By on February 8, 2017

Chevrolet Spark LS Manual

Base model. What does that image conjure? Vinyl seats? Tinny AM radio? A low rent penalty box on wheels? A few years ago, you’d be right on the money. Driving misery was available for voluntary purchase at the showrooms of just about every major car maker.

Now, though … it’s tougher to find. This series has focused on vehicles out there that, in their cheapest guise, won’t make you cringe with each pull of the driver’s door handle. Here’s an example.

Redesigned last year, the diminutive Chevy Spark shrank a couple of inches in length and height while also losing its wild-eyed headlights, which actually stretched all the way from the front bumper to the A-pillar. GM engineers managed to stretch the wheelbase, which delivers better handling and helps vanquish the pogo-stick motions that plague the ride of some other small cars.

The 1.4-liter 98 horsepower inline-four won’t win any stoplight drags, but those looking for smoky burnouts should sign the note on a new Camaro ZL1 instead. Chevy has managed to stuff a remarkable amount of tech and features into the Spark, especially given its ramen-esque pricing — ten airbags, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto by way of a 7-inch touchscreen with USB and Bluetooth connectivity are all standard equipment.

A rear-facing camera and anti-lock brakes should keep new drivers out of the weeds, and a built-in wifi hotspot means they can constantly InstaChat and SnapGram their effortlessly fun, more-exciting-than-yours lifestyle. It’s a remarkable amount of kit for a base model hatchback.

Current cash allowances bring the price to $13,375 including freight. Canadian shoppers have it even better, what with GM locked in a battle with Nissan for low-price hatchback supremacy. Those north of the border can set their Tim Horton’s cups in the same model for $11,595 — a mere $8,800 worth of Freedom at today’s exchange rates.

You know what $8,800 bought you just a few short years ago? Sadness! That’s what! Sadness, presented to buyers in the form of a bland hatchback with frightening build quality and exterior styling penned by the creators of the The Lawrence Welk Show. If you wanted to adjust the side mirror, you manually cranked down the window, reached out, and put a greasy thumbprint on the reflective surface. Touchscreens, wi-fi, and seats which didn’t numb your butt after 100 miles? Ha! Dream on, kid.

Actually, adjusted for inflation, the 2017 Spark LS with a manual transmission is about $1,456 cheaper than its early ’90s equivalent, a base Geo Metro. I’m going to let that sink in for a minute. Economies of scale, man; they’re a great thing.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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46 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2017 Chevrolet Spark LS Manual...”

  • avatar

    In higher trim levels, this actually looks kind of fun to me. Of course, higher trim levels also mean higher cost and therefore takes away from the relative value proposition. But I like it better than the 1st gen Spark…

    • 0 avatar

      It helps that it doesn’t look like a bug-eyed insect anymore. The styling of the Spark, Trax, and Sonic has really matured and been brought into the Chevy styling fold with the more expensive models (Cruze, Malibu, Equinox, etc.) The cohesive design language was on full display at the Philly Auto Show…though the lion’s share of the visitors were interested in the various Corvettes and Camaros on display. And the Bolt – the Bolt was popular. The new Traverse didn’t make it there, and the new Equinox was on a platform.

  • avatar

    Around here, these are going for $10,500 or so. Amazing deal, and a very legit little car. The level of refinement here is impressive, given the price.

    And the CVT isn’t bad at all.

  • avatar

    I agree this looks like an amazing deal if you MUST have a new car.

    However, I’m willing to bet that these are CAFE-mobiles and GM loses money on every single one they sell.

  • avatar

    If overall utility in terms of family hauling (including car seats), I stand by the Versa Sedan as king of cheap cars. If you can live without the gadgets, and especially if you’re willing to row your own gears, I think it’s a top pick. Big rear legroom, 15cu ft trunk. But depending on the month/incentives, base model Jettas (now packing a 1.4TSI motor) are a superior choice in terms of how theur drive within the price bracket/class assuming you can get rid of it after 5 years or so. Sentras are also commonly heavily discounted and likewise offer big rear legroom, almost midsized trunk, and fairly serene highway cruising (assuming it’s flat land and the CVT can keep RPMs low).

    This Spark is definitely preferred to the Mirage and its 74hp 3 cyl engine.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The Versa wins the dash war- the HVAC control bumpout on the Spark hits my knee. Otherwise, I’d take the Spark for the lower curb weight.

    • 0 avatar

      Versas are selling in the neighborhood of $10,000 around here – you won’t get a Jetta for anywhere near that.

      But a Spark sells for around $11,000. Having driven both, I’d say it is vastly superior to the Versa in every way except back seat room.

      • 0 avatar

        ” in every way except back seat room.”

        I’d say that be the make or break factor for a buyer. Family that needs to fit kids+ strollers? Versa hands down. Young single person or commuter? Spark.

        Although if I found myself at the Chevy dealership I’d be curious to see how cheap I could find a base Sonic. From what I understand it is a small car that drives like a big car in terms of smoothness and NVH suppression.

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t driven or ridden in a Spark, but I have a Versa, and that may be one of the last cars that truly feels like a penalty box economy car. It was not a pleasant experience. One key area the Chevy trumps the Nissan is safety. The Versa got a “poor” on the small overlap test, whereas the previous generation spark got an “acceptable”. The new one hasn’t been tested but no reason to think it will do worse. The Spark has a lot more airbags and standard safety features and also has active safety features available on the higher trims that the Versa doesn’t. Probably a great car for a new driver. Also, despite the Chevrolet being $1,000 extra, it includes a lot more features (True Delta gives it $2200 in extra features over the Versa).

  • avatar

    Welcome back, Metro.

    Many students and seniors will sing your praises.

  • avatar

    My brand new (400 miles) rental Spark’s air conditioning couldn’t keep up with a New York summer (82 degrees). I promptly returned that POS and got a real car. Dodge Charger…in black. I didn’t like that either but at least people moved out of the way when I came up behind them.

  • avatar

    The local Chevy dealer has one in mint green. I can’t say that I’m not tempted by it. It is pretty full featured for being so cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      That Mint Green is one of the best new car colors on sale today, IMO.

      It’s straight out of the fifties!

      • 0 avatar

        If this is what you’re referring to, YES; close to Seafoam Green.,178,145-640-en_US.jpg

        My other search results turn up Alien Green-like stomach acid.

  • avatar

    The Spark to me looks and feels like a cardboard car, at least the previous versions which I have sat in. Don’t know about the latest edition, but I feel the Sonic – in sedan guise – is a much better buy. At least the Sonic sedan LOOKS like a car.

    It seems most Sparks are painted mint green, though I have seen a red one or two and a couple in a pale yellow.

  • avatar

    I do like the changes to the headlights on this model and on the Sonic from the previous generation. Still, the Sonic seems like a more substantial buy for not much more $$. And a lightly used model would be even less than a new Spark.

  • avatar

    I can’t say I like this version; it looks more generic; the old one had more interesting styling, notably the headlights.

    The new Sonic is pretty “bleh”, too.

  • avatar

    I think if I was in this class for some reason, I’d actually go for the Fiat 500.

    • 0 avatar

      Interestingly, the Fiat is about the same size inside as the spark. The Fiat has 9 cubic ft of trunk space, 30 with the seats folded. The Spark has 11 cubic ft of trunk space, 27 with the seats folded. Base MSRP’s have the Fiats about $2k more than the Chevies, but clearly both are selling heavily discounted. I’m with you though. I think the Fiat is probably going to drive a lot nicer than the Chevy. The Chevies biggest selling point will be safety, with more features and better crash test ratings.

  • avatar

    But all the internet experts tell me that the evil gubbamint and their dastardly “safety and emissions regulations” are a plot to make cars more expensive so they can put us all into camps and steal our precious bones.

    Guess Chevy is firing back at the lizard people who are in charge of this conspiracy. Good for them.

    I had a rental Spark a few months ago in the bay area. It wouldn’t be my first choice for a cross-country road trip, but it was a very satisfactory city/commuter car and even did fine on the interstate.

  • avatar

    This is almost the “pick of the litter” for a Commuter Scooter.

    Can you fathom that it was a mere 30 years ago GM was still selling the “Shovette”.

  • avatar

    To me, the value proposition isn’t compelling. However, some people who want a cheap NEW care with a warranty, it might makes sense to them.

    Having owned a sonic a couple years back with the 1.4tubro/manual, it is a shame they can throw that power train into the Spark, would be fairly fun to toss around.

  • avatar

    And… For the next contestant on The Price Is Right… A NEW CARRRRR!!!!!!

  • avatar

    Love when people project these cheap compact cars onto young buyers. Except young people can’t afford a new car anymore, not even the cheapest ones available.

    The median age of new Chevy Spark buyers is 56.

    • 0 avatar

      Not that I don’t believe you, because I do, but where’d you get that age data?

      • 0 avatar

        A friend has as an account with a big survey data provider.

        All new cars are for old people, the median age for all cars is around 52. Younger people can’t afford houses yet, so they’re not exactly going to run out and buy new cars, no matter how cheap.

  • avatar

    They Chevy Sonic has terrible resale. You can get a Sonic RS with the 1.4T used with 30k or less miles for around the same price. If you want one of these small commuter boxes its a much better deal. I just got my RS 6MT for $8900 w/ 30k miles on it. Its is surprisingly solid and well put together, and that motor has just enough power to be fun. Overall Im pretty happy with it.

  • avatar

    Your price comparison with the Canadian market model is simply not fair, as the Canadian car doesn’t have air conditioning, where all trims in the US do include A/C.

    I see a lot of rental Spark LS on The Strip. I wonder what the fleet-sales breakout is.

    And like others have posted, small Chevys depreciate like mad. I was shopping Spark last year when I realized that slightly used Sonics could be had cheaper. I bought a 1.8NA/5MT hatchback with 28k miles for $10k. It does absolutely everything better than a Spark.

  • avatar

    Dude, c’mon!

    Who gives a horny hippie about Instagram?

    How’s the manual? Shift action, clutch, heel-toe, throttle response for rev match…..

    It’s manual car with a size and engine that encourages socially sanctioned hooning. And you concern yourself with Instagram?!!!

  • avatar

    Good choice. The one glaring feature this car lacks in base trim is cruise control. Otherwise, it’s a definite Ace of Base and a fantastic illustration of how far cars have come. Despite the losses for enthusiasts, the general public has done well. This is a great car for a new driver. Not so powerful that it will get itself in trouble, cheap to buy, relatively simple so maintenance shouldn’t be a headache, and a welcome emphasis on safety (lots of standard features and good crash test scores).

  • avatar

    Bought this one for my daughter 18th birthday. She is very happy with it

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