MIRA’s mile straight was damp when we tested the Chevrolet Spark, which goes some way to explaining why our recorded performance figures in the 1.2 petrol fall short of Chevrolet’s claims (0-60mph in 12.4sec vs 12.1sec for 0-62mph). But it doesn’t excuse the Spark entirely because, unusually, Chevrolet also quotes in-gear times, which suggest the Spark needs 21.1sec to cover the 40-100km/h (25-62mph) increment in fourth gear. Our Spark needed 24.2sec.

However, even though it may not be quite as quick as Chevrolet claims, the Spark is just about quick enough, at least in 1.2-litre form. 

The four-cylinder engine is both loud and coarse, damaging overall refinement

The Spark is, of course, happier in town, where it is sprightly enough to keep up with the cut and thrust, but again it needs revs to deliver its best. And this is its biggest downfall because the four-cylinder engine is both loud and coarse, damaging overall refinement. How coarse? Let’s put it this way: when we first drove off in the Spark, we stopped and checked under the bonnet because we wondered if Chevrolet had supplied us with a three-cylinder variant by mistake.

As for that 1.0-litre engine, it too suffers from being rather too vocal, but it’s biggest problem is a shortage of power. Chevrolet quotes a 0-62mph time of 15.5secs, which tells its own story. Even so, in this city biased car we'd suggest that is has just enough power and torque to be adequate.

If you can live with the volume, the Spark is at least, in both engine guises, undemanding to keep on the boil. The gearchange, although light and long in throw, moves positively and smoothly around the gate.

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Similarly, the well judged brake modulation makes the Spark easy to drive in traffic. A combination of small ventilated front discs and rear drums is to be expected at this end of the market, and in our tests proved capable of stopping the Spark from 70mph in less than 50m, better than the class average.