By on February 1, 2018

I don’t think I heard the term “MVP” used in software development until six or seven years ago. It doesn’t mean “Most Valuable Player,” nor does it mean either of the two rude but hilarious things from the “roasting” episode of Arliss, neither of which would be appropriate for a family website like TTAC. Rather, it means “Minimum Viable Product.”

The purpose of an MVP is to get your software out there in public usage so you can both obtain user feedback for future development and earn enough money to fund that future development. Google is well known for doing this: its original search page was the very definition of MVP compared to the monstrous multi-purpose interface that it is today.

You can make the argument that some non-software products out there are also MVPs. The toothbrush and toothpaste you get at a Holiday Inn Express when you’ve forgotten your own Black Series electric? That’s definitely a minimum viable product. When most young people furnish their first dorm room or apartment, they are definitely looking for their own MVP. When you’re traveling for business and they call closing time at the bar, you’re going to take a very open-minded view of what constitutes that minimum viable product for the evening.

What about cars? What’s the MVP of the modern automobile? Contrary to what some of the B&B believe, it’s not a 200,000-mile Corolla or Volvo. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you gotta be rich to own a cheap car. Let’s look instead at what the minimum viable product might be for someone with very limited mechanical knowledge. Someone with no tools, no covered parking, no garage in which to service, no high-school buddy who now owns an import repair shop. In other words, a reliable vehicle with low cost of entry, low cost of operation, and a high likelihood of starting and running at all times.

What would that look like? What would it cost?


Three years ago, I drove the 2015 model-year predecessor to this car and was favorably impressed. Last month, I rented a 2016 Spark that was probably very close to being run through the auction lane. I was curious to see if the considerable number of changes had made Chevrolet’s little Korean city car more viable than before.

Let’s start by looking at the powertrain, which is now quite robust. It’s a 1.4-liter double-cam inline-four that turns out 98 horsepower, spinning a two-range CVT that has been programmed to act more like a conventional automatic transmission. The revs rise and fall as you drive, although the detail-oriented driver will notice that the rate of that rise and fall rarely corresponds with what’s actually happening on the road. With 13 more horsepower than the old car, the Spark now feels genuinely competent both on and off the freeway. No, it’s not a McLaren 675LT or even a big-bore Camry four-cylinder, but it’s never dangerously slow.

Considerable effort has been made to reduce the old noise, vibration, and harshness in the interior, which is now trimmed with a variety of fascinating-looking materials. This design philosophy, known to the English as “cheap and cheerful,” makes a lot of sense if you can do it right. Why not have brighter plastics and more interesting interior weaves? I mean, the all-black plastic/leather interior might be fine for a 1989 BMW M3, but when it’s done to a tight budget it tends to make for a really depressive experience.

As before, this is an adequate vehicle in which to carry four adults. You sit high and upright behind a mid-sized steering wheel that tilts a bit more to the horizontal than it would in most family sedans or even SUVs. The instrument panel has been revamped to convey a little extra seriousness and expense compared to the old “motorcycle cluster” in the previous model. Cargo room behind the seats is just enough for two sets of carry-on luggage.

There’s a lot of glass in the Spark, and for that reason alone I’m probably more fond of it than I should be. After spending time in modern pillboxes like the Camaro and many new-generation sedans, there’s something decidedly relaxing about being able to see out in all directions. The unfortunate side effect of that is that the Spark struggles a bit to keep the cabin cool in any serious sunlight. What would you expect from a minimum viable product? At least it has air conditioning and a pretty solid set of defrosters.

Handling is reassuring enough. Any attempt at a sudden lane change or an autocross-style maneuver will prompt an early and strident interaction from the stability control. After all, this is a tall vehicle with a high center of gravity. It’s not meant to be sporting in any way, shape, or form. Try a Sonic Turbo if you want a hot hatch from Daewoo. The wheels seem tiny and they are, at least by modern standards, mounting 185-width tires on 15-inch rims. Still, that’s enough overall diameter to prevent most potholes from seriously upsetting the car at speed. It’s still worth your time to look ahead, particularly in Northeastern cities like Chicago or Detroit.

The LT-level stereo is better than the stereo in the old one. Come to think of it, pretty much everything about this Spark is better than the old one, with the exception of fuel economy. Don’t expect 45 mpg or a 400-mile range and you’ll be fine. You are pushing a very tall silhouette with relatively little power. Even the CVT can’t make that work below a certain engine speed. Which is fine. Very few people will use this as a freeway commuter. The longest drive most of the owners will take will be to their first day of college.

This vehicle can be purchased pretty much unchanged in 2018 for $16,850 before discounts. That’s not a great deal, honestly. A Honda Fit would be slightly cheaper, and it’s more car. The real Spark bargain comes when you look at buying a slightly used one.

Turns out that Minimum Viable Products rarely generate much excitement away from the software game. $6,500 auction price for a 30,000-mile example that’s still under factory warranty? Even with some markup from a relatively friendly dealer, that’s maybe a $7,750 car. You couldn’t get a 2010 Corolla with more than twice that mileage from a dealer for the same money. If you look hard enough, you can even find one with a five-speed manual, which won’t turn this Spark into a Corvette Grand Sport but will remove one more complex mechanical system from the manifest.

At seven or eight grand, this 2016 Spark is highly recommended. It’s a comfortable, spacious, competent answer to that MVP question. No, it’s definitely not a car for enthusiasts. Unless, that is, you used the Spark as reliable daily transportation at low cost, thus allowing you to buy the garage queen or motorcycle you really want. In which case, the little Daewoo-Chevy would be that most improbable of things — the true MVP of your vehicular lineup.

[Images: Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars]

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110 Comments on “2016 Chevrolet Spark Rental Review – The Real MVP...”


  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    Hear, hear. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Spark – seemed to be exactly what JB described, and can’t argue with the value equation used.

    Even new, it’s SO much better than a Smart (“Stupid”) car ever was.

    I also have read that at least a couple of fellow auto-journos have purchased used ones, which I suppose is the ultimate endorsement of its MVP-ness…

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Sounds like you just helped GM write their next ad for the Spark.

    “Spark – it’s a CAR!”

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    1. Window Tint: solves the glass and cooling issue.

    2. *if* you purchased this with 30k on the odo, you could, through several reputable companies, purchase another 100k miles of Service Contract (read extended warranty, though no such thing exists) for reasonable dollars. Again, if the dealer does not insist on tearing your face off.

    For 9k OTD, someone of limited means could have a car payment that resembles some peoples monthly cable bill with no extra brain damage due to cost of repair.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I agree, its not a bad way to go if you just need something reliable, easy to park, and cheap. I’d take it over a Mirage.

      I would have to find a manual version, though.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      All you Mirage haters clearly haven’t done your homework. Check out the forums and the user reviews–owners love them.

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      Some states, like Pennsylvania, have rather illogical and byzantine window tint regulations. In PA, famous for its equally byzantine alcohol regulations, you have to have something like 65% transference in ALL WINDOWS… unless it’s a livery or “truck”, which seems to include minivans, SUVs, and CUVs. In those cases, you can have pretty much any tint you want on the back windows.

      Also, you can’t have ANY tint on the windshield, even the narrow strip that cars in probably 49 other states have above the mirror. I’d really love to see what the numbers are during high-glare commute times in other states where this safety feature isn’t outlawed by pedantic morons.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I didn’t know that I am rich. Huh.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha me too. I always thought there was a flaw in that Jack article while making sense. It kind of ignores the millions of Americans who don;t fix their own cars driving around in 10 year old cars. At least he mentioned used here. Honestly a used Sentra or Mirage or Sonic have horrid resale and make excellent buys for those looking for an MVP.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I should probably write a whole separate column about this, but I have worked in a lot of entry-level/low-compensation jobs and I’ve seen unreliable vehicles cause utter havoc for their owners. It can be the tipping point that sends people into unrecoverable poverty.

        • 0 avatar
          Willyam

          You’re so not kidding. I spent a good decade in IT support for call centers, and watched this a lot.

          I remember one poor kid who had a couple of bad choices and wound up financing a Tempo/Topaz-type thing, which he promptly wrecked. He was working to make an extravagant payment on something he no longer owned. Fortunately the bus stopped right at our lot, but most choices had been removed from his life.

        • 0 avatar
          paxman356

          I may be the exception to the rule. But I would have to do a cost analysis, first. I currently own a 2005 Optima and 2006 Lancer. My past is littered with many older cars that were $3000 or less (with a $4000 2003 Vibe being the only exception). I’ve either been lucky, or good at car buying, because the only car I ever had a major repair on was an Aveo for the transmission (and only because that was cheaper than getting another car). Granted, I’ve had 3-4 cars give up the ghost and just get donated to Goodwill.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Enough mechanical knowledge to fix your old cars is a form of capital, as is being in a situation where you don’t lose your job when an old car pukes as you’re trying to get to work. Doesn’t make you “rich,” but gives you advantages that many people trying to run old beaters don’t have.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Very wise, very wise.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        One of the most valuable things my Dad taught me was that individuals can do car repair. He put me to work holding the drop light and fetching wrenches. If you grow up seeing other people doing car repair, you learn that it can be done. If you know something can be done, you can search the internet for the detailed information of how to do it. I’ve never replaced a clutch or done an engine swap like my Dad, but I saw enough to know roughly the tools and steps required.

        • 0 avatar
          PandaBear

          I can do car repair (axles, struts, bumper covers, radiators, hoses, plugs, brakes, bulbs).

          But I don’t have time for that anymore. With 2 kids and wife also work, it is going to be a boring car that I can count on (or at least 1 extra backup car than number of drivers, if all cars are old and beaten).

          JB is right, you have to be rich to drive a beater.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Its tough to do it without being rich but it is very possible.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            It’s also completely possible to drive older inexpensive cars that aren’t beaters. And modern cars are ridiculously reliable. Even the “unreliable” ones.

            I do agree that knowing how to fix a car is an incredibly valuable life skill. And even if you then choose not to fix the car yourself, you are infinitely less likely to be taken advantage of by a shop.

            I also think there is a VAST difference between Jack’s example of a million mile Lexus and a cheap Corolla when it comes to having to be rich to drive a cheap car.

          • 0 avatar
            road_pizza

            I’m not even close to rich and I DD a beater because Cleveland winters. I bought an ’05 P71 for all of $500.00 4 years ago and after putting maybe $1000.00 into it I ended up with a very reliable car that I’ve already put 46k miles on. Not a bad investment, eh?

          • 0 avatar
            JD-Shifty

            what nonsense. “You have to be rich to drive a beater”. I’m still driving my 96 S10 I bought twenty years ago. It has 455,000 on it now. I’ve never been stranded and I’ve saved hundred of thousands of dollars compared to what you folks have spent worrying about imaginary breakdowns.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “what nonsense. “You have to be rich to drive a beater”. I’m still driving my 96 S10 I bought twenty years ago.”

            Ha Ha! My best friend still drives his ’92 S-10 4.3L ExtCab. But he still drives it because he can’t afford to let it go since he’s got a fortune in new parts tied up in it to keep it running. Not counting his own labor wrenching and tooling.

            We went to lunch in that little truck today!

            Yeah, it’s worn. And it leaks fluids. And the Check Engine Light has been on for years.

            But it runs well enough to take us to lunch in town and make runs to the dump on weekends.

            And it has saved him tons of money not having to buy a new truck to replace it.

        • 0 avatar
          dima

          It was then. Now with complicated electronics and requirement of data center to troubleshoot and reprogram computer issues with multiple sensors, this skill set is good to have, but it is no longer enough to get by with modern beater repair.

          • 0 avatar
            JD-Shifty

            I don’t have a fortune wrapped up in mine. I average 3000 per year in service. It leaks about 1 quart per month and I drive it 100 miles or so every day.I did do the lower intake manifold gasket many years ago. I change the coolant and trans fluid every years.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        One could argue the truest form of ‘wealth’ is options.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Teaching myself how to fix cars when I was a teenager is literally the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        I learned to be a mechanic out of necessity long after the ‘want’ wore off. Nice thing, is now I don’t mind it as there is no rush to finish now/today/before the parts store closes.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy67

          I lucked out; my dad was a former autoshop teacher and Detroit 3 factory rep. When I finally told him I’d bought an old British Sports car he said “If you’re going to own a car like that you better learn how to work on it.” Funny thing, after that, he bought one himself.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought buying a Charger was the most smartest thing you had did?

    • 0 avatar
      hpycamper

      Knowing how to work on cars makes buying used ones a more reasonable choice and allows you to make less prudent, but more enjoyable choices. See avatar.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        At least you have Fuel Injection with your avatar….

        • 0 avatar
          hpycamper

          No FI problems yet. But not as interesting as a Morgan might be.

          • 0 avatar
            87 Morgan

            Oh lord, the Morgan is long gone…Sold it when I dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers and gave the dough to my mom for his care.
            It was fun, but too small for me, I just keep the user name is all.

            I have a 57′ chevy resto mod; thinking of pulling the motor and going with a late model fuel injection set up.

            I was mostly commenting on the not making prudent choices piece. Old cars are not what one would consider prudent.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    How does GM move any of these things new? Are they pretty much on permanent heavy incentive spending?

    Because while this looks like a compelling bargain used, it’s value proposition new looks terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      I don’t understand how they sell any new ones in US either, since in Canada at least they’re quite a lot cheaper (around 14k reasonably equipped) than true subcompacts which are 18-19k at least. The lease payments are far lower than anything comparable, and the car is better than a Mirage and more modern and (probably) safer than a Micra. The prices of these in US don’t make any sense. They should start at 8k.

      • 0 avatar
        r129

        Since you mentioned lease payments, I wonder how they compare between Canada and the US. In the US, you never see advertised lease deals for subcompacts like the Spark or even Sonic. With the terrible residual value and lack of lease incentives, it is almost always less expensive to lease a Cruze, Trax or Encore with the deals they are pushing on those.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Local dealer here is advertising a new Spark starting at $12995, and that’s not even the “give us your email so we can bother you” price.

        I imagine they sell these new because they undercut a Yaris by $3500, and a Fit by $4000 – the only thing that can compete on price is the Versa, Rio, or maybe Elantra.

        Price is king for Minimum Viable Product, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      Financing with scraps for a down payment. By the time you find someone that will write a loan for one of these used, it probably comes within $10/month or something to a new one. I imagine it’s much easier to get approved for a new one, too.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      They’ve been part of the 20% off MSRP rotation in the past, so I think incentives are a big draw for it.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I wonder what the real transaction price is for a new one…I paid $18395 for a ’17 Jetta SE and it’s a heck of a lot more car for not much more money.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Daewoo product vs VAG product for best TCO.

      Tough.

      • 0 avatar

        Yikes. This analysis depends on the exact moment at which you sell it, and at what mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          CincyDavid

          You guys chuckle, but we got the “congrats on 2 years” email from Honda today for my wife’s CRV and can’t wait to get rid of that thing at the end of the lease. Our last 2 Hondas have been duds, not lemons as such, but uncomfortable seats and multiple recalls have soured us on the brand. My bride is chomping at the bit for a VW Tiguan, I’m trying to get her into a SportWagen or AllTrack…lower seat height so the dogs can jump in the car more readily.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m happy to have the tools and mechanical knowledge to never have to shop this segment because I’d very much rather drive a 20YO Pontiac Bonneville over a Spark or Mirage.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I hate to be That Guy(oh who am I kidding), but aside from the animated doodle, the Google search page is pretty much identical to what it was 20 years ago. Not seeing the monstrous bloat.

    That nitpick aside, nice review of a car that’s no more(other than the sticker price) or less than it’s supposed to be.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Have a look at the page source. It used to be literally a few lines long. Now I count four stylesheets and seven scripts, mostly related to the navigation bar at the top.

      And the results page is much, much worse.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        What he said. If you had to load the current page on 56k you’d sob like the proverbial sweet summer child.

        • 0 avatar

          I have a legacy Win98 box hooked up to my embroidery machine. There is a hardware interface for the machine that needs DOS to be run natively and I need an OS that can access networks so I can move files into that machine, so obsolete machines with obsolete slots (8 bit maybe?) that are modern enough to run Win98 are about it. It’s got some kind of Pentium and 128 meg of RAM and first time through without anything cached it takes about 10 seconds to load Google.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            DOSBox or FreeDOS, the former is a cross platform emulator and the latter a full blown O/S.

          • 0 avatar
            Ostrich67

            I had a Win98 box when I first got cable internet. I seem to recall that I had to change the TCP Receive Window (RWIN) to get broadband speed.

            http://smallvoid.com/article/tcpip-rwin-size.html

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Fair enough. I started using Google because their minimalist page loaded so much faster than the competition’s. With today’s speeds it doesn’t really matter, but point taken.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I was on a trip recently and there was a guy in one of these driving like a maniac on the interstate….riding everyone’s tail, whipping around the right lane, passing, whipping into the left lane and repeating. Impressive little handler….I bet that 1.4 was screaming. My guess is that he reserved a “Malibu or similar” which they didn’t have and he was pissed off for getting stuck with one of these.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Oh he’s bold posting the MMR screen shot.

    I’m pretty sure there was this other guy who did extrapolations with those valuations ;)

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I’m jealous. I’m not a used salesman, but as a consumer I’d love access to those prices with an interface that isn’t as byzantine as the average consumer site. Cargurus comes close though.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “No, it’s not a McLaren 675LT or even a big-bore Camry four-cylinder, but it’s never dangerously slow.”

    Thanks for not being That Guy, Jack, and sticking to the real world for a review of a car that ain’t tryin’ to be a hoonmobile.

    98hp in 2200-odd pounds is plenty sufficient for Normal Driving, and not every car needs to be Zippy Fast.

    (Sure beats the 77hp my old 300D had, pushing half again as much weight.)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      A naturally-aspirated 300D was a ROCKETSHIP compared to the 240! :)

      • 0 avatar
        ZCD2.7T

        Truth

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          Beautiful cars, but I lost my love for the w123(OM616) 240D once I was able to accept that there was no safe way to enter traffic in the car. Pulling away from traffic lights had become an exercise in how much I was willing to put others through.

          It was in good tune and well-kept. I think right at the first mileage plaque(155k?) but I just couldn’t anymore. Sold it for twice what I’d paid.

          Those blue knotwool carpets…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Even with some markup from a relatively friendly dealer, that’s maybe a $7,750 car.”

    Please introduce me to the dealer who only puts a pack and $500 profit on a sale after auction fee. I’m serious, I’m looking to build a relationship with someone who will take a straight $500 commission to let me use his license and initial cash for a buy then take my credit union financing to make it “retail” for reimbursement.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I can put you in touch with Columbus people, and Bozi probably knows someone in North Carolina.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I really appreciate it. The dealer I worked for died in 2007 and my previous hookup retired in 2015. A friend had a guy at Shults but I don’t know how open he is to my type of buy.

        • 0 avatar
          Nick_515

          Additional question: are auction prices recorded by VIN? My motivations are not pure here, but it’d be nice to find a way to know what a dealer paid for something… though that still doesn’t tell you their recon costs.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I actually looked at this and a Versa for my daughter. Jack’s right on the money here – it’s a thoroughly decent little car, and it’s radically better to drive than the Versa.

    If she could pick a mildly used one up for seven or eight grand, she’d have a great little commuter-mobile for her first few years of post-college employment.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      They are even, apparently, safe. My daughters friend got a sky-blue one at 16, and managed to fold it up by an illegal-U-turn right into a minivan. Other than credit and insurance record, no harm done.

  • avatar
    George B

    Jack, I’d argue that the real Minimum Viable Product 1st car for most young buyers is the boring low mileage “old man” car purchased or inherited from an elderly relative. They’re generally well maintained cars with a known history that spent most days parked inside a garage. Cars like the Buick LaCrosse and Toyota Avalon are very unlikely to require expensive repairs and insurance costs are much lower than for a small car like the Chevrolet Spark.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Just as folks are calling knowing how to wrench very valuable capital, so to is being able to wade through the 85%+ of crappy auction-flipped cars listed somewhere like craigslist, to say nothing of someone just cluelessly setting foot in a used car dealership.

      I agree in principle, if a person where to hypothetically find a well taken care of early-mid 2000s Camry for private sale for something like $3k with a maintenance history, they could quite possibly be ahead in about 5-7 years time. Hell the fully depreciated Camry and Spark might be worth the same amount by then. But there’s a good chance that instead, the person buying the cheap older used car will get a sketchy flip that will need a decent amount invested to really make it reliable. And that amount at a shop might very well climb into the $2500-3k range, something few are willing to do as preventative maintenance.

      So I fully understand Jack’s angle on this, he’s not wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        Kendahl

        You don’t have to know how to evaluate a prospective used car purchase. Instead, pay for an inspection by a competent, trustworthy, independent shop. If the seller won’t agree, keep looking.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Not too many people shopping this bottom-of-the-barrel price category go through the trouble of doing this, unfortunately. A thorough $50-100 inspection for every prospective candidate can burn through a not-insignificant portion of someone’s initial budget for said car, to say nothing of time. I’ve actually noodled on a mobile-PPI service business plan, but the pricing structure that stays within the realm of reasonable (and worth my time to do) is hard to pin-point.

      • 0 avatar

        “Just as folks are calling knowing how to wrench very valuable capital, so to is being able to wade through the 85%+ of crappy auction-flipped cars listed somewhere like craigslist, to say nothing of someone just cluelessly setting foot in a used car dealership.”

        This. Looking through the used ads is a skill which takes a while, and many people don’t or cannot build said skill.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      As gtem explains, you are predicating your argument on a clean well kept/little used example. These are frequently snatched up by people in the business for themselves or friends/family which is why they have become few and far between. The clean older stuff I have seen on local indy lots is literally stuff from 98-02, which I’m guessing are estate cars. During the depression people who owned good paid off cars held on to them, these are the sort of thing which filtered into the hands of teenagers in my time.

      Another factor is simple supply and demand. After 2007 (MY08) the amount of vehicles produced nearly halved for five years (15m to 8m IIRC), it was not until 2012 production topped 11m units again. Since then I believe production did top 18m, but your current well-kept-cheap-used-car-for-kids is 8-10 years old, which is right in the window of the production drop. Five to ten years from now supply will be back up, but the production quality and reliability I do not think will be there as it was for some late 90s stuff in late 00s. Stagflation has resulted in a reduction of parts content and quality along with a raft of then new technologies in their first major production generation (CVT, DI, hi-pressure fuel systems, 90 speed transaxles etc).

      Really in my formerly professional view, the small newish car for new drivers is superior than the 2,000 CL special which requires 2K in recon before it is good to go for another three years and then something expensive blows up. Part of the reason trucks are so high on the aftermarket is the fact of their utility but ease of repair relaitvely speaking. You won’t find a decent truck for the 2K that late model Camcord/W-body/DN101 is pulling so it makes more sense to put the same money toward the newish Spark for a better roll of the die.

  • avatar
    Prado

    I am guessing that the very poor resale on this car at 2 year old is primarily due to the fact that this car is rental fodder, and that 90% of the cars for sale are ex rentals. Sadly, I can somewhat relate, being the owner of a Fusion.

  • avatar

    “That’s not a great deal, honestly. A Honda Fit would be slightly cheaper, and it’s more car.”

    Didn’t you read the comments to Chris Tonn’s review of the latest Fit? Don’t you know that the “penalty box” Fit is noisy, too small for people 6’4″ and bigger, revs too high on the highway, needs a higher overdrive on 6th gear, doesn’t handle like the previous generation Fit, and used models don’t have a volume knob for the stereo?

    More car? What’s the Fit’s measely 130 hp compared to the Spark’s 98?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Well, you know, Chris runs in some pretty rarefied circles now.

      For someone like me, who doesn’t take a weekly press car and who owns eleven vehicles on his own dime, the Spark and Fit both make a case :)

      • 0 avatar

        Chris was fair to the Fit. One or two of the commenters seem to have something caught in a wringer over the Fit. The Fit isn’t perfect and now that it’s starting to accumulate mileage I’m finding out where the price point items are (tires, wipers) but I don’t feel like I’m driving a hairshirt car.

        • 0 avatar
          Rick

          I have only owned my 2017 Fit for 6 months but so far, yeah, I kinda like it.

          I used to have a 92 Civic Si and frankly the 92 was nosier. I can’t quite remember the RPM’s at 80 but I bet they weren’t too short of 4000.

          I have a 1000 mile road trip coming up in late spring and I will be taking it in the Fit.

          I did the same trip in 2004 in the 92 Si.

          It will interesting to compare the two.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Both the Spark and Sonic have a TARDIS quality to them. The interior feels significantly larger than the package it is wrapped in. The Sonic in particular can haul 4 real Americans without drama or trauma for rear seat passengers.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I always thought the 1st gen Sonic had a tight rear seat. Sounds like 2nd gen may have fixed this then?

    • 0 avatar
      ktm

      “Both the Spark and Sonic have a TARDIS quality to them.”

      That is exactly how I described my wife’s old 2008 Prius to people when we bought it new. They kept thinking that it was a penalty box, etc., until they actually sat in it.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Always happy to see a Prius show up as my UberX rather than the Foci and Corollas that seem to be the main alternatives.

        Although the other day I got a recent Infiniti QX60. Comfy, but I have no idea how that guy makes any money.

        • 0 avatar
          ZCD2.7T

          Had what was probably the first year of the 2nd generation of Prius as my UberX the other night. Truly awful. Not only did I have to tilt my head to one side to avoid the ceiling (admittedly I’m a long-waisted 6′ 2″) but the rattles, squeaks and worn-out suspension (shocks AND springs) made it a miserable 40 minute ride…

          By contrast, I regularly get a driver with a 2017 Lexus EX300 Hybrid on my way to the airport, which is very nice indeed as a passenger…

  • avatar
    brettc

    Looks like if you buy new, they have a trim called “Activ”, which gives you plastic cladding so you can make people think you have a CUV or something. And you can even get a manual with it!

  • avatar
    volvo

    I always looked at these on the rental lot and thought not for me. Seemed small and in my mind hearkened back to the Geo metro. However this positive review and good IIHS safety scores on the the 2015 model year (last year tested) makes me rethink my off the cuff assessment.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I haven’t seen many of the new generation Sparks around here, but I can say with confidence that the previous ones were extremely popular with octogenarian type people. I guess the size and maneuverability make it a good choice for older folks. I had to help a 70 or 80-something-year-old man last year when he accidentally got his Spark’s front bumper hung on a concrete block while trying to turn around in a gravel parking lot. I swear if I had one more person with me, we could’ve lifted the car a bit.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I’ve always admired these. Light years better than the old Aveo. This makes far more sense than a Smart, 2 door Yaris, or Mirage.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I like the value-proposition you present. As one who will never play in the new-car-pond, I am always playing the value game with used cars – how I ended up with my 2000 Lexus and 2003 Maxima.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    Talk about cheerful; the Spark comes in some pretty unique colors, including a downright cracking Mint Green (even a Talisman would look good in that!) and a coralish “Sorbet” (don’t call it pink). “Brimstone” is perhaps the cleverest name; while some might see butter or pastel yellow, it is in fact the color of sulfur. Even the blue that’s available is closer to Grabber than Navy, while he red makes it look like a cherry pepper on wheels.

    For those who don’t want to stand out, it comes in silver, black, and white…but if you’re going with an MVP, why not go for pizazz?

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I know a Spark is not a Sonic, but lemme tell you about my Sonic.

    In January 2016 I bought a 2013 Sonic with 28k on the clock. By 50k, I had replaced parts that shouldn’t have broken (sway bar links, air intake hose, cruise control switch). If I’d paid the dealer, at least $500 worth of work.

    By 55k it was losing a quart of coolant per 100 miles, and nothing was leaking on the ground. I took a $4000 loss and walked away.

    Never again, Chevrolet, Never again.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Daewoo, that’s who.

      youtube.com/watch?v=owEoA7vsFSY

      Oh and sway bar links are a thing to expect from used GM for many years. Day I bought the 08 Pontiac in 2010 I heard the noises in the rear end and knew I needed SBL. Moog used to make the best ones. CC, yeah that was wrong, your intake hose was probably made of three cents of plastic but yeah also not acceptable.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    You gotta be very agile to get into a car this size.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    The MVP in Canada is the Micra. US$8200 MSRP for a base one! US$11,500 MSRP for one with all the basic luxuries.

    I’d like to drive one, out of curiosity. In my younger days, the Firefly/Metro/Sprint/Swift seemed like perfectly adequate transportation and even kind of fun with a manual. Surely even the base trim is an upgrade from those.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    Never understood why ‘Arliss’ got canceled so quickly. It was fun.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I loved it too, but it did run for six seasons. I think the beginning of the end was season four, the show kept trying to cover serious topics about that time and lost it’s way.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    I’m a charter member of the “fix it yourself and drive more interesting cars” crowd, and I’ve read Jack’s article about being rich to own a cheap car. +1, +100
    One thing people often don’t do is keep track of the maintenance costs, even if they’re only buying parts. I’ve done this, but usually haven’t bothered to look at the totals.

    Most expensive car to date? ’08 Mini. But it died a year in, so not a lot of data.
    Second most expensive car? ’03 BMW 325i. I did all the maintenance, but finally decided to get something else when I finally noticed it was costing between 2-$3k a year, in parts, to keep going. My point is that even when you do your own wrenching, there comes a point where you’re just pouring money down a hole. But since it bleeds you a little at a time, sometimes you don’t notice.

    I’ve told my kids to buy a car no more than three years old, and maintain the heck out of it. And to skip the German cars until they can afford something else to drive whilst working on them.

  • avatar
    JonBoy470

    I bought one of these, new, last March, while Chevy was in the midst of a nationwide 20% off sale. As such, I can attest that the sticker bears, at best, a tenuous relationship to the actual selling price. I bought a base model (the true MVP, roll up windows and a touchscreen in the same car) which is about 2 grand cheaper than the high faluting 1LT car Baruth drove, and made it out the door for about $11 grand and some change, even with the taxes and bs dealer profit fees, and a payment under $200 per month, which made my wife happy.

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