The amusing friend
I’d like you to meet a new friend of mine. He’s fun, friendly, kinda new in town, wears a blue coat and thanks to the random collection of letters on his Eastern Cape number plate, I nicknamed him Fayzel. His official name is Spark LS and you can find him in your nearest Chevrolet dealership.
The Spark range was apparently updated a few months ago and holds five models. “Campus” is student fodder for N$106,100, a regular Spark starts at N$113,600, the more luxurious Fayzel Spark LS costs N$123,000, an even posher Spark LT requires N$136,500 and the panel-van “Pronto” is just N$101,500.
Pronto is poverty spec but Campus comes with power steering, air-con, radio preparation, two airbags, central locking and ABS/EBD brakes. The regular Spark tops that with 60/40 folding rear seats, ISOFIX anchors, odometer, radio, two speakers, remote central locking, alarm, immobiliser and optional alloys.
Our LS model uses the extra N$9,400 to give you front power windows, height-adjustable multi-function steering wheel, powered and heated exterior mirrors, front fog lights, some exterior colour coding and shiny trim, 14-inch alloy wheels, auto-locking doors and two more speakers.
The audio system’s quality is decent and we enjoyed the multiple input options. Next to radio and CD, a Spark (except Campus and Pronto) can reproduce noise from Aux or USB sockets with mp3 and ipod capabilities. The button layout and basic steering controls take some getting used to though.
My six foot plus frame had no major problems piloting Fayzel, occasionally my left knee would touch the dashboard and I would’ve liked the steering wheel to be reach-adjustable as well. Rear space is a little less but the 170dm² boot easily swallowed the six bags of a big weekly shopping spree.
There’s something refreshing and amusing about a simple, energetic little car.
Although weight, altitude and heat will unravel the Spark’s performance, I was impressed by the vocal antics of the 1,206cc 16-valve petrol four-cylinder. It stems 60kW (82hp) or 108Nm against a kerb weight of 1,355kg to reach 100km/h in 13.3 seconds (we hit 12.5) and a top speed of 164km/h.
Claimed average fuel consumption is 5.4L/100km with 129g CO2/km and we can confirm that Fayzel was quite economical with the contents of his 35L tank. Thanks to light weighting of pedals and steering, he was a delight to dart around town with except at crawling speeds – throttle take-up is a bit sharp.
High speeds, cross winds and vigorous cornering are not his forte, confirming city car credentials. The rear suspension can get choppy but follows safe, progressive under-steer beyond the impressive grip limits. Sparks don’t have traction or stability control; they wouldn’t be used very often.
Rushing to the far reaches of my ‘hood for a meeting, Fayzel put up with quite a bit of abuse in the middle of a nasty cold front. On this trip I grew to love his combination of basic technology, peppy engine and lively handling. There’s something refreshing and amusing about a simple, energetic little car.
Other things our new friend aced were a bit of gravel road, heavy afternoon traffic and tight parking spots. The instruments are slightly weird, the headlights’ high beam is acceptable and the Spark comes with a 5-year/120,000km warranty and roadside assistance; a 3-year/60,000km service plan is optional.
Your final purchasing decision will come down to many things and I believe the funky and chunky Chevy Spark offers good value with its various models. If you too would like to have a friend like Fayzel, order a Spark LS in Vector Blue. Eastern Cape plates not included.
0-100m: 7.1s / 74.8km/h
0-200m: 11.3s / 94.7km/h
0-300m: 14.8s / 109.2km/h
0-400m: 17.9 / 118.6km/h
1/4mile: 18.0s @ 73.8mph (118.8km/h)
Climate Sunny, mild
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/4