Sometime next year, Chevrolet will introduce the smallest car it’s ever sold in the United States. Classified as a “minicar,” the 2013 Chevrolet Spark will go head to head against the likes of the Fiat 500, the Smart Fortwo and the Scion iQ. It will likely be powered by a 1.2-liter engine, also the smallest ever offered in a Chevy product in the United States, mated to either a five-speed manual or a four speed automatic transmission. The Spark’s size may make it nimble (and easy to park), but it won’t make it quick: expect a zero to sixty run in the neighborhood of 12 seconds with the five speed, even longer with the four speed automatic.
While the final specs haven’t been released by GM, expect the U.S. bound Spark to be around 144 inches long and 63 inches wide. Stacked against Chevy’s current compact car offering, the Cruze sedan, the Spark will be some 37 inches shorter and 8 inches narrower. Maybe a better comparison would be against the current Ford Fiesta hatchback, which is the smallest car in Ford’s current lineup: the Spark is still 16 inches shorter and nearly 5 inches narrower.
So here’s the question: is there enough demand in the American market to import a car that’s smaller than its contemporaries, slower than its contemporaries and not substantially better in fuel economy (the Spark is expected to return around 40 mpg, the same as a properly equipped Chevy Cruze or a new Hyundai Accent)? Can Americans, who’ve traditionally associated size with safety, warm up to smaller and smaller modes of personal transportation?
Like hybrids and smaller displacement engines, smaller cars are likely to become the new norm as manufacturers struggle to meet stricter CAFE requirements. I can’t help but wonder what happens if buyers don’t warm up to the new technology, and it wouldn’t be the first time Detroit built cars that American buyers rejected.
What’s your take: with the Spark ignite a new market for Chevrolet, or will the Spark burn out shortly after it hits the market?