The Chevrolet Spark makes our urban reality an easier pill to swallow

We’re all tired of just getting by
by Drei Laurel | Mar 15, 2019

'Reality, with cars like the Spark, is made just a little bit easier'

PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

Monday afternoon, Ortigas, rush hour—not exactly an ideal setting for a Top Gear shoot on account of all the cars zipping about and the army of dog-tired motorists leaving the office. But for our subject today, these conditions couldn’t be more perfect.

You see, it’s in locales similar to this where the new Spark will be spending most of its time in the Philippines. And Mark Jesalva, our award-winning photographer extraordinaire, keeps insisting on a sunset, so there’s that, too.

PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

These vehicles—affordable, easy-to-park, and a breeze to maneuver—are as much a part of the everyday rat race as the exhausted call center agent or the disgruntled commuter. As such, the Spark is supposedly built to cope with the harsh, traffic-filled reality of urban living.

‘Reality.’ I hate that term. It’s a depressing six-letter word I closely associate with the mental and emotional state of simply getting by.

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PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

Reality is having an aching back from driving through pockmarked roads on a daily basis. Reality is all the dings, scratches and dents your year-old ride wears on account of inconsiderate car owners and cramped parking slots. Reality is all of us, stuck in a sea of red lights after a draining nine to five at work.

Cars like the Spark are the reality. It’s what most of us can afford, and what most of us can fit in our garages. But thankfully, Chevrolet’s built it with much more than simply ‘getting by’ in mind.

PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

The new Spark carries a lot of panache for a small hatch. The front end is simply top notch: Sleek, swept-back headlights with DRLs flank the car’s intricate matte black grille, and the whole look is topped off by a flowing fascia and elegant chrome trim. Relatively large 15-inch alloys give the Spark established presence on the road, and in Caribbean Blue Metallic—like the unit we’re shooting—it simply looks stunning.

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Inside, no changes have been made. Not that that’s a bad thing, as even in the pre-facelift version the Spark’s stealthy cabin emphasized ergonomics and tactile feel. I still dig the dashboard’s overall look and feel, and while some of the plastics aren’t the best, nothing seems below standard for the segment it’s competing in. I also love that the touchscreen infotainment system is Android Auto- and Apple CarPlay-capable.

PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

There’s a decent amount of room, too, and my five-foot-nine frame fits relatively comfortably in the rear even with the front seats adjusted to suit my reach (though some might find the somewhat raised door line and the sloping roofline in the back a bit claustrophobic).

And speaking of reach, it’s perhaps my only real gripe regarding the Spark’s cockpit experience. The steering wheel comes with neither tilt nor telescopic adjustment, meaning it took quite some time for me to get comfortable with my driving position upon hopping in. I did eventually find a sweet spot following about 15 minutes of scooting and wriggling about.

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PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

The Spark packs a pretty potent engine for a mini compact. It’s got a new 1.4-liter gasoline that churns out up to 98hp and 128Nm of torque—the same output as the pre-refresh model, though the mill is now made with lighter aluminum components that Chevrolet says will result in better efficiency (though we’ll need to test the Spark over a longer period of time to know for sure).

Performance from the engine and CVT is smooth during our stint with it, and I definitely do appreciate that little bit of extra power compared to most other cars in its segment. It can get up to EDSA speeds just fine, and has no trouble tackling steeper stretches of road either.

PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

The suspension is definitely on the firm side, and you will need to slow down for more sizeable road imperfections. But the Spark does a solid job of handling the usual grind of Manila driving. Handling feels light and responsive, and combined with the Spark’s 1.4-liter engine and tiny dimensions, provides zippy driving dynamics. Overall, you can’t really ask for more from a car like this when it comes to performance.

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And now comes the reality check: The Spark we’re driving, the top-of-the-line Premiere CVT, carries an P859,888 price tag. That’s quite a sum above some of the competition, and is enough to get you well into the subcompact sedan or hatchback territory.

PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

That said, the new Spark provided me with a pretty nice mini compact experience during my short time with it. Nothing about its package—from the amount of space it provides and its zippy engine to its stylish looks and capable infotainment system—gave me the impression it was a car meant for just getting by. And believe me when I say I’ve driven cars like that before.

Reality, with cars like the Spark, is made just a little bit easier. Whether this is worth its asking price, well, that’s up to you.

PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

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PHOTO: Mark Jesalva
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