What is it?
Take a bow the new Daewoo Matiz, the Korean-built city car that was the only model in that defunct company to make serious headway in Europe.
Now under GM control, the Koreans have been beavering away on a Matiz replacement, which is renamed Spark to back up the all-new (slightly wider) platform, interior and sheetmetal.
What's it like?
Tuned to global tastes, the styling is a stimulating riot of creases, bulges and boldly designed lights, all matched to a cabin of nicely textured hard plastics brightened by pleasing flourishes of metallic-look trim.
The buttons and minor switchgear are generally of better feel, too, and overall the styling and interior are big steps up on the Matiz. But it’s a pity that the oblong-shaped rev counter pod, which sits alongside the speedo atop the steering column, is so clunky in execution.
Most significantly, the Spark's all-new platform is about 100mm wider than the Matiz. That brings more shoulder room and a less cramped feeling inside and pushes the Spark towards the top of the class for cabin space.
The wider stance also means greater stability at speed and more grown-up driving manners. And the hydraulic power steering is pleasantly weighted and consistent.
But the Spark is no sporty hatch. The suspension is tuned for comfort and soaks up bumps at pottering-about speeds. Throw the Spark into a bend and the front end washes out quickly, while the rear damping can’t cope with deep ruts at pace, the ride suddenly getting very harsh as the dampers work too hard to control the back end. A full load can only exacerbate this characteristic. A damper rethink for UK roads might be a good idea.
A welcome step forward over the Matiz is a fresh four-cylinder engine derived from the 1.4-litre unit in the Aveo, an engine that traces its ancestry back to GM’s Family 1 engine from the 1990s.
Although it's stronger than the Matiz’s thrumming three-cylinder engine, the 1.2 is a thrashy unit, particularly when extended to maximise performance. Chevy is considering further work on NVH.