- Tiny size makes carving through tight city streets a breeze.
- Good interior materials for its price point.
- Good standard tech.
- Less-than-desirable performance figures.
- OK fuel economy for its size and segment.
- Lots of wind and road noise.
Vehicle Type: Five-door, four-seat subcompact hatchback.
Price Range: MSRP $14,395 - $19,331 before options.
Powertrain: A 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque; front-wheel-drive only.
A five-speed manual transmission is standard, though a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) is an option across all trims.
See more 2020 Chevrolet Spark photos here.
The 2020 Chevy Spark lives segment that’s been slowly dwindling in popularity in the North American car market over the past couple of years: subcompact cars. Blame the rising popularity -- and availability -- of subcompact crossovers.
The Chevy Spark has stuck around, however, and offers consumers a small, fuel-efficient option that’s easy to maneuver through tight city streets, as well as decent hatchback practicality and commuting comfort.
This latest fourth-generation model has been here since 2016 and underwent a facelift in 2018. One of its fortes is it offers a surprising amount of standard tech features for its sub-$15,000 base price.
What’s new over the 2019 model year? Nothing at all.
The Spark’s main competitors are the Toyota Yaris, Fiat 500, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Mitsubishi Mirage, Honda Fit, and Nissan Versa. It is one of the least-expensive options in this subcompact segment, but also one of the least-powerful. However, it is a bit better-appointed in the tech department than most of its competition.
The available Spark models are the LS, LT, LT2, and Activ.
Overall Score: 7.4/10
Safety Features: 7/10
The Spark has only been partially evaluated by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It earned a rating of “Good” in both the Moderate Overlap Front and Side Impact tests.
Driver aid technology is minimal across all trims, with the 2LT coming with rear park assist as standard. The Driver Confidence package is optional, which includes Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure warning, and Forward Collision Alert.
Conventional safety equipment is thorough at least: ten standard airbags, including frontal and knee for driver and front passenger, seat-mounted side-impact and curtain airbags at all four corners, as well as Passenger Sensing System for each seat. The Spark’s brakes are congruent to its size: 9.3-inch discs up front, 7.9-inch drum brakes in the back, with ABS.
The Spark’s low cost of entry, good standard tech, and ok-for-the-segment fuel economy make it an overall decent value. The Mitsubishi Mirage has a lower base price but is significantly-less appointed. The base Honda Fit has better fuel economy, significantly-more power and cargo room, though it starts around $2,000 more.
Chevrolet also helps the Spark stand out with some small-car-large-moxy, which isn’t as common among its competition. In addition to the Activ being a sort of mini-mini-SUV, they offer it in ten colors, five of which are not just another shade of grey, black, or white, but rather have slick names like Passion Fruit Metallic, Raspberry Metallic, and Red Hot.
Tech Features: 8/10
As we mentioned above, the Spark has good standard tech for its price compared to the competition. The standard infotainment system in this Chevy is a seven-inch-diagonal color touchscreen, which includes BlueTooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It also has a built-in Wi-Fi Hotspot with available 4G LTE data, two USB ports and an auxiliary input jack. A six-speaker audio system is standard on 1LT, 2LT and ACTIV, the LS only has a four-speaker system. No satellite radio is offered.
As a nice added benefit, Chevrolet Connected Access with ten years of standard connectivity is standard as well. This system allows drivers to receive real-time diagnostics, owner’s manual, recall notifications, and potential insurance-saving resources in-screen or via a mobile app. Drivers can potentially qualify for lower insurance rates via Chevrolet Smart Driver, which measures driving habits and can connect with insurance agents to qualify for lower rates.
Elsewhere with technology, things are a bit sparse in the Chevy Spark. When it comes to driver-aid tech, there is no radar cruise control or lane-keeping assist available (such as those included in Honda’s Sensing, which comes equipped on most Honda Fit trims), and cruise control is not an option until the 1LT trim is achieved.
Convenience-wise, manual crank windows are the only way to open up to the outside while cruising along in the LS trim, though air conditioning is standard across all trims. Power windows are only available on the upper 1LT, 2LT, and Activ trims.
Reviewers noted that the front legroom and headroom were great for this tiny hatch’s style, though the rear seat area was quite cramped for an adult-sized person. Headroom measures in at 39 inches up front, 37 inches in back, shoulder room is at 50.8 inches up front and 49.8 inches in back, and hip room rounds out human occupancy at 48.2 inches up front and 48 inches in back.
With the 60/40 rear-folding bench seat up, cargo space is at 11 cubic feet, with it folded down, it increases to 27 cubic feet. These figures are nearly half of what the Honda Fit offers, and significantly smaller than the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa.
Styling & Design: 9/10
The 2020 Chevy Spark deserves good marks for its looks, which give it a refreshing amount of character in the day and age. Besides coming in ten colors, of which five are actual colors and not black, white, or silver, the front-end’s redesign in 2018 gives it a nice, modern, aesthetically-pleasing look that goes along well with Chevy’s current design language.
Often manufacturers design hatchbacks that look bigger and bulkier than they actually are in person, whereas the Chevy Spark actually looks small and athletic in photos as well as in person. Chevy did a good job hiding the rear passenger doors by integrating the edge of the door with the rear body lines and hiding the handle higher up in the door trim. This gives it a classic, sporty two-door hatchback look that harkens back to such classics as early 90’s Honda Civic hatchbacks, as well as plucky European hatches by Renault, Peugeot, and VW.
Interior design is good too. Simplistic yet functional, with easy-to-access HVAC controls and touch screen. The dashboard is simple and smart-looking and sits up high to improve leg and knee room as well.
As prices go up, certain exterior design accessories are offered that improve its looks even more, such as LED daytime running lamps, fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a unique upgraded grille on the Activ trim.
Driving Experience: 7/10
The Spark’s short wheelbase, overall small size, and low weight translate to a fun little car to zip around town and thread through traffic with ease.
The steering is light and communicative, which aided in its maneuverability and made it more fun to drive. It also handled well: the chassis felt confident zipping through city streets, and stable during quick lane changes.
We imagine trims equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission would be even more fun to carve through urban environments. It rode well by ironing out imperfections in the road, but potholes and large bumps were translated with a little too much accuracy despite wearing big-sidewall tires.
The Spark’s turning circle was very good as well, which makes it a master of parallel parking and squeezing into tight parking spaces.
However, overall acceleration is not its forte. It takes a whole 10.7 seconds to reach 60 MPH from a standstill, which is awfully slow by modern standards, even within its segment. Passing speeds on the highway aren’t great either: reviewers clocked it in at 7.6 seconds to go from 50 MPH to 70 MPH.
At least the Spark has good highway manners once it hits your desired highway speed, with good on-center steering feel and a confident ride.
Road and wind noise is above average in the 2020 Chevy Spark, but this makes sense as there’s barely anything to it; the absolute-lightest trim tips the scale at 2,246 pounds and the absolute-heaviest is 2,312 lbs.
The Spark’s low weight and lack of insulation contribute to its good fuel economy and low price, though at the expense of more noise.
Fuel Efficiency: 7/10
The 2020 Spark is thrifty on fuel thanks to its low weight, small 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and efficient transmission options. On city streets, the EPA estimates 29 MPG with the manual transmission and 30 MPG with the CVT.
EPA-estimated highway fuel economy sits at 37 MPG for the Activ model, and 38 MPG for the others.
In real-world driving, however, reviewers were only able to achieve 37 MPG on the highway in a CVT-equipped LT model, one MPG less than the EPA’s figures. Usually, it’s the other way around; it’s often easy to achieve better than estimated with a conservative right foot on the highway.
These figures are among the worst in the segment. By comparison, the 2020 Honda Fit is rated at 33 MPG city, 40 MPG highway; the Toyota Yaris comes in a tad less at 32 MPG city and 40 MPG highway. The Mitsubishi Mirage may have lackluster power, but it makes up for it with segment-topping mileage: 36 MPG city, 43 MPG highway.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
Starting at its absolute-base price of $14,395 is the Chevrolet Spark LS with a manual transmission. Consumers get halogen headlights, 15-inch steel wheels, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), black manual side mirrors, hill-start assist, black cloth upholstery, and manual windows. Chevy’s 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a four-speaker stereo system. CVT-equipped models are considered sub-trims and cost $1100 more across all trims.
Up next is the 1LT Manual trim, coming in at $16,295. This is -- in our opinion -- the best bang-for-your-buck trim. Stepping up in luxury in and convenience, consumers get LED daytime running lights, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, convenient steering wheel-mounted controls, heated power side mirrors, a six-speaker sound system, power windows and door locks, black and silver cloth seats, and -- wait for it -- a folding key fob.
The Chevy Spark 2LT Manual trim is where a bit more luxury exists. At $17,795, consumers get all of the niceties of lower trims, as well as heated faux-leather front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, chrome interior and exterior door handles, chrome liftgate trim, keyless entry, and rear park assist.
Finally, rounding everything off is the Chevrolet Spark Activ, which in our opinion, sounds like a fun mix between an economy hatch and an off-road-ready crossover. Priced at $18,495, this trim includes a basic roof rack, a 0.4-inch suspension lift, 15-inch gunmetal gray aluminum wheels, black plastic lower moldings, black front and rear bumpers, fog lights, and a better-looking grille in our opinion.
The 2020 Chevy Spark is a decent all-around economy car that offers good base infotainment tech, maneuverable handling, good fuel economy, and all for a very low cost of entry. It may not have the extensive specs of competing models by Honda, Toyota, Kia, or Hyundai, but one can’t deny that it offers a lot for not very much. It possesses a good amount of personality, particularly for being so small and lightweight when it seems as though cars in every other segment just keep getting larger and larger.
Despite its lackluster power and cargo room, there’s a lot to like otherwise. There’s also the potential for it to be inexpensive to own and operate. Besides its good fuel economy, its small-and-narrow 15-inch wheels, small brakes, small four-cylinder engine, and lack of frills mean it won’t be too hard on the wallet when it comes to normal wear-and-tear maintenance or even insurance. If consumers happen to scratch its Passion Fruit Metallic rear bumper while parallel parking it in a spot the size of a postage stamp, we can’t imagine that it will be expensive to fix either.
See more 2020 Chevrolet Spark photos here.