In Defense Of: A Review Of The 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
Fast Facts

2016 Chevrolet Spark LS

1.4-litre I4 (98 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm, 94 lbs-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Five-speed manual transmission w/ front-wheel drive
Fuel Economy (Rated, MPG): 30 city / 41 highway/ 35 combined
Fuel economy (Observed, MPG): 37.3
Base Price: $13,535 (U.S.) / $11,595 (Canada)
As Tested: $13,535 (U.S) / $11,595 (Canada)
All U.S prices include a $875 destination fee. All Canadian prices include $1,600 destination fee. U.S. pricing not directly reflective of test vehicle due to differences in regional packaging.
in defense of a review of the 2016 chevrolet spark ls

I could live with this car … under a couple of conditions.

Air conditioning is a must have, and I may have told you about the need for an aftermarket shifter solution.

But GM Canada’s $9,995 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS, which lacks A/C and a tolerable shifter, is nevertheless an acceptable place to spend time. Though it drives with far less verve than the not-sold-in-Freedomland $9,988 2016 Nissan Micra S, the Spark is the more comfortable and refined option.

Up the price with an array of options and the argument for North America’s second Chevrolet Spark falls apart. As a $10,000 car, however, there’s a case to be made.

The Chevrolet Spark is slow, largely featureless, and looks like something you might rent while vacationing in the Seychelles. No surprises there. Nobody expects a city car at this price point to be quick, to be loaded with luxury equipment, or to look like a Model S on upgraded rims.


Slow? The drop-off in power when shifting from first (3.63:1) to the intractable second (1.86:1) gear isn’t dangerous, but it’s frustrating.

Featureless? There’s a touchscreen that operates with sufficient quickness and hosts the screen for the backup camera, but you’ll crank your own windows, manually unlock doors, reach across to adjust the passenger door mirror, and suffer greatly when windows-down motoring simply isn’t enough to cool your brow. The cargo shelf can’t even stand up on its own and doesn’t lift with the tailgate because GM pinched pennies by eliminating two strings.

Styling? It’s not a bad-looking car on the upmarket 2LT’s 16-inch wheels, with its blunt front end and interesting bodyside surfacing. But this Spark LS, particularly with its 15-inch wheels all covered up, looks like what it is: cheap.


In those three aspects, then, the Spark largely fulfills expectations. But it shouldn’t be too hard for the Spark, in other ways, to exceed expectations in this budget-conscious sector. After all, the bar is surely set low.

Or is it?

Here in Canada, the Nissan Micra has been a huge success right at this very price point. The Micra is Canada’s 18th-best-selling car, ahead of popular small cars such as the Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Nissan’s own Versa Note.

The Micra and Spark are livable cars for different reasons, however. While the Micra feels quick (even if it isn’t), handles sweetly, and is forever engaging on a twisty road, it does feel cheap. Noisy, rough, raucous, buzzy, and often uncomfortable, the Micra is not a downsized Sentra. It’s more like a budget hot hatch without power or aggression.

The new Spark, meanwhile, produces its modest power with a smooth 1.4-liter four-cylinder. There’s little torque to be found, but you won’t mind winding out the 1.4 four-pot to its redline because it’s happy to rev. ( It’ll also keep you from having to shift too often.) Vibrations don’t enter the Spark’s cabin, the headliner and shifter don’t buzz, and noise levels are never intrusive.

Remove the obnoxious underhood cacophony and the ensuing in-cabin symptoms from a $10,000 city car and you’re still left with a dreadfully uncomfortable car. Or you would be if the Spark’s seats weren’t comfortable for my lanky frame (they are) and if the ride quality wasn’t competent (it is). There’s enough range of motion in the Spark’s seats and tilting wheel to find a driving position that simultaneously promotes visibility and properly aligns with the pedals. It never ceases to amaze me by how often this isn’t the case in far more expensive cars.


Plus, the little Chevy’s ride quality isn’t merely decent for a cheap car; it’s downright impressive. In an age of rubber band tires, the Spark’s 185/55R15 Kumho Solus tires provide vital isolation. Sure, a 94-inch wheelbase means messy roads that disturb the front axle instantaneously disturb the rear, and thus the whole car. And yes, the Spark doesn’t really do handling — why cope with a corner when you can keel over like a tall ship? Yet the Spark’s third-world price tag accompanies a car that easily handles the third-world roads of coastal Nova Scotia. Never do you find yourself suddenly juking and jiving to avoid a raised manhole cover. It’s almost like the Spark gets a high off of masking the proverbial pavement imperfections in exchange for lacking all manner of grip and stiffness.

There’s also the added benefit of a vehicle introduced for 2016, as compared with a Nissan Micra that debuted in Canada in early 2014, four years after its original launch in other markets. The difference is felt in terms of structural rigidity, interior materials, and feature count. The Spark’s doors thunk like a proper car’s doors. Perceived quality is high. There are automatic headlights on the base model. Audio quality is acceptable. WiFi is available. And, for those who want to stay safe, the Spark has four more airbags than you’ll find in the Micra.

Undoubtedly, the Nissan Micra is more fun to drive. By a country mile it’s more fun. But if your urban commute doesn’t allow you to have fun, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark is a distinctly more pleasant space to spend time.

Just as American car buyers can’t pay $9,988 for a new Micra, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark does not replicate its Canadian base price of $9,995 south of the border. In fact, the $9,995 Canadian base price is highly misleading. GM Canada’s destination charge, and Nissan’s too, is $1,600, driving the Spark’s actual Canadian MSRP up to $11,595.

Fees included, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark LS is a $13,535 car in the United States. Worth it? This much we know: after adding the continuously variable automatic transmission and moving up a trim level, the Spark’s $16,660 U.S. market price tag positions the car in another spectrum, one in which it’s not competitive.

Yet at the equivalent of USD $9,000, GM Canada’s 2016 Spark is a car which I could almost consider living with.

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

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.

Join the conversation
2 of 68 comments
  • Speed3 Speed3 on Aug 31, 2016

    Its shorter than a Fiat 500 and has 4 doors. For some folks who live in urban areas with tight parking this is a great size. There aren't too many competitors either now that the iQ is gone and the mini is bloated. I'd take a Spark over a Smart or Fiat 500.

  • SoCalMikester SoCalMikester on Aug 31, 2016

    in 1998 i paid about $14k OTD for a civic CX hatch, A/c dealer added, made in canada- alliston power anything, no stereo. in 2006 i paid about $15k OTD for a scion xA with AC, PW, power locks, 4 doors, stereo w/mp3, rear wiper/washer made in japan

  • TheMrFreeze Wife and I bought just bought new (to us) daily drivers...both have manual transmissions and neither has any kind of "new" safety nanny technology in it. By choice. That's how we roll.
  • IanGTCS Where I live safety inspections are only required when transferring ownership except between spouses. The ministry or police can in theory pull unsafe vehicles off the road but I haven't heard of that happening. Commercial vehicles over a certain weight required annual inspections and I've seen unsafe ones removed from the road a few times. I'm honestly fine with no regular inspections. A ball joint or bearing can go from fine to goodbye wheel in less time than a year anyways. Can't say I see too many total wrecks driving around so it would be kind of pointless.
  • IH_Fever No. I'd rather that money be spent to enforce vehicle laws on an as needed basis. The 10 year old car with a check engine light on for some sensor is a danger to no one. The crapbox with 5 different color body panels, paper tags and saran wrapped windows is more of a concern.
  • Xidex I will have to say, I do not like Camaro's especially the latest ones, but that is one sweet looking car !
  • SCE to AUX Say, when's that goofy rotary range extender coming to the US for the lame MX-30 EV?Not gonna happen, but at least I can get a pricey paint job on a CX-5.