. I have that functionality from the app for free….no monthly subscription. Chances are that if you own the car and a smartphone, and then register with onstar, you get the extra functionality, but only on the drivers door, for free……well, free for 5 years at least…..a chev spark would biodegrade in less than that where I live…

  • avatar

    My wife has a 2016 Chevy Spark LS and YES IT DOES HAVE AIR CONDITIONING. Not sure why you would even say that.

    And all you have to do is buy a key fob off eBay, get the key cut to your VIN or with a picture of your current key, then program the key fob to your car and viola! You now have a working key fob that unlocks and locks your driver door.

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