The new hotness
Oh joy. A negligible part of my driveway is currently being occupied by yet another zippy and affordable hatchback. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like this segment but its members are always a pain in the you-know-what to review.
Whereas expensive and/or fast cars blur ones judgment with their power and gadgets, affordable runabouts need to deliver on the magic promise of value for money. And as I learnt years ago, their owners complain more than the gentry beyond six figures do.
So let’s dissect the hot newness and see if it will keep the local Chevy dealers occupied. For starters, General Motors just-just clambered onto the old dog new tricks bandwagon by offering an entry-level Spark Lite with fair equipment levels and even fairer prices starting at N$82 300.
The new Spark was swiftly renamed and shall henceforth be referred to as The Hot New Spark. It’s definitely new but not necessarily hot, unless you park it in direct sunlight for a few hours. Me thinks that by “hot” they meant “newer and much better than the Lite”.
The Hot New Spark does look funky and different, both of which are prerequisites for the cheap ‘n cheerful brigade. The drastically sloping window line, hidden rear door handles, huge grill and trendy profile creases look interesting; and hide the Marie biscuit wheels well.
Chevrolet has also achieved what Peugeot and others have been attempting for years – to yank the headlights right up to the front windscreen. Together with its stubby rear end and the sloping glass, this gives Hot New Spark a purposeful stance and excellent visibility from the cabin.
The inside of the scalding fresh Spark LS will also find its fans with decent build quality joining various surfaces with trendy patterns. The dashboard has wildly varying shapes and piano lacquer inserts, topped with power dome efforts and elevated speakers.
These can produce annoying reflections in the direct hotness of sunlight, but team up well with the busy seat fabric design, snazzy steering wheel and eye-popping instrument cluster. The minuscule combo of analogue speedo and digital everything-else sits atop the steering wheel which is unfortunately not adjustable.
As I’m one of those people who always get ordered to the back row of a group photograph, I did have slight issues fitting into the sparky Newness until the umpteenth vigorous seat adjustment. Rear passenger space isn’t overwhelming, nor is boot space, but the Spark does have a full-size spare.
Further niceties in the LS cabin are power steering, air conditioning, front power windows and mirrors, 60/40 split rear bench, Radio/CD/mp3/AUX/USB sound system with 4 speakers, trip computer, 2 airbags, remote central locking with auto lock, alarm and immobiliser.
Beyond the hotness of the sun and nearer to the newness of the moon, the Spark revealed neon-blue cocktail lighting in its weird instrument cluster, cool radio and uncomplicated ventilation controls. On a pre-dawn trip to the airport it also exposed a peppy motor and impressive high beams, among others.
Under the sloping Spark bonnet you shall locate, eventually, a 1206cc 16V four pot with 60kW (82hp) or 108Nm. The little engine is quite vocal, wonderfully tractable and tremendously eager to fill the majority of its Honda S2000 lookalike digital rev-counter.
It will also trouble most of its host’s 180km/h speedo and roared through the crisp 5-speed gearbox to 100km/h in just under 12 seconds. Not bad. Chevrolet also claims an average fuel consumption of 5.4L/100km and CO2 output of 129g/km.
The Hot New Spark was slightly wind sensitive at highway speeds but was always spoiling for a fight, even beyond the national speed limit. Its skinny tyres will struggle for grip on smooth, loose or wet surfaces (with noisy ABS intervention) and will quickly put a howling end to any racing antics.
Once you grow up and slow down, the little Chevy is actually quite pleasant to drive. Its clutch ‘n throttle combo isn’t always ideal, but it does supply a positive gear change, good brake pedal feel (with EBD), decent steering feedback and a very comfortable ride.
No, really. The hidden gem in this vehicle is its ability to soak up bumps and imperfections. Join that with its hip interior, lively engine and decent equipment levels and the Spark LS does offer value for money for N$125 495.
The lower-spec Hot New Spark L costs N$115 495 and makes due without power windows and mirrors, some colour coding, adjustable driver’s seat, remote boot opener, 2 speakers, clock, ABS, EBD, third brake light, height adjustable seatbelts and auto lock.
Each Hot New Spark is sold with a 5-year 120 000km warranty and 3-year 60 000km service plan. Phew, done. May I test an Aston Martin now?
0-100m: 6.2s / 77.2km/h
0-200m: 10.3s / 95.2km/h
0-300m: 13.7s / 110.0km/h
0-400m: 16.8s / 119.7km/h
0-500m: 19.7s / 127.0km/h
1/4mile: 16.9s @ 74.5mph (119.8km/h)
Climate Sunny, no wind
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/2