Better fuel economy, hotter looks among Chevy’s 2016 updates for redesigned Spark

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What changes will make it different?

Information is lacking at the moment about this minicar, but model-year 2016 should bring an all-new version. It’s a little difficult to work out what will actually be available in the United States, as the Spark came into being in other markets long before it arrived in America. Although Chevy is set to pull out of Europe in calendar-year 2016, India and Asia both remain big markets for its smallest car; much of what we see and hear, then, could be centered on overseas models. At the very least, expect significant changes to the mechanics and the interior.

Why should I wait for the 2016?

It isn’t even a definite that an all-new Spark will be offered in the United States as a ’16 model year, so we can’t really recommend that you wait to find out. The model-year 2015 version could carry over, meaning that it isn’t essential that you hold out.

Should I buy a 2015 model instead?

Despite being in various forms around the globe since as far back as 1998, the car has only been in the United States since 2012. Although it is in its third model year, it still looks incredibly fresh and modern. If you buy a ’15 model, it definitely won’t start feeling dated for a while. And if you’re shopping for a city car, you won’t go wrong here.

Will the styling be different?

Some cars scream out that they need to be brought up to date, especially if their competition is looking futuristic. This isn’t the case with the Spark. It already looks pretty cool, so don’t expect anything more than a refreshing.

Any mechanical changes?

The pleasant surprises with this vehicle end when it comes to fuel economy. Thus, when the next generation arrives, look for significant upgrades where engines and transmissions are concerned. Excuses are now starting to wear thin with buyers of narrow but tall cars when it comes to body roll, so Chevy also has some work to do to provide a more stable ride. As it is now, you feel every bump and hole in the road.

Will fuel economy improve?

You may expect a small car to deliver outstanding fuel economy purely because of its diminutive size, but the compromised aerodynamics on this sort of vehicle mean that the mileage figures are rarely as good as we imagine. The Spark strikes something of a balance between frugality and performance, so its fuel economy (34 mpg combined) isn’t outstanding for a minicar. It would be surprising if there aren’t improvements in this area.

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Will it have new features?

Like the power-performance balancing act, there’s a tug of war occurring between pricing and features. The lower-spec models have plenty of what we take for granted these days as standard, such as power windows, air conditioning, a trip computer, a rear-hatch wiper, daytime running lights, automatic headlamps and OnStar. But some real high-end features become available when you go up the specification ladder and pay for them. With goodies like an available Wi-Fi hotspot already on the list of options, it’s hard to fathom what other features might come with the next generation. However, lower-spec models will likely be better equipped in order to keep up with competitors.

How will 2016 prices be different?

There’s very little chance that Chevy will increase the entry-level pricing of the Spark, especially since cost-savings is one of the main reasons why people buy into this segment. But since the pricing is already very competitive, don’t expect any sort of reduction, like we’ve seen with other models recently. If anything, buyers will get more features for about the same money.

When will it come out?

For U.S. buyers, this is a matter of conjecture. The United States may well get a carry-over for model-year ’16, while other markets receive an all-new car. Whatever version appears in the United States, it should become available around the middle of 2015.

Best competitors

Mitsubishi Mirage, Fiat 500, Mini Cooper, Scion iQ, Smart fortwo.

What change would make it better?

While there’s a lot to like, the firm ride, body roll and fuel economy are deficiencies. If Chevrolet can sort out these issues while retaining everything that is good about the car, it will really have something special.

Quick hit

Small cars haven’t traditionally been a strong point for Chevrolet, but the Spark and the bigger Sonic have made people think about the brand in an entirely different way. These smaller models now represent a considerable part of the automaker’s business in the States, and it’s easy to see why. The company has got the styling pretty much nailed down—it just has to improve the ride quality and fuel economy to challenge the class leaders. It may seem like a big task, but it’s within the automaker’s reach.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]