The Spark with its 1000-cc engine offers a comfortable and roomy ride, with ample zing for the city and smooth highway cruising, finds our motoring correspondent K Shivraj
Just up the ladder from minimalist cars like the Tata Nano or the Maruti 800 comes what the Indian auto industry calls the B segment – cars with more enhanced features, priced at Rs3-4 lakh. Examples of these are the Hyundai Eon (which sparked new interest in this space), the best selling Maruti Alto, and the Chevrolet Spark.
The former two have already been covered in this series. Coming to the Spark, we find a compact hatchback with dimensions comparable to the Eon or the Alto, which looks rather cute. Curvy in the right places, the big eyes and a slit for a grille grab attention. It even manages to look muscular, with a chunky bumper and fog lamps set into it. Above the curvy bonnet is the curvy roofline. The sides, with a step-down window-line and a distinct waistline, complement the looks. At the rear, the assertive tail lamps are a surprise.
Smart use of space means the car can seat four adults without claustrophobia. The way the instrument bank is positioned is unusual - at the top centre of the dashboard. Where most cars have an instrument bank, the Spark has warning lamps. Employing a good deal of plastic, starting with the dashboard and ending with various trim parts, including a storage compartment below the dash, the interior of the Spark gives a feeling of having too much plastic. The quality of plastics is good, and even if it is not exactly soft-touch.
The grey-and-black trim fails to excite but doesn't disappoint either. The column stalks offer a good tactile feel, and are within easy reach. The seats are comfortable, though they could do with more bolstering. A small issue of the centre console fouling with the knee is there, but the Spark offers rather more than what is expected of a car this size. But when the boot is accessed, one finds little space.
Behind the wheel, the controls feel light, and the all-round visibility is good. Easy to drive, and over some of the most congested roads a city can offer, the Spark puts up a good performance. Not exactly fast, the car, powered by a 63bhp, 995cc, 4-cylinder petrol engine, nonetheless feels agile. In town, it keeps up with the traffic with ease.
The gearshift may feel a bit rubbery, but accomplishes the task of changing gears without fuss. A degree of pep supports the car's performance in town, while on the highway, the Spark cruises at respectable speeds. Smooth and refined, the car feels less stressful than some of its competitors under a variety of driving conditions. Fuel efficiency is good too. The car consumed 14.7kpl under a mix of city and highway runs.