By on April 4, 2018

2018 Chevy Spark

Question for ya. When does it become imperative that one must have a new car? The 2018 Chevy Spark shown here stickers for a mere $13,050 before incentives (and, yes, there are incentives, even at the Ace of Base end of the market.) Thirteen large can buy a heckuva used car, after all.

I’ll tell you when it becomes imperative: the minute a full warranty becomes more important than being thrifty. Whatever the reason, there’s intangible value in having a reliable commuter car or sending a family member into the big bad world in a car that won’t leave them stranded with an unexpected repair bill. As much as some of us would like to, it’s not always realistic to drive $1,000 Malaise-era clunkers.

Instead of approximately thirteen rattletraps, one can get into a Spark in LS Manual trim. Along for the ride will be an iPad-sized touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a backup camera, and WiFi hotspot. A $1,000 beater will not possess anything remotely resembling those features, but will instead feature a cassette player and paper-based satnav system. The gauges vaguely remind me of a sportbike but the GM corporate wheel looks plain and sad. At least it has a tilt adjustment.

A 1.4-liter inline-four making 98 horsepower doesn’t sound like much, but is light years ahead of anemic and raucous mills found in base cars of yore. A five-speed stick shift will serve as a handy anti-theft device. Stabilitrak should keep things shiny side up even with the most ham-fisted of new drivers at the wheel, while hill start assist keeps the brakes engaged for a fraction of a second on an incline while the driver figures out the aforementioned five-speed.

No fewer than 10 airbags will make the situation all pillowy if Stabilitrak fails in its task, popping out of the dash, front and rear seats, and roof. Two more whack you on the kneecaps like Tony Soprano. Cupholders abound for all occupants, who can also cool off by way of the standard equipment air conditioning.

2018 Chevy Spark

A diminutive nine gallon fuel tank gives me pause, as the car will likely have to stop for a break before the driver will. Tiny 15-inch rubber will be cheap to replace, though 55-series sidewalls still qualify as low profile in this author’s antiquated brain.

Jazzy colors costing $0 always rank high on the Ace of Base meter; the hue shown here is simply called Splash (aside – I dearly hope the new Ranger has a Splash trim, even though I know it won’t). Optional $395 colors include the entertainingly named Brimstone. That one’s for sinners only, but fire is not included. The vain part of me would spend $425 on fog lamps.

For once, Canucks have it better, with the same car described above listing for only $9,995. That’s about $7,800 American. The only gratis color choices in the Great White North are red, silver, and white, but for that we will be grateful and probably apologize for our selection.

[Images: General Motors]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which 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 selection.

The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim, absent of destination charges and available rebates. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

41 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2018 Chevrolet Spark LS Manual...”


  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Curious about the Canadian pricing being so much lower. It’s my understanding the opposite is normal. Why the difference with this car? As for the car itself, stretch the interior to allow more rear legroom and you have a decent commuter.

    • 0 avatar
      Ko1

      One difference is that the Canadian model doesn’t come with standard air conditioning. I would assume that there’s other options which are standard on the US model but not available on the Canuck version until you step up a trim level or two.

      As an aside, I’ve only met one Spark owner and, after a year of ownership, he wished he’d bought a Micra SV instead.

      • 0 avatar
        facepunch

        “after a year of ownership, he wished he’d bought a Micra SV instead.”

        Why’s that?

        • 0 avatar
          Ko1

          “Why’s that?”

          After talking to him for a few minutes, in all honesty, I think the guy’s buyer’s remorse really came down to the fact that you see 25 Micras for every Spark on the roads around here. Then again, those Micras are usually being driven either by college girls or 40+ year old women.

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      And the reason why you would have 14″ or even 13″ wheels on a car like this is so you can have more tire to smooth out the bumps. This car can’t have a very smooth ride.

    • 0 avatar
      facepunch

      Canada has had a sub-$10k (CAD) econobox price war on its hands since the debut of the 2015 Nissan Micra ($9998 MSRP at the time). The freshly redesigned Spark stole and briefly held the “cheapest new car” crown by undercutting the Micra’s MSRP by a few dollars (which the auto press dutifully reported). However, Nissan retaliated and lopped a few more loonies off the Micra’s price to take it back (now $9988). Seriously.

      The Mirage is half-heartedly in on the sub-$10k fight too, but through perma-rebates, rather than advertised MSRP parity.

      The big caveat as Ko1 pointed out: to discourage actual sales of these $10k cars, none come with air conditioning. If you want AC, you gotta fork over an additional whopping $3k or so and move up to the mid-trim car (which comes bundled with other goodies, natch).

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I’ve never understood auto writers’ obsession with ever-larger wheels. In the not-too-distant past, 15″ wheels were considered perfectly adequate for nice mid-sized cars (my ’04 Passat Wagon, no slouch in the handling dept., had them.)

    So I let out a chuckle when I see 15″ wheels on this little penalty box, or the base Prius, denigrated for being undersize/small/tiny/etc.

    For the uses to which this car will be put, 15″ wheels are more than acceptable.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Yeah I don’t get calling them “tiny.” Maybe in the auto-journo world of luxed up trucks and big-braked sports cars on 20s. My two vehicles (of 1990s vintage) run 14″ and 16″ wheels. A godsend in our potholed city. I hit a real dusie in the dark on 465 this morning, caught it with both right wheels with the Ranger. Hard enough of a hit to make me worry, but it seems to have not resulted in any damage.

      • 0 avatar
        stevelovescars

        Agree. The large wheel/low profile tire thing jumped the shark a long time ago. Whatever handling improvement they used to bring (if any) is minimal compared to the abysmal ride quality and higher tire replacement cost.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      A 185/55R15 tire is tiny though. And he did say rubber rather than rim or wheel. It’s not enough sidewall for the condition of the roads I drive on, and they look like casters among the tall expanse of sheet metal.

      185/60R15 or 195/60R15 would be good upgrades. 185/65R14 or 195/65R14 would be even better. Might even be able to cram 185/70R14 in there.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Good point. I always thought the 16 inch steel wheels on 8th gen Civics with thinner 55 series sidewalls looked silly. Mine “regressed” to 15″ with 65 series sidewalls which strikes me as much more rational.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    Could be made into an interesting Hot Hatch I would think. Keep the 15’s but go a little wider with rims and 50 series tires. Get new springs and shocks. And then bump the HP some. With the Fiesta ST disappearing from the states there aren’t many small hot hatches around. Sorry if this is off topic for Ace of Base.

  • avatar
    993cc

    One obscure spec on these cars is important for anyone considering one: The payload capacity is something like 300kg. It would be easy to overload it with as few as three passengers.

    For a young/fit/light person with young/fit/light friends it should be fine.

  • avatar
    gtem

    ” paper-based satnav system”

    This is a bit disingenuous, as perfectly good modern navigation is a stick-on phone holder and USB adapter away in literally any car, new or old. Since we’re assuming the car owner already has a smartphone to take advantage of CarPlay.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “As much as some of us would like to, it’s not always realistic to drive $1,000 Malaise-era clunkers.”

    Yeah, I live the beater life because I have a short commute, multiple spare vehicles, and enough spare time and mechanical knowledge to do most repairs myself. Absent some or all of those factors, I’d get something like this, grind the mileage to 150k or so, then sell it to someone like current me.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My recent run through a number of sub $2000 daily drivers has not yielded anything approaching a break down, or even an expensive unexpected/sudden “must do” repair:

      $1600 ’00 Maxima: CEL and leaky exhaust, core support rust and minor trans slip when driven hard, shot struts and brakes that I replaced, but was driveable as is and had cold A/C and nice fresh Bridgestone tires
      $1600 ’96 ES300: ABS light on for a broken wheel speed sensor, fairly dry rotted Michelin tires. I spent the money on a t-belt job but I really shouldn’t have, old belt and WP were still perfect. Replaced power steering pump drive belt as it was losing boost occasionally. Struts starting to feel worn, but a fantastic driving car with another decade of life in it easily with the belt done.
      $1700 ’97 Ranger: a bunch of small stuff wrong and some very rusty spring hangers and front core support, but I ran it all spring/summer without touching a thing before finally investing in some new brakes, windshield, fuel filler neck, fuel sender to fix in-op gauge, serpentine belt, fixed parking brake. But even without any of that it was a perfectly dependable A-B ride, and I even drove it 8 hours and back to PA to haul a motorcycle.
      $2000 ’94 Ranger: This is the truck I should have bought instead of the ’97. The only things that need attention are the temp sender for the gauge (ECT reads fine and engine gets up to temp like it should), the IACV probably needs cleaning as the truck won’t idle on a cold start below freezing. It’s got a few codes for EGR and an oxygen sensor but it’s pre-OBD2 so no CEL and MPG and performance seem unaffected. Could also use some fresher tires.

      It’s not for everyone and my caveat is having my ’96 4Runner as a backup so I can attend to any repairs that crop up at my leisure. Having said that, among all those cars that situation never cropped up.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        In the last year or so I’ve replaced:

        -clutch master cylinder on the T100; the old one leaked down enough one day that I had to jam it into 1st gear to get it home.
        -coil packs on the Echo. One quit last August, I replaced that one, then another quit in October, so I replaced the other three.
        -plug wires on the T100. Had a rough idle, and it fell on its face with anything more than barely opening the throttle. Turns out the wires were crossfiring.
        -fuel pump and filter on the 240SX. The fuel pump fuse blew one day, and I had to get it towed home. Turns out the strainer sock on the pump had disintegrated and the crud in the tank clogged the filter.

        That’s not counting usual maintenance stuff like brakes, tires, shocks, control arms, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’m typically a fan of NGK plug wires and had put a set of blue ones on the 4Runner when I bought it, but I had a damp/cold-start misfire issue a year or so ago. Turns out one of the NGK wire boots was misshaped and moisture would cause the spark to jump. Spent the $60 for a nice set of OEM wires (NGKs are $40), and they fit perfectly with all the extra little fittings for routing, problem solved. I’ve also had to replace fuel injector #2 on the truck (another common age related issue on 5VZFEs), started misfiring on the highway 3 years ago, limped it to my in-laws and replaced it with an OE-quality made in Japan injector sold by Standard Motor products ($52 on rockauto). Also replaced a set of $20 starter contacts 2 years ago when I started to get an intermittent no crank (took a few tries and it’d go). Last summer I got bad pinging after filling up with some nasty swill at a small Sunoco station at the Ohio/WV border. 3 tanks of premiuim seend to clear it up. That’s it in 5 years of ownership of a 22 year old ‘yota truck that I drive all over the country.

      • 0 avatar
        ahintofpepperjack

        $1600 + $1600 +1700 + $2000 = $5200

        Struts + Brakes + Timing Belt + Power steering pump + Brakes + Windshield + Fuel filler neck + Fuel sender + serpentine belt + parking brake + temp sender + tires = $$$ and how much time wasted?

        Why not just buy a new cheap car like the spark listed here? All of the beater cars you listed are worse in every way compared to a brand new spark. Say you get the spark for $11k even with no money down with a five year loan that’s under $200/month or $2,400 a year. The spark is going to have zero issues in those five years and get much better fuel economy. I would argue you’d save money with the better fuel economy and zero repairs. Not to mention all the time wasted maintaining the beater cars. The spark would have nearly zero maintenance costs in the next five years.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Time wasted or favorite pass-time enjoyed?

          I keep detailed spreadsheets on all of these briefly-owned beaters, the only one that really put me in the hole was the Ranger where I got kind of carried away, with a total of $3400 spent on purchase price+ parts+ labor, with a selling price of $2500 in the fall. The $1600 Maxima was sold for $2350 which was a bit ahead of the total of initial purchase+ parts, the Lexus I had about $2500 into total and sold for $2200; And I will take you to task for suggesting that driving a Spark is in any way better than a peak-quality Toyota product from the 90s. Likewise burning some rubber and winding out a VQ30 Maxima away from a light is way more fun than a Spark will ever be I think. Finally, my cheap trucks serve a very real utilitarian purpose for my blossoming gardening hobby and DIY home projects.

          My initial point was that we don’t give cheap old cars enough credit for just how resilient they can be, although I entirely see the merit of a new car with a warranty and a steady and anticipated monthly operating cost. In my case specifically it is a fun hobby where I get to experience a lot of cool old cars and basically never have to deal with the cost of depreciation. I used to drive a 2012 Civic that I bought almost new, sold privately after 3 years with 53k miles on it, the per-mile cost on that (excluding fuel) was $.10/mile which was very good, but bored me to death. If my beaters can achieve a similar-ish cost per mile while offering me personal enjoyment then that’s a win in my book.

          Finally I’ll mention my biggest winner yet, a $500 ’03 Honda Pilot purchased for $500 with a rotted rear subframe mount. Got welding done for $500, and then $600 in new struts/shocks/swaybar links, swaybar bushings and rear brakes. I just sold it for $5000 after driving it all winter. That more than wipes out the cost of all those other forays so far.

          • 0 avatar
            civicjohn

            gtem,

            You almost had me there with the “favorite pass-time”, but I went south on the spreadsheet hobby. Call me jaded (you have to take a number), but being semi-retired from my digital music business (that did include the occasional spreadsheet), I’m out.

            I know I’m weird, but I’ve embraced it, and there is no way in h*** that I will ever devote time to ANY hobby that references a spreadsheet as a needed component. I’ve got one last high-schooler that has a 70k mile 2007 Accord with leather, heated seats, and a new timing belt. And enough airbags to make it a bouncy house.

            Might I suggest cooking? I’m quite proud of the fact that my marinara and meatballs are the best within a 100 mile radius, I’m punching out the lights on my pizza dough, my handmade mozzarella, and I live in the South – don’t get me started on my dry rub ribs…

            Maybe you have a live-in chef, if so, kudos to you, but there is no way in heck I’m going to keep records on beaters. The food brings them back every time!

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          That’s certainly true for most people, which is why new cars sell as well as they do.

          In my case (and I think gtem’s as well), it’s more or less a hobby, and a chance to sample a larger variety of automobiledom than buying a single new car.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            This. For me it’s a way to avoid depreciation costs of a newer vehicle (the biggest chunk of total cost of ownership of a newer car) in exchange for sometimes spending some time wrenching on said vehicles, which is something I tend to not mind or even enjoy (up to a point).

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Perhaps, minus the depreciation aspect, it can be compared to different housing strategies?

            Some people can buy a ‘fixer upper’ put in their own labour and sell it at a large profit.
            Some buy a ‘fixer upper’ and use their capital to hire trades and sell it at a smaller profit.
            Some only buy newer homes and sell them and move when the start to require maintenance/repairs.
            And some rent and never spend any time or effort on upkeep or repairs.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Number three is probably the most ideal, except: probably 95% of the US can’t afford to build/finance 5000sq-ft houses which could be sold at significant profit (townhouses don’t appreciate in the same fashion and there are plenty of fees to eat your profit). I might also add, here in the US nothing ever seems to be demolished thus many of your new property plans are further and further away from established infrastructure.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Arthur I’d say it’s a fair analogy, and you’re right the big missing piece is the depreciation of most vehicles versus (generally speaking) appreciation of dwellings. A big part of me selling my Civic was that it bothered me at a very basic level that I had a new-ish car that was just sitting there losing value and I wasn’t even driving it all the time (splitting duties with the 4Runner). We had just bought the house and I was eager to beef our savings account up. What better way than to turn a high-depreciation asset into cash! The other part of me genuinely missed doing the sort of jobs I used to back in highschool, quick and dirty body work, prowling around a junkyard for parts, that kind of thing. It’s a lot of fun for me and keeps me close to my roots I suppose.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    A review like this could benefit from a comparison with other base model cars in the same price range (Fit, Fiesta, Rio, Accent).

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Why is it this crapbox or a $1k beater? Why in the world would I buy this over a decent CPO Civic/Corolla/Cruze/Focus/whatever? Those are the REAL $10-15k Aces of Base, not this penalty box.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Once you’ve decided you’re in the used market, you can chase the “better deal” all the way down to “ran when parked”.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Quick perusal in the GTA. For $10k you can get on average a 2009 Civic with 125,000kms. For $15k a 2013 Civic with 85,000kms.

      Many people feel more comfortable with something that is under warranty, hasn’t been driven (abused/not maintained?) by someone else and doesn’t have 5 to 9 years worth of salt accumulation/exposure.

      In salt using regions, particularly damp ones the truism is that the body will give out before the drivetrain.

      And some people just want that ‘new car smell’.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    Good for Chevy to put the infotainment even on their poverty spec cars. For those mega commuters, this is a good little chariot. The small fuel tank is the only real downside. I think local dealers are moving these @ $11k or so.

  • avatar
    ernest

    I’m trying to imagine what alternate universe I’d own one of these cars in. Probably the same one that has me owning a VW pickup.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    The small gas tank I do not get, the mazda 2 has a small tank as well I think, for a just out of collage student who lives in the burbs this would defiantly work, no frills in todays world but compared to the crap boxes of the 80’s and 90s pretty loaded, also with all those air bags maybe more safe than a 12,000 used civic that will need t belt , brakes … that most folks do not want to deal with.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “a 12,000 used civic that will need t belt ”

      FWIW All civics 06+ use have chain-driven valvetrains, but things like brakes, tires, possibly worn suspension, etc Are all valid concerns. Or even fundamentally: did the PO take good care of the car in regards to fluid changes? You’d be surprised how quickly neglected oil changes can cause a modern OHC timing chain to prematurely stretch.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I shopped for a basic around-town car for my kid a while back and tried one of these out – it’s absolutely livable. And it’s WORLDS better to drive than the other new-car choices at this price.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    That’s not even a corporate GM wheel, at least not here in the ‘States. And even the airbag cover is quite different, and less-shapely than the one used on the Cruze, Malibu, and Equinox three-spoke wheels.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    $13K or not, its still an $8K car. Let it be known at your Chevrolet dealer, you’re happy to buy one of these with under 10K miles for wholesale plus a pack (which is about 8-8,5). This saves them auction fees and gives them a pack for profit on something nobody wants. These little sh!tboxes are frequently used as parts runners and shop cars, look into it cheapskates of the interwebz.

    “For once, Canucks have it better, with the same car described above listing for only $9,995. That’s about $7,800 American.”

    Hell in Canada they are selling new at wholesale valuations, that’s a first. Salute Amerika for adding an additional $5K in cost. Because freedumb.

  • avatar
    Trichobezoar

    What are the prices of these things in the Russian market? Saw a ton of them all over the place when I visited last year, many with mods. Will share pics of anyone is interested.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • DenverMike: No, he’s all about saving American jobs. Until he needs he needs work done at his US house and...
  • randyinrocklin: I had a former employee that had one brand new in 86. Red/black. I have a ’04 Spyder and a 91....
  • randyinrocklin: Thank you for your informative post.
  • randyinrocklin: The best way to ever test drive a car you’re going to purchase is to rent one for a week.
  • Lie2me: I stopped watching, or caring about, Buick a long time ago

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber