The 2021 Chevy Spark presents a more affordable and more fuel-efficient alternative to small crossovers. Chevy’s subcompact hatchback is one of the cheapest new cars on sale, but its low price doesn’t translate to low quality. The Spark’s interior has nicer materials than expected and a loaded infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unfortunately, the hatchback’s back seat is small and cargo space is limited unless the rear seats are folded, which is a cumbersome process. While we like the manual transmission and rev-happy four-cylinder, the engine’s lack of passing power is glaring at highway speeds. Still, the 2021 Spark’s surprisingly refined ride and nimble handling both help its valuation versus classmates.
What’s New for 2021?
The 2021 Spark receives the smallest of updates—a pair of new extra-cost paint options: Cayenne Orange metallic and Mystic Blue metallic are now on the list.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
While there is no Spark one could objectively say is “laden with content,” the upcharge to the 1LT trim brings useful features, including satellite radio and keyless entry. We can’t, however, recommend the $1100 continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). If you don’t know how to drive a car with a manual transmission, here is the incentive to learn. The faux-off-road Activ trim isn’t worth the cost. Keep it simple, as Chevy has done with regular Spark.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Every Spark has a feeble four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels through either a five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Thankfully, the gearless automatic manages power well without droning engine noise. While the version we tested was responsive at low speeds around town, be prepared to wait as it moseys up to higher speeds. This diminutive hatchback is definitely not designed for long road trips, but it’s effective and quiet in the city. The Spark is easy to thread through slow-moving traffic, with quick lateral movements and stable motions. Its short wheelbase aids maneuverability in tight spaces without compromising ride quality. Still, the Chevy was bouncy on uneven surfaces, and the harshest bumps were barely isolated. However, rattles and road noise were more subdued than in rival economy cars. The Spark’s steering felt direct and communicated the road surface to the driver’s hand. It was also relaxed at highway speeds and made changing lanes easy without feeling twitchy. The firm brake pedal had strong responses that helped scrub speed quickly and consistently.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Despite its teensy size and teeny engine, the Spark doesn’t earn fantastic EPA estimates. In city driving, it’s rated at 29 mpg with the manual transmission and 30 with the automatic. Highway estimates are 37 mpg on Activ models and 38 on the others. These figures are outdone by the Mitsubishi Mirage’s rating of up to 36 mpg city and 43 highway. The automatic Spark LT we ran on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, returned 37 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Spark avoids the shoddy interior quality that is common on cars this cheap. Although most plastics are hard, they fit together evenly and have attractive textures. Desirable features are mainly limited to leather trimmings and heated front seats. The driving position is upright like a crossover’s, with a fold-down armrest that keeps things comfortable. The large front doors and raised seat height make climbing into the cockpit easy. Unfortunately, the narrow front seats have flimsy cushions and no lateral support. The back seat is undeniably cramped; the front seats must be slid forward to comfortably fit an adult. We fit three carry-on bags behind the Spark’s back seat, which offers 11 cubic feet of cargo space. That increases to 27 cubes with the rear seat stowed, allowing it to swallow 15 bags total. However, this was a very clumsy transformation. It required moving the front seats forward, so the bottom cushions could flip up before the seatbacks could fold down. Even then, the cargo floor was nowhere near flat. Likewise, loading luggage involved lifting it up and over the rear bumper. Inside, the Spark has cubbies in the center console and a useful shelf above the glovebox, but there’s only a plastic tray between the back seats.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Even the entry-level Spark has a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen with a Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. The infotainment screen is primarily controlled by touch, but a useful rotary volume knob and redundant buttons are conveniently located. A pair of USB ports and a 12-volt outlet are situated below the center stack.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Spark hasn’t been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was not named a Top Safety Pick. While the tiny hatchback is available with some driver-assistance technology, the most notable options are reserved for the most expensive model. Key safety features include:
- Available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning
- Available rear parking sensors
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The Spark’s limited and powertrain warranties are unspectacular compared with the Mirage’s 10 years or 100,000 miles. However, the Chevy is a much better car overall. It also includes five years or 60,000 miles of roadside assistance.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance covers one visit for the first year